Judge rules Western Heights School District must comply with State Department of Education

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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – A judge ordered the Western Heights School District to comply with the authority of the State Board of Education.

“The statute to me clearly gives jurisdiction to the State Board of Education to go in and correct these ongoing problems. They didn’t just pop up yesterday,” District Judge Aletia Haynes Timmons said.

“The state collectively is vested with the authority to supervise, direct, govern, credit, supervise, establish positions, determine policies and oversee the public schools in the state,” Brad Clark, attorney for the State Department of Education, said.

An attorney for Western Heights argued local districts should be able to manage themselves.

“We don’t believe the State Board of Education has the power or the duty to operate local school districts,” Jerry Colclazier said.

Colclazier told KFOR on Thursday evening that an appeal to the decision will be filed immediately, and a stay will be requested from the Oklahoma Supreme Court.

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Western Heights

Western Heights School Board member Briana Flatley released the following statement:

“I appreciate and respect the judge’s ruling, and I look forward to working with Mr. Guthrie and the State Department of Education to resolve their concerns and refocus our attention on serving the needs of Western Heights’ students.“

BRIANA FLATLEY, WESTERN HEIGHTS SCHOOL BOARD

Timmons also instructed the district to work with the state-appointed superintendent to get the district ready for the new school year, which starts next week.

“The local school board is required to provide the acting interim superintendent that was appointed by the state board access to everything he needs to do the job he needs to get the school up and running in time for school to start on the 18th,” Timmons said.

“We look forward to working with each one of the school board members and we recognize that this is a time to come together. This has been settled and it’s a time to stabilize the district, both financially and also in terms of safety and with staff and all that goes into making a place for good learning and strong outcomes for children,” State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister said after the hearing.

The ruling comes hours after the Western Heights School Board voted 4-1 to help pay $20,000 in legal fees for former Superintendent Mannix Barnes. He’s fighting to get his license back after the state suspended it.

Some parents disagree with the decision.

“We don’t have anything to transport our students, we don’t have anything. So you’re telling me putting $20,000 towards a lawyer for Mannix Barnes is more important than fixing our busses to get our students here next week?” Brianna Dodd said.

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