A commitment to fairness for all students, increased transparency and improvement in achievement for every child are the top goals for Dennis Carpenter as he begins his work as superintendent of the Lee’s Summit School District.
Carpenter, who started as superintendent July 1, particularly emphasized equity for all students. “Equity and excellence cannot be divided. But they both require strategic effort,” he said.
The district regularly scores high on the state’s Annual Performance Review, but needs to do more to bring raise the achievement of students on the margins, he said.
The district shouldn’t be lulled by past successes, he said.
The “big data” of past scores is analogous to news about a bullish stock market and low unemployment, he explained.
“All of that sounds good, right? Big data. But if you don’t have a job in your home then the big data really doesn’t resonate with you,” Carpenter said in remarks to the Lee’s Summit Chamber of Commerce Friday at the new Missouri Innovation Campus.
“There’s no reason, when I think about the resources, when I think about the rooms like this, there’s no reason for us to have a peer in this metropolitan area,” he said.
All students deserve access to a 21st century learning environment that is designed for independent and interdependent active learning, he said.
He praised the district for its strengths, including a reduction in student fees for this school year and the passage of a $40 million bond issue in 2015. He also listed student and teacher achievements in perfect ACT scores, robotics and other contests and exhibits.
Carpenter intends to spend his first 100 days on a listening tour of the district and getting to know students and staff, he said. In November, he will give the school board a presentation of the district’s strengths and opportunities for improvement.
Increased public trust in the district’s leadership team also was high on his to-do list.
Carpenter said he’d like to have a good dialog with constituents with enhanced collaboration and involvement.
“You probably had to be under a rock for the last 24 months to not realize there were some issues there with public trust,” he said.
Former Superintendent David McGehee resigned last year after board members questioned whether his romantic relationship with the district’s attorney posed a conflict of interest.
“The past is the past and the future rests with our opportunity,” he said.