A Black woman with nearly a decade of experience says she couldn’t get a job in a predominantly white school district because the Black superintendent would never hire a Black woman for the position.
Danielle Nixon filed a lawsuit against the Lee’s Summit R-7 School District in Missouri alleging racial discrimination when she was denied a role as executive director of public relations, reports KCUR.
The lawsuit also claims Superintendent Dennis Carpenter, a Black man, and the first Black man to ever hold that position in the district, “told the selection committee that he would never hire an African American female for that key role.”
Instead, a white woman, Kelly Wachel, was hired, reports KCUR.
According to court documents, on Feb. 1, 2018, Nixon was contacted by the district’s human resources manager via email and was invited to participate in screening interviews for the position of executive director of public relations for which she applied on January 23, 2018.
Nixon went to Stansberry Leadership Center for the screening interview on Feb. 6. After submitting the written portion of the screening process. She met with the district’s human resources director, David Carlson, Carpenter, and an unnamed female, who was believed to be a senior level administrator, according to the lawsuit.
“During the meeting Ms. Nixon was presented with the opportunity to ask questions,” the lawsuit claims. “Ms. Nixon attempted to ask Dr. Carpenter about the five year plan for the District, however, Ms. Nixon was directed to only ask Dr. Carlson and the female questions. Dr. Carpenter refused to answer Ms. Nixon’s question.”
Nixon was called back for a second interview on Feb. 9 with a nine-person panel, which included David Carlson, Katie Collier, Jeff Meisenheimer, Jennifer Kephart, Sheryl Franke, Tracey Sample, Keith Henry, Amy Gates, Carlson, and Superintendent Carpenter, according to court documents.
Carpenter did not engage in the interview and sat in the back of the room. Toward the end, Carpenter finally chimed in, but only to announce he had a flight to catch and needed to wrap up the interview, the lawsuit states.
Still, Nixon was called back for a third interview, this time with Carpenter and the Citizen Advisory and Business Community.
She met with a group of six to seven people on Feb. 21 and Carpenter told her she’d be contacted by the district if she was selected for the position, according to court documents.
Later that day, Nixon was informed by Carlson that another candidate had been selected for the position.
“Upon information and belief, Dr. Dennis Carpenter told the selection committee that he would never hire an African American female for that key role,” the lawsuit states, adding, that Carpenter, “stated that the District could not have African Americans in two key roles and being the face of the District.”
Furthermore, the lawsuit states, “one of the individuals involved in the interview process was present when Dr. Carpenter announced that he would not hire an African American.”
The individual was likely, Amy Gates, the district’s director of technology, who was present in the second interview with Nixon.
She filed a complaint in January alleging Carpenter said, “Can you imagine me walking into a business roundtable meeting with a Black female as the second face of the district,” KCUR reports.
Ironically, Carpenter was bought out of his contract for $750,000 by the all-white school board after his efforts to close the achievement gap for students of color failed, KCUR reports.
Lee’s Summit is an affluent, predominantly white suburb. When Carpenter was hired in January 2017, he became the first Black superintendent and faced intense scrutiny.
Carpenter was previously the superintendent of Hickman Mills, a predominantly Black neighborhood in Lee’s Summit, KCUR reports.
Nixon, who started her career in public relations in 2010, became the director of communications for Raytown Quality Schools, another predominantly Black neighborhood in Lee’s Summit, KCUR reports.
Still, not getting the position for the school district caused Nixon “great emotional upset” and she lost sleep over whether she could pursue her career in public relations, KCUR reports.
Nixon reportedly learned about Carpenter’s comments from the Missouri National Education Association four months before Gates filed the first lawsuit in January, KCUR reports.
“While we would like to provide context to share with the community regarding the district’s response to Ms. Nixon’s allegations, we aren’t able to do so because the lawsuit is pending,” a spokeswoman for the district said in a statement, according to KCUR.
Although Carpenter is no longer the superintendent, per his separation agreement with the district, he has to participate in lawsuits that concern his time as superintendent, KCUR reports.