True Colors

The Southern Communities Coalition meeting Wednesday evening was packed with information; but I think the speaker who most people came to hear was Robbyn Wahby who is Executive Director, Missouri Charter Public School Commission. She was at the meeting to simply explain what charter schools are, how they’re governed, and how they’re held accountable by the state.

In 1998 the Missouri legislature passed a bill allowing charter schools in the St. Louis and Kansas City Public Schools school districts. That was amended in 2011 to allow charter schools in any school district that was unaccredited or provisionally accredited for 3 or more years. That fact seemed to take the Hickman Mills Superintendent, Dennis Carpenter, by surprise. A person would think, coming from Georgia, he would have acquainted himself with Missouri law regarding education and school districts; though he and some of his cronies have made it clear they don’t believe Missouri Law or Kansas City ordinances should apply to Hickman Mills.

But I digress. The Cooperating School Districts of Greater Kansas City consist of 30 school districts, including Hickman Mills. Legislative services, including a lobbyist, is one of the benefits of belonging; yet, Hickman Mills with barely 6,000 students, pays their own lobbyist. You would think for that money the District would have been more aware of the possibilities for charter schools within their own district.

Instead, Carpenter chose to attend the meeting where he proceeded to not only raise his voice to Ms. Wahby, but literally called her a liar. It’s difficult to understand his vehement aversion to charter schools since, as someone pointed out, he has already flirted with them in his own district by creating two of what he calls COMPASS schools. Perhaps it has something to do with control. Though Carpenter is leaving Hickman Mills to become superintendent for Lee’s Summit schools on July 1, he may feel a charter school in Hickman Mills would spur the legislature to pass charter school legislation they are currently considering to allow the schools in any district, any time.

If charters were allowed in Lee’s Summit during his tenure, there could be kids in public schools but not under Carpenter’s control. He remarked at a meeting that only 20% of Hickman Mills teachers are actually any good; the rest move on to other districts. He blames it on pay equity, but I have heard a number of staff complain about his control issues. They say there is no expression of opinion in Hickman Mills. Everyone has to do as they’re told, regardless. Pay may be a partial reason for people leaving, but they also need to have their ideas and experience recognized.

Regardless of the number of good teachers or the reasons for their leaving, Carpenter has no respect for the children of the district. During the Town Hall on Education which aired on KCPT, he said that even given the same resources as Blue Valley, Hickman Mills would not do as well.

Also, his parting words at the meeting Wednesday evening made it clear that he has no faith in Hickman Mills. If you don’t believe it, how can you achieve it?

It will be interesting to see if he believes the Lee’s Summit schools are up to educating his children. By opting for a private school for his own children, he proved that he didn’t think Hickman Mills is. Many in the District are looking forward to July 1.