OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – The Western Heights school district held a school board meeting Monday night, just three days after the State Department of Education placed them on probation for multiple problems they said are plaguing the district.
The OSDE gave the district 90 days to address and correct the issues, or they risk losing their accreditation. Among the complaints state leaders listed, a failure to provide an in-person instruction option for over one year now. Losing 800 students in one year and 25% of, or 115 staff members over a two-year span. Also, allowing a school board member to drink a beer during a public meeting last summer.
Before the meeting that lasted roughly 2 hours, it was all cheers and screams trying to get cars to honk at their signs in protest of the Western Heights school board. Those out doing so Monday night were urging the board members and superintendent Mannix Barnes to resign.
“I’m just here to make sure we save our schools for our kids,” said Keyohnna Tillis-Owens. “They’re suffering.”
“Our superintendent doesn’t seem to want to acknowledge that there is any problem,” said Amy Boone, a parent of children in the Western Heights school district.
The protest comes just days after the department of education dropped the hammer in a special meeting Friday. In the meeting, the state school board cited several issues they said are plaguing the district. Western Heights was offered a chance to show up and present explanations for the problems. However, they did not.
“I’m not surprised, we kind of got that feeling that might happen,” said Sharon Teague. A current middle school teacher and president of the Western Heights Education Association.
Teague said she is happy with the state school board taking action.
“They were spot on about everything that we have been concerned about over the last several months,” Teague said. “We’re out here to give these students a good education and there’s a lot of distractions right now.”
Former students also blasted the district.
“Our leadership and our staff is not where it needs to be,” said Maliyah Cooper.
Cooper is a former student who now attends Epic Charter Schools online due to issues experienced within Western Heights along with the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s just gone downhill, terribly,” Natalia Jackson, a former student who now attends Westmoore High School after attending Western Heights since elementary school.
Those we spoke with said they are just hoping for change before the risk of losing accreditation becomes a reality.
“They’re all very concerned about the direction our school is going in and what we’re going to do to fix it,” Boone said.
The board went into an executive session to discuss the actions taken by the state board of education last Friday.
It’s important to note that KFOR reached out to Western Heights Supt. Mannix Barnes for comment on both the story Friday when the department of education made their decision, and this one. However, he said he will only do live interviews which we cannot accommodate due to time constraints.
The board started the meeting addressing some of the issues the board said they needed to fix.
Right now, the district is planning on a return to in-person learning in some fashion April 26.