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OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. (KFOR) – It’s a rare and extreme measure by the Oklahoma State Department of Education to force change in the Western Heights School District.

The State Board of Education voted unanimously on Thursday to suspend Superintendent Mannix Barnes’ superintendent certification.

“Things are going to change at Western Heights,” said Joy Hofmeister, Oklahoma’s Superintendent of Public Instruction. “That means they need a new superintendent.”

The removal of Barnes, one of the highest paid superintendents in Oklahoma, comes after a 90-day probation period.

The district later sued the Oklahoma State Department of Education.

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Mannix Barnes

Neither Barnes nor any other district representative attended Thursday’s state board meeting.

“Why would you not come to a meeting and at least be present when the fate of your school is literally on the line,” said Amy Boone.

State board members said the district enrollment dropped 30 percent as classes remained virtual longer than any other. A quarter of the district’s staff left and graduation rates are among the lowest in the state.

“Maybe I don’t know what it takes to run a school, but I do know what a quality education is,” said Boone.

“It’s not just the community. It’s the community, teachers, the support staff and the students,” said Brianna Dodd. “We all have come out to protest against these people.”

State Board members laid out Barnes’ alleged behavior patterns. Claims of harassment and retaliation were made against Barnes when he was employed with the Oklahoma Department of Labor and Western Heights school employees are also making those claims.

“They need a new superintendent, and now their own board will need to take action,” Hofmeister. “If things do not turn around, then the State Board will intervene.”

The State Board of Education is giving the school district until July 12 to clean up its act, or its accreditation will be taken away. That means colleges may not recognize a diploma or school credits. State board members suggest the district should call a special board to stabilize the district.