OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – The Western Heights School District appointed an interim superintendent Thursday, just one day after the state board of education appointed one for them after taking full control of the district.
The saga continued Thursday with a tale of two superintendents. The state now has full control over the embattled Western Heights School District. They announced Monty Guthrie would be the school’s interim superintendent Tuesday.
However, the district took it upon themselves to also announce an interim superintendent. Not only that, but they gave their old one, Mannix Barnes, a $25,000 bonus and extended his contract for three years. Barnes had his certification stripped by the state as they alleged mismanagement and the district falling under state accreditation standards.
Amidst all this, there are also allegations of shredding documents just one day from the state auditor making a visit to the school to look at the district’s documents and records. It’s a lot to unpack, as one parent in the district showed three big bags of shredded papers that she got out of garbage cans. The meeting only turned up the heat on the whole situation even more.
“You know, I do just worry about what just happened,” said Briana Flatley, the lone Western Heights school board member who voted no on the decision to appoint an interim superintendent.
Tuesday, when the district posted a notice of a meeting, the state said any action at the meeting would be deemed invalid. They went on to say in their statement that “it’s a further demonstration of the Western Heights School Board president’s disregard for the authority of the Oklahoma State Board of Education.” In a letter sent Wednesday to the district, they even said actions in the meeting could be deemed illegal. The person appointed by the district was Kim Race, the current assistant superintendent.
“I am definitely worried that what just happened is illegal,” Flatley said.
Flatley was also the only board member to ask if they had the authority to do so, since the state took over. According to the state, they don’t have that authority.
“I just kind of want to mention, do we have authority to make this motion?” Flatley asked.
“I believe that we do,” board president Robert Everman said.
So, they did. Immediate uproar followed the adjournment of the meeting.
“It’s ridiculous, pathetic,” said Brianna Dodd, a parent in the district who was at the meeting. “They have no authority.”
The school’s attorney stood firm in the meeting. He said the school was well within their right to act and the state board of education has no authority to do what they are doing.
“They’ve not once been able to point out any statutory authorization that gives them the right to appoint or employ a superintendent, interim superintendent, assistant superintendent or any other employee of an independent school district,” the attorney said.
The state sent a notice of intervention letter to the district Wednesday. That letter can be read in full below.
In it, the state notifies them of what’s to come. They also address “willful disregard of state authority and applicable laws.” It also addresses the issue of the district shredding documents just one day before a visit from the State Department of Education and the state auditor.
“I did have community members reach out to me. They were concerned that some of them were financial documents,” Flatley said. “That’s something that should not be in a public trash can.”
Our interview with Flatley was cut short by Oklahoma City police, who told us we had to leave the administration building without telling us who wanted us gone.
“Who is it that asked you to clear the building?” a reporter asked.
“Does it matter?” The officer said.
“Yeah it does.” the reporter said.
The officer went on to say he was just told to clear the building. Flatley said she is worried about what went down, on top of what’s to come. Two superintendents are set to make their way in as of tomorrow.
“Why do they keep pushing back, do you know?” KFOR asked.
“I wish I did know [but] I really don’t,” Flatley said. “I have no words. I mean, on this board, I’m just one person.”
“The state’s coming in tomorrow and that’s all that matters,” Dodd said.