Follow the Money
What is Sophic Solutions LLC?
Based in Kansas City, Missouri, Sophic Solutions LLC says it is a “change management and consulting firm” offering “a broad and diverse range of training opportunities and consultation services.” The company says it brings “a plethora of experiences, both professional and personal, to this arena.”
The company – co-owned by Rodney Smith and Stephenie Smith – registered with the Missouri Secretary of State in 2016. According to his LinkedIn profile, Rodney Smith is an adjunct professor of “racial and ethnic diversity” topics at the School of Education at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. He is a graduate of Morris Brown College in Atlanta, one of the nation’s historically black colleges and universities, or HBCUs. He also holds a doctorate in education in administration and supervision from Tennessee State University, another HBCU, located in Nashville. According to her LinkedIn profile, Ms. Smith is a “community change agent” with a B.A. in psychology from Fisk University – another HBCU school – also in Nashville and an M.S. in social work from the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, Tenn.
What services does Sophic Solutions LLC provide?
Sophic Solutions LLC says it provides “Change Management & Organizational Solutions,” “Keynote Presentations & Group Facilitation,” “Community Engagement Strategies & Strategic Alignment,” and “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Consultation Services.”
The company says it “provides educational consultation to schools and school districts” and “designs educational curriculum.” In “keynote presentations,” the company says it aims “for true inspirations (i.e. spiritual transformation).”
The company said on its website that its clients include higher education institutions, including Skilled KC Technical Institute, Cornell University, Metropolitan Community College, Florida A&M University, Middle Tennessee State University and William Jewell College.
At William Jewell College, the school notes that the company serves as diversity, equity and inclusion consultants to President Elizabeth MacLeod-Walls of William Jewell College and the entire campus community…specifically assisting the college with its Radical Inclusivity initiative.”
On June 5, 2020, days after the George Floyd killing, the owners broadcasted a podcast, “American Public Square at Jewell.” The “Both Sides” segment was called “Sophic Solution’s Cofounders on Systemic Racism.” It was available on SoundCloud.
“That is why racism is a major tool to perpetuate capitalism. Race needed to happen so that capitalism could thrive because there needed to be a group that existed to have less, so that those that were less could create more for the others. So when we really think about the examination that it takes to really dismantle a system that is steeped in capitalism which leverages racism to do the work, then we’re talking about this dismantling.”Stephenie Smith, Sophic Solutions co-founder and managing partner
What K-12 work has Sophic Solutions done?
North Kansas City Schools
According to a copy of invoices that Parents Defending Education received in response to a public records request, North Kansas City Schools, located in Kansas City, Missouri, paid a total of $43,000 to Sophic Solutions for diversity, equity and inclusion consulting work between February 2018 and May 2021.
Pembroke Hill School (private school)
According to its website, Pembroke Hill School, located in Kansas City, Missouri, hired Sophic Solutions in June 2020 to host “community conversations”, set up the school’s new “DEI Advisory Council”, conduct “DEI assessment conversations”, “Start, Stop, Continue and Consider” sessions, and “diversity, equity and inclusion” professional development for faculty and staff.
Sophic hosted two “All-Community Conversations” for the school in August 2020.
According to a copy of the All-Community Conversations slide deck, the Smiths described themselves as “change agents and community mobilizers.”
The consultants’ work has included:
- In September 2020, Sophic Solutions hosted the inaugural meeting of the “DEI Advisory Council.”
- In October 2020, Sophic Solutions conducted “DEI Assessment Conversations” in October 2020.
- In December 2020, Sophic Solutions led “Stop, Start, Continue and Consider” discussions.
- In February 2021, Sophic Solutions co-led a required professional development training in “diversity, equity and inclusion” for faculty and staff.
- In March 2021, Sophic Solutions presented its assessment to the Pembroke board of trustees.
- In April 2021, Sophic Solutions led another “Start, Stop, Continue and Consider” session.
Platte County School District
On Feb. 20, 2020, Platte County School District, Platte City, Missouri, school board approved a $27,500 contract with Sophic Solutions for “Consultation services,” “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Workshop Series” and “Evaluation and Analysis.”
According to the company’s “Consulting Proposal: An Equity-Centered Approach,” consultation services consist of supporting school district staff with “equitable, yet sustainable organizations solutions” for “inclusive recruitment, hiring & retention practices; curriculum enhancements, community engagement strategies…etc.”
The workshop series includes “facilitation of (4) 2-hour diversity, equity and inclusion training workshops” for “real introspection and critical reflection” exploring “the fluidity and ubiquity of many of the ‘isms’ that permeate our society.” The four-part series “explores the subconscious assumptions we often harbor that causes [sic] us to have various thoughts and feelings about ‘others’ in our society.” The contract noted: “Ultimately, the training allows participants the opportunity to interrogate these topics in a safe environment. The workshops are done through a combination of facilitator-led discussion, group participation and dialogue, and can be tailored to the specific needs of a variety of leadership levels (i.e. Community Stakeholders/Board of Directors, Senior Leaders, Middle Management, Entry Level, etc.). Evaluation and analysis “provide a written report highlighting our observations as well as recommendations at the conclusion of service.”
According to Platte County School District payment records, the school district paid Sophic Solutions a total of $30,800 for diversity, equity and inclusion work between April 2020 and January 2022.
Correspondence between Sophic Solutions and Platte County School District school officials
Sunday night, Feb. 23, 2020, at 8:55 p.m., Ms. Smith wrote to school district official Vicki Diggs, “Looking forward to serving together,” according to a copy of emails that Parents Defending Education received in response to a public records request.
That summer, Mike Brown, a white assistant superintendent in the Platte County School District, wrote to the Smiths and thanked them for checking in on him. He confessed, “I really appreciate it. Been rough here for the old guy lately but I will come out of it. Being an extremely reflective person, I always seem to find my way. I have to as I have a lot of people counting on me.”
He continued: “Good session today! Thank you for your leadership!”
He later apologized for spelling Ms. Smith’s name “Stephanie,” instead of “Stephenie,” as she spelled it.
She responded, “Glad you are doing the work to better understand yourself and those around you.”
A few days later, the school district superintendent, Mike Reik, also white, emailed the Smiths, asking if they minded if he shared an advertisement for another consultant, La’Wana Harris, author of Diversity Beyond Lip Service, and Angela Knudsen, a local consultant. The advertisement read, “Current tragic events remind us constantly that injustice and inequality exist,” and urged embarking on a “journey to becoming a more thoughtful and effective ally for advancing meaningful diversity, equity and inclusion.”
As they continued “the work,” that fall 2020, Ms. Smith wrote a school district official, “Pray each of you are navigating this unique time in history with grace and equity, as best you can.”
Pembroke Hill School Hires Consultants to Discuss White Supremacy and Anti-Racism
Pembroke Hill School - Missouri