It was after 4 p.m. on Friday, January 11, 2019, when James Oliver entered the ground-floor lobby of the building known throughout the Clark County School District as the “Pink Palace” — CCSD’s headquarters building at 5100 W. Sahara.
What follows is the account of subsequent events there and elsewhere provided to Nevada Journal by Oliver. Public-record sign-in sheets, though heavily redacted by CCSD, confirm that, unusually, five different individuals signed in between 4 and 4:15 p.m. on that Friday and later signed out between 4:50 and 5:45 p.m. — a scenario for an almost-two-hour meeting that fits Oliver’s account comfortably.
Oliver had been alerted the day before that the meeting that he and the teacher union had been seeking with top district brass for over two months would finally occur.
“I am sorry for the delay in scheduling,” the January 10 message from union lawyer Michelle Kim had begun:
The meeting is scheduled for tomorrow at 4:30 pm at the CCSD 5100 W. Sahara Avenue building. I will be with you as CCEA Counsel representing you. We are meeting with the Chief of Staff, Jennifer Cupid-McCoy, General Counsel, Jon Okazaki, and Andre Long, Chief of Human Resources. I have already submitted the statement, but will be bringing a copy of it.
Oliver would later be told that CCSD Superintendent Jesus Jara had finally allowed the meeting to be scheduled when CCEA attorney Michelle Kim had threatened to hold a public press conference over the district’s repeated postponements and delays.
Now inside the lobby, Oliver signed in at the security desk and waited. About 15 minutes later the rushed attorney arrived. Kim said that although she had already emailed a copy of the statement to Superintendent Jara, she’d also brought a hard copy.
She told him, says Oliver, that she “is going to start off with the ‘dirty observations’ — the false and retaliatory allegations made against Oliver when he refused to cooperate in the grade falsification — and “then she will let me talk about the cheating part.”
When they entered the fourth-floor conference room that adjoins the superintendent’s office, recalls Oliver, the three officials mentioned in Kim’s email — Cupid-McCoy, Okazaki and Long — were already there, seated around the conference-room table. Also, a multi-line desk phone lay flat on the table.
Kim, who by that date had been employed by the teacher union — the Clark County Education Association — for over four years as Director of Advocacy and Representation, put her coat over a chair and greeted some familiar faces.
“Well, we meet again,” she said.
After additional introductions were made, Jara’s chief of staff, Cupid-McCoy, announced that the superintendent was also present through the live telephone connection. Over it, Jara then said, “Good evening.”
When Kim and Oliver were seated at the conference table, Kim brought out her notes and papers, which included a hard copy document that Oliver understood to be a more polished version of his own detailed statement, requested by the union, of what had occurred at Treem and set the whole affair in motion. Kim asked the CCSD brass at the table if they’d all received copies of the statement and, according to Oliver, all indicated yes.
Oliver’s statement explained he had turned to the union upon realizing that the school’s administrators were illegally falsifying class grades on CCSD’s Infinite Campus system, doing it under his name and log-on password, and retaliating with negative “observations” when he refused to collaborate.
Thus, on October 26, 2018, Oliver tried to reach well-known CCEA coordinator Ron Lopez. But Lopez was away, so Oliver, after leaving a detailed message that Friday and calling back early the next week, had been put in touch with teacher-union rep Alexander Roche.
It was Roche who, almost immediately, directed Oliver to log everything that had happened while his memory was still fresh, in preparation for the meeting with district brass that Roche expected to occur quickly, once its leadership learned what was going down at Treem.
By November 2, 2018, Oliver had completed and submitted to the teacher union his brief account of the critical events. It explained the context in which Treem administrators over the previous two weeks had ordered him and others to replace the second-graders’ D’s and F’s with new A’s and B’s. Those original grades, for weeks since the beginning of the school year, had been conscientiously recorded by the substitute teacher previously in that classroom.
Two days after Oliver arrived at Treem, its administration — Principal Yvette Tippetts and Assistant Principal Sarah Cyprus — upon “discovering” the weeks of low grades, had stated it was necessary to get those grades changed as soon as possible, before progress reports and report cards went out and informed the parents and guardians of the second-graders’ of the actual abysmal condition of education and administration at Treem ES.
As it was, the progress reports were still delayed a week, until the D’s and F’s in the system had been converted and the A’s and B’s would print out on the progress reports. It was only then, on Friday, October 26, that Oliver saw with his own eyes that the grades had indeed been falsified.
That led him to make some inquiries and then contact his teacher union.
At first, he and Roche and the union had expected that the meeting they were seeking with CCSD Superintendent Jesus Jara would occur quickly. Thus the statement was written and in the union’s hands by November 2 — to be ready whenever the meeting was called.
However, for weeks the meeting was delayed, leading CCEA, says Oliver, to ask him “to keep tabs on Treem and the [Infinite Campus] grade book with Mr. Roche.”
Thus, the two of them, through the Internet, continued to remotely monitor the changing of grades going on inside Treem’s section of the Infinite Campus cloud. And Oliver continued documenting the changing of grades, tests, and other classroom records.