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Newly named Lee's Summit superintendent faces age discrimination lawsuits

Posted at 8:12 AM, Jan 13, 2017
and last updated 2017-01-13 11:37:06-05

Newly named Lee’s Summit School District Superintendent Dennis Carpenter currently faces several age discrimination lawsuits stemming from his time as superintendent of the Hickman Mills School District.

After Carpenter was announced as the new Lee’s Summit superintendent on Monday, 41 Action News uncovered court documents detailing the suits.

Related: Lee's Summit R-7 School District names new superintendent

A lawsuit against the Hickman Mills School District, filed by 27 current and former teachers with over 500 years of combined experience, describes a salary schedule put in place during Carpenter’s term as superintendent that cut the salaries of the longtime teachers, while increasing the salaries of younger, less experienced ones.

According to the lawsuit, the salary schedule for the Hickman Mills School District was changed for the 2015-2016 school year, resulting in some teachers seeing pay cuts as high as almost $13,000.

Contract agreements obtained by 41 Action News show that Carpenter’s superintendent salary increased during his time in the role.

Carpenter’s 2013 contract agreement stated that Carpenter would receive a base salary of $180,000. His 2016 agreement showed that his base salary increased to $185,366.

Leta Hogge, who taught English in the Hickman Mills School District for 19 years, is one of the teachers named in the suit.

On Thursday, Hogge spoke to 41 Action News about the action from teachers and Carpenter’s switch to Lee’s Summit.

“We were stunned,” said Hogge, explaining her reaction to Monday’s announcement. “I never felt that he cared about the teachers. I think his actions as superintendent prove that."

As a result of the salary system change for the 2015-2016 school year in Hickman Mills, Hogge changed from the Longevity Scale pay rate to the Step 17 pay rate. The lawsuit states that the switch led to a pay cut of $66,124 for the 2014-2015 school year, to $56,388 for the 2015-2016 school year.

Hogge said she tried talking with the district and Carpenter to keep her then-current rate from falling, but her efforts proved unsuccessful.

“We never asked for a raise,” she explained. “We asked to be grandfathered in at our current salaries. It felt personal. It was my livelihood."

Hogge told 41 Action News that the pay cut led to her leaving her job.

“I made it one more year and then I retired,” the former English teacher said. “I just couldn't do it anymore."

Hogge’s story is one of 27 described in the lawsuit.

Carpenter currently faces at least three other lawsuits from principals whose contracts weren’t renewed during his term as Hickman Mills superintendent.

According to a lawsuit obtained by 41 Action News, former Hickman Mills School District principal Bill Scully had to reapply for his job after his contract was not renewed by the district in 2013 after Carpenter took over as superintendent.

Scully’s attorney told 41 Action News that after Scully was not rehired for the job, he was replaced by a “dramatically younger, less qualified” candidate.

Hogge said she was not shocked hearing about the other lawsuits, as she and the other plaintiffs share something in common. 

“We're all definitely over the age of 40,” she explained. “I would say the majority are over the age of 50."

The lawsuits involving the teachers and Scully are still pending and being decided in court.

The Lee’s Summit School District declined to comment on the story.

After 41 Action News reached out to both Dennis Carpenter and the Hickman Mills School District on Thursday afternoon, the station was still awaiting a response by nighttime.

Carpenter’s contract with the Lee’s Summit School District is still waiting to be finalized.

The School Board hopes to have the contract ready to be signed by the next board meeting on Thursday, January 19th.

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Tom Dempsey can be reached at Tom.Dempsey@KSHB.com.

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