Outgoing Lee’s Summit superintendent David McGehee says district is stronger now than 10 years ago

David McGehee
David McGehee

Outgoing Lee’s Summit superintendent David McGehee said he is confident he is leaving the school district in a state better than he found it.

McGehee, who resigned this week as superintendent, issued a statement Wednesday in which he cited a list of accomplishments over the 10 years of leading the fast-growing suburban school district. This was his first public comment since his resignation, which takes effect June 30.

McGehee, the highest-paid public school superintendent in Missouri, has been at the center of controversy this year regarding questions about his relationship with a lead attorney of one of the district’s main law firms. The flap over whether his admitted relationship presented a conflict of interest divided the Lee’s Summit district’s board, with at least two members calling for his ouster.

A feud between McGehee and board member Bill Baird erupted this spring into a public back-and-forth, with each criticizing the other and each calling for the other’s resignation.

Last month, days after McGehee had signed a new contract to be paid more than $1.1 million over the next three years, district officials put him on administrative leave while they “negotiated a leadership transition.”

After the school board agreed to that contract, a citizens group demanded the resignations of McGehee and school board president Terri Harmon. Harmon stepped down as president May 19 but remains on the board.

On Monday the board signed a separation agreement with McGehee that allowed him to leave with a $450,000 severance, to be paid over 12 months.

In Wednesday’s statement, McGehee said it was with “mixed emotions that I have resigned my position.” He said his 10 years at the helm in Lee’s Summit were some of the “most rewarding” in his 29-year career in Missouri education.

McGehee cited among his achievements the implementation of full-day kindergarten, a one-to-one technology program and the establishment of the nationally recognized Missouri Innovation Campus, which was touted by President Barack Obama as a model for preparing students to enter the workforce.

He also noted that the Lee’s Summit school district has “added more than $20 million in compensation and benefits” for its 2,500 employees.

McGehee, in his statement, did not address any of the issues that led to his resignation. But he said he is leaving the district stronger financially than it was at the outset of the 2008 recession.

“Innovative thinking and creativity aimed at continuous improvement has been a cornerstone of district culture over the last 10 years, and it is my hope that this mindset will live on with the district,” McGehee said.

He praised the district’s “great kids and families and supportive community of stakeholders.” And he asked that the Lee’s Summit district and the community at large “measure my legacy against all that we have been able to accomplish since I arrived to serve in July 2006.”

McGehee thanked the district but said nothing about his plans.

Mará Rose Williams: 816-234-4419, @marawilliamskc

McGehee/Lee’s Summit timeline

2006: McGehee is hired to lead the Lee’s Summit school district after having led the Raymore-Peculiar district for several years.

2013: McGehee is named Superintendent of the Year by the Missouri Association of School Administrators.

February 2016: Study shows that McGehee’s compensation in 2015-16, including annuity and allowed expenses, totaled $397,000, the most in the state.

March 2016: Board member Bill Baird and McGehee publicly called on each other to resign.

April 2016: Lee’s Summit school board offers McGehee a contract extension.

May 2016: McGehee signs three-year contract extension that calls for him to make a base salary of $304,300 for the 2016-17 school year, plus an additional $60,857 in deferred compensation for forgoing other employment opportunities.

May 2016: Weeks after signing the new contract, McGehee is placed on paid administrative leave as the board negotiates a transition in leadership with him.

June 2016: Lee’s Summit school board announces that McGehee will resign effective June 30.