interim superintendent
The Western Heights Board of Education entered executive session to discuss pending litigation with Action Air and Refrigeration, LLC., during their meeting Monday, Jan. 10, 2022. (Megan Prather)

A nearly four-year legal battle between Western Heights Public Schools and a company called Action Air and Refrigeration caused school board members to enter executive session Monday night to discuss the pending litigation, but no action was taken. Meanwhile, the district is set to welcome a new interim superintendent next month.

In the civil lawsuit, originally filed in Oklahoma County District Court in 2019, the district seeks a total of $21,351.75 from Action Air and Refrigeration, LLC, owing to alleged negligence and a alleged breach of agreement.

The petition states that, in about September 2018, Western Heights contracted with Action Air to provide a refrigerated trailer to hold certain food products while the company made repairs to certain freezers in the district.

Court documents allege that Action Air allowed the trailer to run out of fuel, resulting in the loss of about $21,351.75 worth of food. A joint motion for extension of scheduling order deadlines filed on Tuesday, Jan. 4, and stated that the improper fueling resulted in the loss of $35,339.89 in food. The motion requested a 120-day extension so parties can complete discovery ahead of the trial in light of the State Department of Education’s intervention at the district, as well as the COVID-19 pandemic.

Western Heights’ contracted attorney, Jerry Colclazier, said the dollar amount of the wasted food has increased.

They originally asked how much food was lost, but they didn’t realize that we have the cost to process the food as well as the cost of the [food items] in the first place,” Colclazier said. 

Colclazier said a new trial date is still to be determined. Multiple extension requests have been filed by Western Heights and Action Air since the case was initially filed. Action Air filed a motion requesting summary judgment in December 2020 that was denied by Oklahoma County District Court Judge Cindy Truong.

“We really never have asked for additional time on this,” Colclazier said. “Generally, I try to accommodate attorneys. I think there have been three or four (requests for extensions), and none of them have been us.”

Board member Linda Farley and interim Superintendent Monty Guthrie were not in attendance of Monday evening’s meeting.

New interim superintendent to start Feb. 1

Western Heights
Shawnee Early Childhood Center principal Brayden Savage will take on the role of Western Heights interim superintendent on Tuesday, February 1, 2022. (Screenshot)

The Western Heights district will be welcoming a new interim superintendent in February, about six months after the State Department of Education appointed Monty Guthrie to the position following the state’s take over of the district.

The district will be led by Brayden Savage — a former Western Heights educator and parent — beginning Feb. 1.

“Brayden is a perfect fit for Western Heights because of her deep roots within the district,” Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister said in a statement last week. “She is an experienced and compassionate leader who has supported this community and is dedicated to bringing them stability, hope and a vision for the future. I am thrilled to have Brayden take on this role.”

Savage has 25 years of education experience and currently serves as principal at Shawnee Early Childhood Center.

Previously, Savage spent 16 years at Western Heights in various roles, including pre-K and kindergarten teacher, reading instructional coach, assistant principal, director of human resources and assistant superintendent. She also served as executive director of alternative education in the Office of Student Support at the Oklahoma State Department of Education.

“I am extremely proud of the education my children received at Western Heights. It speaks to the level of commitment and dedication that their teachers poured into them,” Savage said in a statement. “Taking care of the teachers at Western Heights is critical right now. They are the ones who are nurturing and guiding our kids every day. They need to be supported in order to pour the most into the students, just like the teachers did with my children.”

Some Western Heights community members are apprehensive about an individual who worked in the district under the previous administration taking control.

The biggest concern that people have is somebody from the previous administration — (Superintendent) Joe Kitchens’ administration, with all the problems that he had — coming in and being superintendent of Western Heights,” district parent and community member Amy Boone said. “I know some parents had some issues with her. The teachers are pretty much happy about it. I think the concerns are whether it’s going to be the same as when Joe Kitchens was here.”

Boone said she had a lengthy discussion with Savage where she was assured that Savage has her own way of doing things that will not be influenced by previous superintendents. Kitchens served as Western Heights’ superintendent for more than 20 years, but concerns about audits and other scenarios remain in the recollection of some community members.

“She assured me that she was going to be in charge now, and she had her own ideas and a way she wants to do things,” Boone said. “I think it’s important for us as a community to come together and support the decision of Joy Hofmeister. She has our best interest at heart.”

Seat 1 board member Briana Flatley said she has faith that Hofmeister’s choice of Savage is a legitimate one.

“As a board member, I’m going to do what I have to do to make sure the progression that [community members] want to see happen in this district is continuing,” Flatley said. “If there are concerns that I see, I will address those. I have full faith in what Brayden can bring to the table. Seeing her progress from the classroom all the way up to superintendent is what you would want for any educator.”

Guthrie will be leaving to serve in a position closer to his family in eastern Oklahoma. In an email to the Western Heights community, posted in the Western Heights Community Facebook group, Guthrie encouraged community members not to lose hope.

“The community has touched my life and I am proud of all you have done to bring this district back to the shining star it can be,” the statement reads. “I am rooting for you, and I want the best for the teachers, staff, students and families who have invested so much in me. I will be following along as the district rises up, and I will continue to keep you in my prayers.

“Please show Brayden the support and passion that you have shown me. I know she will lead the Jets in a way that will make you proud.”