Oklahoma Education Association organizer Briana Flatley is challenging incumbent Darrell Raper for Seat 1 of the Western Heights Public Schools Board of Education.
Western Heights, an independent school district in southwest Oklahoma City serving more than 3,300 students, has received heated critique from district employees and parents in recent years. Many are upset about the district’s leadership under Superintendent Mannix Barnes, who was appointed in July 2019.
At a school board meeting in October 2019, 15 Western Heights Schools employees resigned in protest of the district’s management. The employees included several bus drivers and the assistant superintendent.
Also in October 2019, Western Heights parents requested an investigation of the district, including classroom overcrowding and hiring decisions. They also called for an investigation of Barnes’ $220,000 salary and his work history and relationship with school board members.
Barnes was formerly the employer of the board’s president, Robert Everman. According to the website VoteRecords, Barnes also lives on the same street as Raper in Wheatland, Oklahoma, about two miles away from Western Heights High School.
Last year, Barnes got in a standoff with state and city officials over the district’s decision to stop its meal-delivery program in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Western Heights School Board also made headlines in June when board member Linda Farley was seen drinking a beer during a digital meeting. Farley apologized and said she was sick and was trying to “flush out my kidneys.”
Recently, a citizens’ petition from the Western Heights Education Association and Western Heights community (embedded at the bottom of this article) requesting a special audit of the district by the State Auditor & Inspector’s Office collected 998 signatures and has been delivered to the Oklahoma County Election Board. The petition, which requires 645 verified signatures from registered voters in the Western Heights Schools district, started circulating on Feb. 3 for only two weeks owing to bad weather.
The petition requests that the audit looks into child nutrition program expenditures, district credit card expenditures of certain administrative personnel, the issuance of school bonds used to finance and purchase school busses and payments related to consultant and attorney fees.
The general election will take place on April 6. The deadline to register to vote in this election is today.
The following candidate profiles are presented in alphabetical order and were drawn from publicly available information and an interview with Flatley. Raper does not appear to have campaign information available online, and he did not respond to NonDoc’s multiple attempts to contact him.
Profession/background: Flatley graduated from Western Heights High School in 2012 as a Gates Millennium Scholar. She majored in global literacy at the University of Oklahoma, studying abroad in Brazil, Ireland, Germany and Tanzania.
She has worked as a teacher’s assistant in Western Heights, Putnam City and Bethany Public Schools and is currently the Oklahoma City metro organizer for the Oklahoma Education Association.
Political experience: Flatley has experience volunteering with the American Cancer Society and has advocated for the cause with legislators at both the state and national level.
“As I got to college and I saw what was happening in education, I knew that the only way to help educators was going to be through the avenue of politics,” Flatley said.
Platform: Flatley said the district has lost transparency and its sense of community, along with losing teachers with advanced degrees. Her goals are to improve and rebuild community relationships, provide more transparency and accountability and recruit and retain great educators.
“We have no community anymore, and I think that’s hurt this district more and more,” Flatley said. “There’s been a loss of transparency to the district from administration, and a lot of parents were frustrated by that. They’re not even getting communication from the district about decisions being made by the school board and administration. They’re frustrated that they don’t have a return-to-learn plan, which every district surrounding has one.”
Raper is the incumbent Western Heights Schools board member. His personal Facebook page describes him as “Retired!” and says he attended Western Heights High School. He joined the board following the resignation of former Office 1 representative Brandi Martinez in February 2020.
Raper did not respond to NonDoc’s multiple contact attempts for an interview before the publication of this article. He does not appear to have a campaign website or other information available online.