Lee's Summit Schools
Dennis Carpenter has resigned as superintendent of the Lee's Summit school district.

Superintendent in Missouri gets $750,000 to part ways with school district

July 24, 2019
Dennis Carpenter has resigned as top administrator in the Lee's Summit district after months of turmoil over starting a racial equity training program.

A Missouri school superintendent who was subjected to criticism from the school board and community after proposing racial equity training for the district has resigned.

The Kansas City Star reports that the Lee's Summit board has decided to part ways with Dennis Carpenter, who was hired two years ago as the suburban district's first African American superintendent.

The agreement between the board and Carpenter calls for Lee's Summit to pay Carpenter $750,000, part of which will be covered by the district’s insurer. The board had renewed Carpenter’s annual contract in March at an annual salary of $235,000.

A statement on the district's website thanked Carpenter “for his service to our students, staff and community.” It also said “the Board of Education wants to emphasize that it remains committed to the work of our approved equity plan and the components of the plan.”

Carpenter had threatened to quit his job earlier this year after the school board twice rejected his proposals for an equity training program.

A statement from Carpenter's lawyers that has been posted on Twitter said the superintendent decided to leave Lee's Summit “after several days of deep reflection about the long-term best interests of the children of the School District and the philosophical differences with members of the board regarding how to effectively enhance the learning and lives of all children.”

Emily Miller, the district’s assistant superintendent of operations, has been appointed to serve as acting superintendent.

Carpenter is the second consecutive superintendent in Lee's Summit to receive a large payout for leaving the job. In 2016, former superintendent David McGehee, who at the time was the highest paid superintendent in Missouri, resigned over a conflict of interest dispute with members of the board. The district paid McGehee $450,000 as he left.

The controversy that surrounded Carpenter began after he proposed racial equity training for all employees in the district, a predominantly white and fairly affluent community outside Kansas City. He soon became the target of threats.

Parents and other members of the community launched a social media campaign denouncing Carpenter’s proposal and nicknaming him “the race doctor” for recommending the training.

Other parents spoke out during public discussions about the need for equity training. Earlier this year, threats to Carpenter prompted the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office to assign a security detail to his home.

A study commissioned by the district had revealed that in nearly every measurable academic category, Lee’s Summit’s black students were outperformed by their white counterparts. In addition, black students accounted for 12 percent of Lee's Summit's enrollment of 18,000, they represented nearly 36 percent of suspensions.

After rejecting earlier proposals, the board did an about-face last month and voted to hire the equity training firm Carpenter had proposed.

Carpenter came to the Lee's Summit district two years ago from the nearby Hickman Mills (Mo.) school district. During his tenure in Lee’s Summit, the district received its highest state Annual Performance Review scores in its history. Carpenter created the district’s Innovations Track early college program.

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