by Janice Phelan
This has been an exciting summer for Lee’s Summit R-7 schools as the local district welcomes new leadership and opens theÂ doors of a new school facility already capturing national attention.
Dr. Dennis L. Carpenter, the district’s new superintendent, was selected after approximately a five-month search process that included close to 750 community members providing feedback. Although his first day on the job was officially July 3, he is already a familiar face in our community. Soon after being named superintendent in January, Dr. Carpenter began introducing himself to groups such as the district’s Business Roundtable, Citizens’ Advisory Committee and Chamber Governmental Relations Committee. He also met one-on-one with a number of civic and school leaders earlier this spring.
Dr. Carpenter served as the superintendent of the Hickman Mills School District for the past four years and previously served as deputyÂ superintendent of operations and associate superintendent for human resources for Newton County Schools in Covington, Ga. He is a recognized leader in education with experience in both the nearby urban district and the fast-growing Georgia suburb, located near Atlanta.
In all, Dr. Carpenter has 21 years of experience in public education with extensive experience in instruction and operations ““ an unusual and valuable combination for a school administrator. He also has served as an elementary principal, middle school assistant principal and teacher. He holds a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education, a master’s degree in educational leadership, an education specialist degree and a doctorate in educational leadership and administration.
As a superintendent, he helped Hickman Mills make significant improvements in areas such as student attendance, graduation rates, ACT scores and state achievement testing. Other accomplishments under his leadership include implementation of full-day pre-kindergarten, numerous school renovation projects, a successful community-wide strategic planning endeavor, passage of a multi-million dollar bond issue, and a meaningful increase in the Hickman Mills foundation’s fundraising efforts.
Dr. Carpenter and his wife, Dr. LaQuanda Carpenter, along with their two young children made the move to Lee’s Summit in April.
“We are excited about being here and getting our family involved in the community,” Dr. Carpenter said. “I have been enormously impressed by the citizens and staff members I have met so far and am enthusiastic about joining the Lee’s Summit R-7 team.”
Missouri Innovation Campus opens in August
Next month, our school district will celebrate the opening of a groundbreaking new school “” the Missouri Innovation Campus (MIC), which also will house the district’s Summit Technology Academy and University of Central Missouri (UCM) programs currently located at UCM-Lee’s Summit. The MIC program has been recognized at the state and national level for accelerating the time it takes students to complete a four-year degree while significantly reducing college debt and providing students with job-ready skills that are highly sought after by various businesses.
This Missouri Innovation Campus program is a progressive collaboration between the R-7 School District, Metropolitan Community College and the University of Central Missouri. By engaging business partners and community organizations, the MIC is reshaping the way students experience education. Housed within the MIC complex is the R-7 School District’s Summit Technology Academy, a high school program that prepares students for careers in areas such as engineering, computer science, health care and creative sciences. The academy serves students from 12 area school districts.
The new school, located near Ward and Tudor roads, will open its doors to students in August with a community grand opening ceremony scheduled for early September. Thanks to a unique partnership with UCM, Lee’s Summit R-7 and UCM joined forces to construct and operate this state-of-the-art, cost-saving facility. Under a plan developed by the two educational institutions, Lee’s Summit R-7 is paying approximately 40 percent of the new school with UCM paying the remaining 60 percent. Through this agreement, the R-7 School District is the sole owner of the facility with UCM paying its portion of costs through lease payments.
The shared facility reduces operating expenses for both organizations and allows the school district to move both the MIC and Summit Technology Academy programs from leased space into a building owned by the school district. The R-7 School District’s portion of the facility’s cost is funded through a no-tax-increase bond issue, approved by approximately 80 percent of voters in 2015. This $40 million bond issue also is funding renovation and maintenance projects that are positively impacting each R-7 school. The majority of these projects are complete and have included improvements such as classroom renovations at Lee’s Summit High School, entry security upgrades at Lee’s Summit North High School, a concession/restroom building at Lee’s Summit West High School’s softball complex, a gym addition and classroom renovations at Mason Elementary, and playground safety upgrades at all elementary schools.
For more information about the bond issue projects, visit lsr7.net.