Community members erupted in cheers as the newest member of the Western Heights Public Schools Board of Education, Darrin Dunkin, was sworn in during Monday night’s meeting.
However, calls for board member resignations rang out following the evening’s meeting, which saw longtime board member Robert Everman maintain his position as president and Rob Sharpe keep his role as vice president after nominating each other for the positions.
“I’m ready to see us go for what’s best for the students. I’m ready to see us do what we need to for the kids,” Dunkin told NonDoc. “I’m a graduate from here. I worked here for 13 years. I’ve been gone for 13, but I’m back and ready to see a change.”
Dunkin was automatically elected to fill Seat 2 of the Western Heights Schools Board after incumbent Rosalind Cravens opted not to seek reelection and no one else filed for the office. Dunkin has lived within district boundaries his whole life and served as an in-school suspension aide and worked in the district’s information technology center from 1997 to 2009.
Western Heights community members have been calling for resignations from current board members for months, as controversy swelled over suspended Superintendent Mannix Barnes — a longtime professional associate of Everman. The district has lost enrollment and teachers, has been taken over by the State Department of Education, and is now the subject of a state audit. Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater has said reports of document shredding have caught his attention.
Monday night, Parent Brianna Dodd said the new blood on the board should help rid the district of a “good old boy” system. She said community members already have someone lined up to run for board member Linda Farley’s seat next year. (In June 2020, Farley was observed drinking a beer during an online board meeting, which she said she did to “flush out my kidneys” while ill.)
“It means the world to us that we got our people on there. The people we’re getting voted in are the people representing us as a community,” Dodd said. “I guarantee if you go ask any one of the (prior) board members what we want, they couldn’t tell you. But if you ask Briana Flatley or Darrin Dunkin what we want, I guarantee they’re going to say making the schools better for the kids and more communication for the community.”
Following Dunkin’s induction, Sharpe nominated Everman to continue serving as president of the board while Dunkin nominated Seat 1 board member Briana Flatley for the position. Everman, Sharp and Farley voted for Everman.
Everman nominated Sharpe to continue serving as vice president while Dunkin, again, nominated Flatley. Everman, Sharpe and Farley each voted in favor of Sharpe maintaining his vice president position.
Community member Amy Boone said after the meeting that it’s time for someone else to take the helm of the school board.
“With all the problems, issues and investigations, it’s time to step aside and let someone else take over,” Boone said.
Dodd used the public comment portion of the evening’s meeting to welcome Dunkin and express disapproval of Everman and Sharpe.
“If we ask for your resignation every board meeting, you probably shouldn’t nominate each other for president and vice president,” Dodd said.
After the meeting, Flatley said the move was disheartening.
“I’ve been walking this district, and I’m here a lot more. I see what the concerns of the community are, and they’re 100 percent valid,” Flatley said. “Everything they bring forth are legitimate concerns we should be addressing. I worry that without a change in leadership we’re not really going to be able to accomplish those things.”
Employee files lawsuit against district
The board entered executive session during the Monday’s meeting to discuss ongoing litigation with the State Department of Education, a pending claim related to payroll taxes and a lawsuit filed by former district employee Robyn Ramsey.
According to the original petition filed in Oklahoma County District Court, Ramsey alleges that she has been working for the district as a certified career technology center teacher under a negotiated contract with the district since 1999. Ramsey says the contract requires the district to pay to the Oklahoma Teacher Retirement System the contribution to Ramsey’s teacher retirement account on all salary earned and paid to Ramsey.
Court documents allege that, throughout Ramsey’s 23-year career with Western Heights, the district failed to contribute to her Oklahoma Teacher Retirement System account and instead deducted the retirement account contribution portion of her salary from her salary.
Ramsey is suing for approximately $3,000, with the exact amount to be determined during trial, along with prejudgment interest and attorney fees.
No action was taken following executive session.
Mannix Barnes revocation hearing set for May
On May 24, the State Board of Education is scheduled to hold a hearing in an attempt to revoke Barnes’ superintendent certificate.
The hearing is expected to be held at the Oklahoma State Department of Education, and it could last more than one day.