Judge Rules Against Western Heights School Board, Paving Way For State Board Of Education Takeover

Friday, August 13th 2021, 8:18 am
By: Augusta McDonnell


A judge’s ruling on Thursday paves the way for the state Board of Education to implement their intervention plans at Western Heights Public Schools after months of delays in the district's probationary process. 

Oklahoma County District Court Judge Aletia Timmons dismissed a lawsuit filed by the Western Heights Board of Education against the state Board of Education after the state’s decision to put the district on probation in April. 

County deputies were on site at the district after the hearing to enforce the court’s order. 

State accreditation head Ryan Pffeifer walked through multiple buildings after several members of the Western Heights administration were seen leaving the campus. 

But even as the state now has a judge’s order to make changes, the Western Heights school board made a move Thursday morning to hire yet another attorney in their pushback to the state’s intervention. 

The Western Heights Board of Education voted to hire more representation for former Superintendent Mannix Barnes after convening into executive session. 

Barnes’ credentials were suspended in June by the state Board of Education.

The board voted 4 to 1 to hire an attorney to represent Barnes.

One school board member questioned the move. 

“That is a personal expense, and that is outside the realm of what his contract is with the district,” said Briana Flatley, a Western Heights board member. 

Barnes’ new attorney will help him through the process of trying to get his superintendent credential reinstated after the state suspended it in June. 

The move comes with a $20,000 retainer, and the tab is being picked up by taxpayers in the district.

“$20,000 is a lot in any school district and that could be allocated in so many ways. Maybe we could buy some new science equipment, maybe we could actually do a signing bonus or retention bonus for our educators,” Flatley said. 

The move was recommended by board attorney Jerry Colclazier, whose influence over the board is being questioned by the community. 

Colclzaier hired two other attorneys earlier this summer who appear to be working on his case against the state. They were never approved in a public meeting by the board. 

“He is running our district. He did hire two new attorneys, not on the behalf of the board of this district, but on the behalf of Mr. Colclazier,” said Brianna Dodd, Western Heights community organizer.