Judge Effectively Tells Western Heights Board To Follow State Probation Conditions

Thursday, July 22nd 2021, 6:55 pm
By: Augusta McDonnell


More developments in a court case involving The Western Heights Independent School District and the Oklahoma State Board of Education. 

The initial case was filed in late April, after the Western Heights School Board sued the state Board of Education. 

Both parties appeared in a hearing Thursday.

Judge Timmons determined that the district must immediately go through the probationary process that is currently available to them. 

Timmons also dismissed complaints that the state Board of Education violated the Open Meetings Act.

This probationary process started in April, and to this day, state spokespeople said the district has not taken steps to fix any of the problems they’ve been asked to fix to keep the district’s accreditation. 

Some of those initial complaints included large numbers of teachers quitting, fire suppression systems not being maintained properly, and students only having 10 days of in-person learning all last year

Instead -- the Western Heights School Board has acted in unprecedented ways to pushback against the authority of the board of education. 

“The district has refused to recognize the state’s authority to this point, and in fact have said they will not recognize that authority until there’s an order from the court,” said state legal counsel Brad Clark. 

The district went on probation after a battery of complaints against the school board and former superintendent Mannix Barnes who was suspended in June. 

The state took major action July 12 to step in and run the school by appointing an interim superintendent but were greeted with more pushback from the Western Heights board. 

In an email to the state Tuesday, attorney for the Western Heights School Board Jerry Colclaizer said:

“‘Our local board of education, our interim superintendent, and our staff will continue to control and operate the Western Heights School District.”

This comes after the district held a secret meeting with all school administrators, ordering them to support Assistant Superintendent Kim Race, who, according to the state, was inappropriately appointed by the Western Heights School Board. 

News 9 was informed of the meeting by one of the administrators present, who is too afraid of retaliation by the Western Heights board to come forward publicly. 

‘We’ve gone back and forth but it’s gotten to the point where school has to start, and we’re going to the courts to seek clarity,” said Clark.

Thursday morning, the state filed an emergency motion for a court order requiring Western Heights acknowledge the authority of the state board -- which has never happened before. 

‘We’ve never seen this kind of a response to the state,” said Clark. 

School starts at Western Heights August 18. There are nine K-12 schools in the district, with over 3,000 students.

The emergency motion is expected to go before the judge for a ruling sometime next week. 

News 9 reached out to Western Heights School Board members and their representation but have not heard a response.