Probation Period Ends, Future Uncertain At Western Heights Public Schools

Thursday, July 8th 2021, 4:21 pm
By: Augusta McDonnell


Western Heights Public Schools' 90-day probation wraps up on Thursday, but it's unclear if the district made enough changes in response to concerns from the state Board of Education.

The state Board of Education placed the district on probation in April amid concerns of mismanagement.

The board could remove accreditation from the district or step in and run the schools, but it is unclear if enough changes have been made to save the school before classes start in about a month. 

More than 3,000 students attend Western Heights Public Schools. 

They could all be sent elsewhere if the school board has failed to satisfy the state board's requirements. 

News 9 reached out to the school board and district administration repeatedly, but no one will confirm what efforts are being made to preserve Western Heights Public Schools in accordance with state requests. 

Western Heights teachers literally danced to keep their students engaged while learning from home all last year. 

There were only 10 days of in-person learning for students, one of the reasons why the district was put on probation. 

The state Board of Education warned the district in June that intervention was coming if their concerns went unaddressed.

When the state Board of Education placed the district on probation in April, there were several key areas where the board wanted to see improvement. 

The district had discontinued the school nutrition program, and the board expressed concern about financial controls and reporting. 

The state was also concerned about poor community relations. 

Parents and alumni have protested Western Heights school board meetings and expressed frustration over the seeming lack of action in the district. 

The district’s general counsel Dan Murdoch confirmed that Assistant Superintendent Kim Race is currently in charge, and some facilities' concerns are being addressed. 

The state’s audit found that former Superintendent Mannix Barnes failed to properly maintain the Western Heights High School’s fire suppression system. The sprinklers were out of commission for two months while people were working and visiting the buildings. 

The fire marshal issued a violation at the end of April and said they would close the school or put Barnes in handcuffs if repairs weren’t made. 

Murdoch said the sprinklers are now fixed.

Murdoch said school board President Robert Everman requested all calls for information to go to the school board’s attorney, Jerry Colclazier.