Woodland Public Schools takes action against Kimrey

Robert Smith
Pawhuska Journal-Capital

FAIRFAX -- The Woodland Board of Education last week voted to suspend Superintendent Todd Kimrey and to formally notify him of his possible dismissal, giving him an opportunity to request a hearing if he desires one.

Kimrey was not present when the board acted.

After spending about 50 minutes in executive session, the board -- consisting on the evening of Feb. 2 of presiding officer Berry "Bo" Harrison III, Gilbert Kennedy III, John Watts and Thomas Engle -- voted 4-0 to notify Kimrey in writing of his possible dismissal. Board member Gabe Graham was not present, but the board members present for the special meeting did confer in closed session with their attorney, Bryan Drummond.

Following the vote on Kimrey's possible dismissal, the board cast a separate 4-0 vote to suspend him.

Harrison said after the meeting that the district had a 45-day grace period to find a superintendent. He said the district is working with a search firm to identify a potential interim superintendent.

"Oh yes, absolutely," Harrison told the Journal-Capital in a brief telephone interview last week, when asked if he and other board members had been shocked by the events that prompted their special meeting on Feb. 2.

The Oklahoma State Board of Education on Thursday, Jan. 28, voted to change the accreditation status of Woodland Public Schools, headquartered in Fairfax, to probationary.

The state board acted after the U.S. Department of Education on Jan. 19 placed Woodland on “high risk” status and requested that the state take a comparable step.

The federal and state disciplinary actions were reportedly a result of Woodland Public Schools administrators failing, since 2015, to submit data related to federal civil rights oversight.

Members of the Oklahoma State Board of Education were informed that Woodland had the distinction of being the only one of more than 17,000 public school districts in the nation that failed to submit its data during the two most recent collection periods. The data, submission of which is a requirement for federal funding, is collected every other year.

There had been at least 12 communications from the U.S. Department of Education and the Oklahoma State Department of Education between March 2018 and January 2021 regarding the problem, state board members learned.

The school district’s administration, led by Kimrey, reportedly cited a “lack of staff” as the reason for not submitting the data. The state Department of Education reportedly does about 60 percent of the work on the civil rights data report for the school districts, to help them submit it on a timely basis.

The Woodland board initially convened Feb. 2 in the high school library, but moved the meeting to a nearby auditorium to accommodate the public. Roughly 50 persons were in attendance when the meeting started.

In connection with having labeled Woodland a "high-risk" school district, the U.S. Department of Education has laid down a series of conditions that it has mandated for the district to meet in order to demonstrate compliance and avoid further federal actions.