Western Heights Board Member Speaks Out Following Tense Meeting

Wednesday, August 11th 2021, 5:33 pm
By: Augusta McDonnell


At Western Heights Public Schools, months of uncertainty and legal action have been met with silence by the school’s Board of Education. 

The Western Heights Board of Education is now represented by four attorneys who have handled most of the communication from the board and administration for months.

But, after the meeting on Monday, News 9 caught up with one long-time member, Robert Sharpe. 

The meeting was tense where an outraged community levied accusations at the board.

“Every superintendent, every school board member is always worried about the first day of school. With everything going on, we have to be concerned about it,” Sharpe said. 

Sharpe said COVID is a real concern of his. 

The school district faces mounting concerns about the cleanliness and safety of the school’s facilities and equipment. In recent weeks, photos and documents have emerged showing decay and lack of repair. 

Frustrated community members accused the board of neglecting the district’s children while fighting the state Board of Education in court over questions of authority and the suspension of former Superintendent Mannix Barnes. 

“These people who say we don’t care about kids, that’s a bunch of crap,” Sharpe said. 

Sharpe said he knows longtime board member Robert Everman cares about the district's children and Barnes is "doing what he feels to be the best."

Everman is now the board president and an associate of Barnes for over a decade in business and political dealings.

Numerous sources told News 9 that the pair, along with board attorney Jerry Colclazier, have effectively taken over control over the district, and it seems there is little anyone can do about it. 

Sharpe said he didn’t feel threatened by the board’s attorney, and doesn’t feel as if he has done anything wrong.

A July intervention by the state Department of Education has largely been ineffective, with legal delays and administrative pushback at Western Heights, leaving the state with few options to actually get any work done. 

The community is looking to their school board for solutions, but new issues are popping up faster than it seems the board or the state can handle them. 

Sharpe said he thinks the board has the skill to maneuver what the district needs if people would let them, "but there's certain people that won't let us."

Sharpe wouldn’t clarify who the "certain people" were that prevent the board from acting independently, or what is preventing the board from doing what they think is best for the school district. 

News 9 has been unable to confirm if Robert Sharpe has ever voted against the wishes of Robert Everman or Mannix Barnes after sitting on the Western Heights Board of Education since 2013.