OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation is investigating the Western Heights School District Thursday for claims of open meetings act violations and misappropriation of public funds by the district board and administration.
The investigation comes at the request of Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater. The situation involving Western Heights has only gotten worse. This investigation adds to a laundry list of current problems, like a current state audit of the district, as well as a full takeover by the Oklahoma State Department of Education.
“They’re all very concerned about the direction our school is going and what we’re going to do to fix it,” said Amy Boone, a parent with children in Western Heights schools.
“They are spot on about everything that we have been concerned about over the last several months,” said Sharon Teague, a middle school teacher and president of the Western Heights Education Association.
The move comes amid a massive battle between Western Heights and the Oklahoma State Department of Education. Just one week ago, a judge ordered Western Heights to comply with the state takeover. However, Western Heights is still fighting.
“The local school board is required to provide the acting interim superintendent that was appointed by the state board of education access to everything that he needs to do the job that he needs to do,” District Judge Aletia Haynes Timmons said.
“We don’t believe that the state board of education has the power or the duty to operate local school districts,” said the attorney for Western Heights Jerry Colclazier.
A state audit is also underway. Prater has requested the OSBI to work with State Auditor Cindy Byrd in their investigation.
“We need to get answers to the community,” Byrd said.
Claims of shredded documents, the suspension of previous superintendent Mannix Barnes’s certification and a full state intervention taking place are just a few other issues for the district. This investigation only piles on top of it.
“That this district lost somewhere around 1,000 students in the last year, has me concerned that there’s some needs that are not being met,” said state-appointed Superintendent Monty Guthrie. “There’s a lot of work that it’s going to take to get all those students back and get those needs met.”
Prater told KFOR he has also received documents of evidentiary value on the situation. We spoke with state superintendent Monty Guthrie briefly. He said the school would not comment during an open investigation.