Hickman Mills superintendent believes district is moving forward

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - At the helm of the Hickman Mills School District, the current superintendent weighed in on his knowledge of the audit during his now questioned hiring process.

Dennis Carpenter said aside from what he found online about the district, he did not know the school was under an audit when he moved from Atlanta to take the job.

"I knew it was an urban district with some challenges, I knew it had provisional accreditation," he said. "I found out the audit was going on just in meetings with key staff members."

Even Carpenter, who is trying to set the district on the right track, got caught up in the board's shenanigans. The audit found the board failed to follow its policies and state law when it hired Carpenter. The board did not solicit proposals for a search firm and the search firm was paid twice as much as other companies would have been, according to the audit.

"Who the board selects to do their superintendent search, how they go about it, that is a board issue. It is not a candidate issue. To be honest, I've read it. Do I have time to get mired in it? No. Because is it my responsibility? Absolutely not," Carpenter said.

But what he does say is his responsibility is fixing the district’s problems.

"I've said this to my board, I've said this to the staff, I've said this to leadership: if we erode public trust, we don't have anything else," Carpenter said.

41 Action News uncovered documents filed with the Missouri Attorney General’s office that showed board members were concerned with the way the district was being ran.

One current board member, according to a letter filed, said there were concerns “both about open and closed meeting on 4-18-13 for the Hickman Mills school board.”

The letter said the other concern was bout the current attorney, “for the purpose of removing him.”

It said some board members raised concerns about the meeting being closed and said their “objections were ignored.” The district responded with a letter giving the AG’s office meeting minutes from Jan. 17, 2013 until May 2013.

But only two days later, three more board members-- Dan Osman, Eric Lowe and Bonnaye Mims-- are listed as writing their own letter to the Attorney General. That letter said those board members had “concerns about the accuracy of those minutes,” and thought others had “violated the Missouri Sunshine Laws multiple times.”  

Sitting district Superintendent Dennis Carpenter said the board has now been through legal training. 

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