Part 4B: Sandbagged at Beckley

Jara’s office took only one workday to locate a new school where Oliver was to teach. Late the following Monday, James was informed he’d be going to Will Beckley Elementary.

Upon arriving there on Tuesday morning, however, Oliver quickly noticed the tone was all wrong. He was an unwelcome intruder, the principal immediately made clear.

“I met with the principal, Shannon Brown,” Oliver wrote in the “Bias and Retaliation” log that the union had asked him to keep:

The first sentence Mrs. Brown said to me was the second-grade position was already filled. I responded that it had been agreed that the second-grade position was what I was coming here for. Mrs. Brown responded there is a full-time sub in that position now and we want to hire her for that position this coming year, so if you go ahead and teach that position now, I just wanted to let you know that we are going to hire her for that position next year.

Principal Brown’s evident enmity was not, however, Oliver’s only new problem.

Mum’s the word

During Friday’s late-afternoon meeting at the Pink Palace and afterward, when Jara and his chief of staff had informed Oliver and his attorney that CCSD would be launching a district-wide investigation of administrator grade-cheating, they also warned him not say a word to anybody at Treem or the next school he was going to about what he had reported.

Oliver had immediately pointed out there was a big hole in such a “mum’s-the-word” strategy: Namely, that the Treem brass already knew of his reporting, since the union — in its many attempts over previous months to get Jara to meet — had gone to the Nevada Department of Education, which then contacted Treem administrators, making inquiries.

In addition, many teachers at Treem not only knew of the administrators’ changing of grades in Infinite Campus using Oliver’s classroom computers and personal pass code — but also that he’d gone to his union about it.

However, all Jara said, according to Oliver, was, “No one will find out; just don’t talk about it.”

In the phone call later that evening, that same directive was repeated to Oliver: Keep silent about what had happened at Treem and also the supposedly looming district-wide investigation. It was supposed to take about a year.

If word got out, he was told, the investigation could be compromised.

Thus — while the Beckley administrators were now regularly complaining to him that no final observation on his teaching had come over from Treem — Oliver himself was barred from explaining.

A remark one of the Beckley administrators made to Oliver suggests that Jara’s office may, indeed, have contacted the school and attempted to neutralize questions about James’ final Treem observation. If so, however, it had little effect.

“We don’t know what the secret is,” said Brown, according to Oliver, “or why you are over here and anything like that. But you know, it’s none of our business. We’re going to give you a fair shot.”

Actually, however, Beckley’s principal and assistant principal soon revealed they were under instructions from their midlevel district boss to do nothing until they received the (toxic) Treem observation. According to the log Oliver was keeping under instructions from his union, Principal Brown and Vice Principal Trupp on Friday, January 18 “called me into their office, where:

Mrs. Brown and Mrs. Trupp told me they could not give me an evaluation [by] coming in and observing me [in class, which they’d already done] until they received all my observations from Treem Admin. I responded that I was told they were not going to use that. Mrs. Brown responded their admin told them not to grade any of my observations until they receive all my observations…. (Emphasis added.)

In this way, Oliver learned he either was faced with a district superintendent who had no clout with his own subordinates, or — alternatively — was moving covertly to expel Oliver from the district, in an effort to keep CCSD’s corruption issue concealed from the public.

Whatever the case, what was clear was that unknown individuals were intent on reviving what CCEA had called the “dirty,” and retaliatory, Treem observation — which Jara, on January 11, had agreed should not be forwarded to Oliver’s new school.

Originally, that observation by Treem Assistant Principal Sarah Cyprus in October — conducted immediately after Oliver refused to assist in the administrators’ grade-changing project — had been a mere three paragraphs long. However, in November 2018 — after learning that Oliver and teacher-union elements were pressing Jara for a tell-all meeting — Cyprus had expanded her “observation” to over three pages, by adding multiple alleged infractions of Common-Core instructional recommendations.

Back at Beckley, Principal Brown happened to reveal to Oliver that a midlevel CCSD bureaucrat was the current face of the drive to get him out of the district. “We’ve called for your observation,” she complained, “and for some reason they won’t give it to us. And our admin is very upset because we need that observation before we actually give you one.” (Emphasis added.)

Given the later developments in Oliver’s story, multiple terms in that statement — “our admin,” “very upset,” and “we need that observation before we actually give you one” — merit much closer examination. Unpacked, they illuminate the basic structural reasons why, decade after decade, CCSD always remains stuck in education researchers’ lowest quartile for student achievement. That examination follows Part 10 of this report in an appendix entitled: “How CCSD’s structure fosters fear and failure.”

The later developments

  • At the end of Oliver’s second week at Beckley, its administrators did, in fact, receive from Treem administrators the supposedly blocked and toxic final observation the latter had produced. While it had been approximately three paragraphs long when first given Oliver it was now over four pages.
  • At Beckley, the administration’s intention to keep Oliver from completing his ARL program and receiving a full teaching license became increasingly transparent. In the next 10 weeks at Beckley he received six “observations” — all of which found reasons to classify him as a less-than-effective teacher — while other teachers in the school received no observations at all.
  • On March 21, 2019, a panel made up exclusively of CCSD administrators who had recently given Oliver negative observations, produced a formal evaluation deeming his teaching merely “developing” — of the four possible rankings, one of the two lowest. Administrators who’d given him highly positive and “effective” observations — such as Stephanie Tatman, the principal of Sister Bailey ES, and Jessica Alanono, former vice principal at Bailey — were excluded from the panel, as were their observations.
  • One panel “evaluator” whose presence brought the integrity of the panel itself into obvious question was Treem Principal Yvette Tippetts, despite her clear conflict of interest as the leader of the mass grade-changing and parent-deception operation that Oliver had reported to his union and the district.
  • On April 2, 2019, Oliver was notified he had received a default “effective” rating under a technical rule governing evaluations made under “truncated” evaluation periods. The document was initialed by both Shannon Brown and Oliver. That rating, however, like other effective ratings he’d received, had been ignored by the panel.
  • In concert, at this time, teacher-union coordinator Ron Lopez and the Beckley administrators began vigorously pressing Oliver to simply resign. (additional background)
  • In late April 2019, Oliver learns that his CCEA counsel, Michelle Kim would be leaving her counsel job with the CCEA, (and she wasn’t happy about it.)
  • About a week later, on April 26, 2019, Oliver received an email from Supt. Jara announcing that “You are hereby notified that the Clark County Board of School Trustees, at a regular meeting held on April 25, 2019, directed that you not be reemployed for the 2019-2020 school year.” No such decision, however, actually appears in any form on CCSD’s official website page for that date. Nor was the district able to supply any such directive or decision by trustees when that was specifically requested under Nevada’s public-records law. Similarly, when Oliver requested all of his district personnel records from CCSD, no such record was included in the response.
  • On May 1, 2019, Oliver received an email from CCSD’s “Employee Onboarding and Developing department,” saying it had been notified “that you have or are planning to separate from the Clark County School District (CCSD),” which, it said, would lead CCSD to ask the state to invalidate his teaching license. Oliver, however, had not notified anyone of any plan to “separate” from CCSD. As always, his plan has been to fight. (ARL Status – Separation from CCSD email)
  • Attorney Michelle Kim’s official last day with the CCEA, was May 20, 2019. Oliver believes her representation of him ultimately made her persona non grata with both CCSD and the CCEA.
  • On October 22, 2019, the Clark County School District released its “2019-20 Superintendent’s Honor Roll.” On it was Principal Yvette Tippets with a “Gold Star,” since Treem — based upon state Performance Framework calculations on the 2018-19 school year scores — had received a “star rating” of four, rather than its prior three. “This year’s star ratings demonstrate that we are moving in the right direction,” said Jhone Ebert, Nevada Superintendent of Public Instruction.
  • Tippetts also was given a raise and placed in charge of Charles Sylvestri Junior High. Her collaborator in leading the grade-changing operation at Treem — Vice Principal Sarah Cyprus — was promoted to full principal at Treem.

Part 5: Who IS this whistleblower?

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