Lee’s Summit school district superintendent David McGehee was recently named as Missouri Superintendent of the Year by the Missouri Association of School Administrators. He spoke with The Examiner to reflect on his accolade and what particular programs his district utilizes that help make it one of the most recognized in the state.

1 First off, congratulations on being awarded as Missouri Superintendent of the Year. How does it feel to receive such an honor?

McGehee: It is very humbling and recognition is not something I strive for myself. It is however a great opportunity to recognize the entire district, its staff, students, families and our supportive community. They make me look like I know what I’m doing on a pretty regular basis. It is an awesome place to work and raise a family.

2 According to MASA, your school district had made the switch from addressing the needs of all students to addressing the needs of each and every student. How does the district exactly put focus on each and every one of your nearly 18,000 students?

McGehee: Through our journey to be a Professional Learning Community, we are answering critical questions about what is important for students to not only know but also be able to do. This includes ensuring timely identification of those who are not mastering these learning targets, and promptly reteaching, providing interventions or ensuring enrichment opportunities for those students who are ready to move on.

Our response to student needs is a systemic focus and something for which each of us feels responsible. Not accountable (because someone else says its important), but responsible (an internal understanding that is our duty).

3 You played an integral part in the creation of the Missouri Innovation Campus. Why did you feel the need to advocate for such a campus that pioneers the way students can earn their college degree? Do you think it will set a precedent throughout the country? What degree programs are currently offered and will others be available in the upcoming future? Have a lot of prospective students expressed interest in attending?

McGehee: The MIC was a collaborative vision among our district, University of Central Missouri, Metropolitan Community College and our business partners. We wanted to address some of the key issues facing the citizens/students of Missouri, reduce or eliminate student loan debt, help students earn degrees more quickly and create a real connection with employers. These students are focused and are balancing high school, college and a job all at the same time. It isn’t for everyone, but is an outstanding solution for the right students.

We are seeing a growing interest from students and families. We had over a 100 families signed up for a recent open house held at Summit Technology Academy to learn more about the program. Currently it has an information technology/engineering focus. We will continue to work with the business community to develop programs that help fill high-need careers and ensure success for the students participating.

The Lumina Foundation, along with the Kauffman Foundation, recently held the first national convening of its kind right here in our area to discuss how to take the concept to scale and duplicate it across the country.

4 How was the transition going from diesel fuel to compressed natural gas in your school buses? Did it require a lot of customization for each and every bus? Are there any other environmentally conscious endeavors the district plans to do?

McGehee: This conversion is actually the purchase of all new buses and facility service vehicles. Our buses averaged 12 years, which is far older than the state average. We needed to aggressively replace the fleet but did not want to do it in a way that left us right where we started. We have an emphasis in Lee’s Summit R-7 to seek savings and alternative revenues. This concept does both. The buses are part of a 10-year lease purchase that will utilize fuel savings and royalties on public and private sales, along with reallocated district resources to repay the lease over time. The savings are enough to also make a $5 million technology infrastructure upgrade possible.

We already have an all-electric distribution fleet paid for with the assistance of grants and federal stimulus funds a few years ago.

Other efforts include Energy Olympics, where students and staff work to implement energy saving ideas to compete for additional funds reallocated from the energy savings they compile.

5 What’s in store for Lee’s Summit R-7 in the future?

McGehee: We are currently exploring all possibilities when it comes to delivering instruction and learning in today’s world and beyond. The includes looking at possible alternatives to the traditional brick and mortar approach to overcrowded classrooms. We know that we will need to address the challenges of the student growth for years to come and we owe it to our students and taxpayers to ensure that we deliver instruction effectively and as efficiently as possible relative to resources.