OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Within the rules and procedures for accreditation downgrades, the Oklahoma State Department of Education will notify a district of the department’s recommendation prior to annual accreditation meeting.
“It is Mustang Public Schools that ended up being collateral damage without any idea that there was going to be a change in their accreditation standing from what they had already been prepared for,” said Joy Hofmeister, State Superintendent.
The district had been told by the department of its downgrade to “Accreditation with Deficiencies.”
But after Tulsa Public Schools were downgraded to “Accreditation with Warning,” because of a violation to House Bill 1775, members of the State Board of Education thought it was necessary to give Mustang Public Schools the same treatment.
“I don’t want to leave here and people to be under the impression that we’re unfairly targeting TPS [Tulsa Public Schools] when there’s another school district that had a similar violation that we’re treating differently,” said Jennifer Monies, one of the State Board members, in the July meeting.
However, the same treatment was without a prior heads-up.
“In this situation, there was a missing step,” said Hofmeister.
That step was designed to give Mustang Public Schools a chance to hear an explanation to why they received a certain accreditation status.
In this recent case, Mustang Schools were downgraded to a level just before probation. A more extreme level than what was recommended by the department.
“I have no idea what triggers or what pushes a district into that next phase of probation,” said Charles Bradley, Superintendent of Mustang Public Schools, in a hearing August 25.
KFOR tried to reach out to board members that voted to downgrade.
Last Thursday, the state board met to hear arguments for a later meeting to possibly reconsider changing Mustang’s accreditation status.
The board voted to deny that reconsideration.
Brian Hill, state representative from Mustang, released a statement in defense of Bradley.
“Regardless of the implications of this ruling, I know that our Mustang Public School teachers, administrators, coaches and support staff are among the best in the state,” said Hill.
He added that legislation is needed to ensure “due process” for school districts faced with a similar situation.
“I’m looking into filing legislation to ensure Oklahoma’s schools and citizens have protections of their rights to due process, even from unelected boards,” said Hill.
The Mustang representative was unavailable for comment today to detail what that legislation would look like.
Kevin West, author of House Bill 1775, spoke over the phone to KFOR about the potential legislation.
He didn’t necessarily support it, but he didn’t deny that looking more into the situation of Mustang’s accreditation would be a good idea.
But West said the district violated HB 1775, so it would have been downgraded regardless of the board’s vote.
“I get that it was the next step up in the warning process, but it is still a warning process,” said West.