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OKLAHOMA CITY (Free Press) — Twenty-four hours after the Oklahoma State Board of Education officially took control of Western Heights Public Schools for one year, the district’s Board of Education set a meeting for Thursday to hire their own interim superintendent even though the state has already appointed one.

Tuesday, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister assigned an interim superintendent to the district to implement reforms the State Board of Education has put in place during an interim year of direct control by the State Department of Education.

On the same day, Western Heights Board President Robert Everman submitted a notice to the Oklahoma County Clerk of a special meeting that had been called with the main agenda item being to consider hiring their own interim superintendent.

Western-Heights-BOE-Special-meeting

Warning – UPDATED

Hofmeister sent an updated letter Wednesday warning that the planned meeting Thursday to hire their own interim superintendent would be “in violation of the State Board’s conditions of continued accreditation, with which the District must comply.”

Hofmeister’s letter also referenced photos and video clips in news reports Wednesday that seem to show multiple bags of shredded financial documents in the district’s dumpster near the administration building.

Western Heights officials were warned that destroying records after being notified of a coming state audit of district finances “may be a violation of law and/or deemed to interfere with the authority and obligations of the State Auditor, the OSDE, and the State Board of Education.”

Free Press has obtained a copy of that four-page letter:

07.14.21-Western-Heights-State-Intervention

Conditions of Probation – New info

Free Press obtained a copy of the three-page, single-spaced conditions of the year-long probation for Western Heights.

This document lays out the particulars of the powers and duties of the assigned interim superintendent and the ways in which district staff are to cooperate.

A series of stakeholder meetings are to be held and a district improvement plan will be drawn up that sets the course for the district to recover from years of mismanagement and possibly criminal behavior of school board members and administrators.

Most importantly, at present, before the district improvement plan is in place, all spending and encumbrances are to be submitted to the OKSDE five days before they are to take effect. The same pre-approval also applies to personnel decisions and most other decisions that the district board of education might be asked to approve.

Here is the document with specific conditions sent to the district Wednesday:

Western-Heights-Conditions-of-Probation

Already in trouble

Monday, the State Board of Education decided to keep Western Heights on probation status and to take control of the district for one year. That means that all actions of the district are subject to approval of the State Department of Education.

Western Heights had already been placed on probation in April. Their attorneys challenged the authority of the State Board of Education to do so and lost in court.

Western Heights Superintendent Mannix Barnes had his superintendent certificate suspended in June for retaliatory behavior toward staff, fiscal mismanagement, and poor performance. Serving in the role since 2019, Barnes could not legally stay in the role having a suspended certificate.

Yet, the district Board of Education renewed his contract at the end of June for three more years and gave him a $25,000 “performance bonus.” The total liability to the taxpayers for that move rings in at around $1 million dollars.


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Last Updated July 15, 2021, 11:41 AM by Brett Dickerson – Editor