Western Heights School District battles Oklahoma State School Board

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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – A metro school district could lose their accreditation. The long embattled Western Heights district is coming under fire from the State Department of Education.

Late last month, state officials sent a letter to officials at Western Heights saying they need to answer for questionable decisions made in their district. Western Heights school officials aren’t on board with that.

“It’s a sad situation,” said former Western Heights staffer Jan Lankford.

“We have seven bus drivers, we’ve lost half of our staff and teachers,” said Brianna Dodd, Western Heights alum and parent of a former student.

“I’m really glad that someone is paying attention and getting us the help that we need,” said Amy Boone, Western Heights parent.

Concerned parents, alumni and former employees are speaking out as Western Heights Public Schools face concerns about the school accreditation moving forward.

“We have a long list of things that we find troubling in that district,” said State Department of Education Board Member Jennifer Monies.

At an Oklahoma State Department of Education board meeting on March 25, officials laid out what they say are questionable moves by the school. They say there was mishandling of funds, failure to provide in-person instructional services to students, a lack of willingness to respond to concerns of the parents and the community, failure to provide food for students and significant loss in enrollment and teachers

“A board member consuming alcohol during a public meeting,” said Monies.

That point was made in reference to a zoom board meeting from last June where a Western Heights board member admitted to drinking a beer during the meeting.

Last week, the attorney for the State Board sent a letter to Western Heights laying out the state officials’ concerns and asking Western Heights officials to be present at a April 9 meeting where “the State Board may discuss, consider and take action on the District’s accreditation status.”

Yesterday, attorneys for the School District fired back with a letter saying Superintendent Mannix Barnes wants to cooperate with the OSDE, but the district has not been notified and no investigation has been done by the state into the allegations, saying due process has not happened.

The letter requests more information and refute many of the state’s points. School attorneys also question whether the State Board has authority to call Western Heights officials before them saying “the department has given Western Heights no reason to trust its motives or actions on any issue.”

“I hope that our board understands the severity of everything that’s going on. If they don’t show up, it should prove a lot to everyone that lives in the district,” said Dodd.

State officials say Western Heights has 90 days to comply.

KFOR reached out to the attorneys for Western Heights, the district superintendent and the Western Heights School Board, but our calls were not returned. The OSDE said they had no one to talk to us today and their letter spells out their concerns.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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