The following written statement of fact is made under oath voluntarily by the affiant, James Preston Oliver, of Las Vegas, Nevada, County of Clark, and witnessed by the indicated notary public.
Statement by whistleblowing teacher James Oliver
It was after 4 p.m. on Friday, January 11, 2019, when I 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 my account of subsequent events there and elsewhere provided to Nevada Journal. 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.
I signed in at the security desk and waited. About 15 minutes later the attorney Michelle Kim arrived. She said that although she had already emailed a copy of my statement to Superintendent Jara, she’d also brought a hard copy, just in case.
Ms. Kim told me that she was going to start off with the ‘dirty observations’ — the false and retaliatory allegations made against me when I refused to cooperate in the grade falsification — and then she would let me talk about the cheating part.
When we entered the fourth-floor conference room that adjoins the superintendent’s office, the three officials mentioned in Kim’s email — Chief of Staff Cupid-McCoy, District Legal Counsel Okazaki and HR Director Long — were already there, seated around the conference-room table. Also, a multi-line desk phone lay flat on the table.
Ms. Kim, 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. Thus, when she put her coat over a chair, she was greeting some familiar faces.
“Well, we meet again,” she said.
After introductions were made, Cupid-McCoy announced that the superintendent was also present — through the live telephone connection. Over it, Jara then said, “Good evening.”
When Ms. Kim and I were seated at the conference table, she brought out her notes and papers, which included a hard-copy printout of my statement. She asked the others at the table if they’d all received copies of my statement and all indicated they had.
Thus, when Cupid-McCoy called on me, I had assumed that everyone present was aware of all the particulars in my (downloadable) statement, and I simply turned to the circumstances under which I’d come to record all of the incriminating screenshots.
Those circumstances had been the coincidental occurrence, in October 2018, of Treem’s administrators setting their grade-changing operation in motion, at the same time that the ultimately fatal and inoperable illness of my mother, who was living with my family at the time, was also worsening.
Her death had finally occurred on November 11 of 2018.
Partly driven by the expressed wishes of my mother, a longtime criminal investigator, I had then used my accumulated sick and bereavement leave so that I did not have to immediately go back to Treem and could instead, in the presence of CCEA’s Alexander Roche, accumulate graphic evidence of the ongoing grading fraud.
Because all the people at the table there in the conference room had received my statement, and indicated they’d digested it, I primarily tried to refresh their memory as to what had led me to approach the union, then — with the union — record the screenshots as Treem administrators changed existing records inside the district’s Infinite Campus grading application.
Perhaps I was naïve, but it was my view that my original November 2 statement — given its specificity, its naming of multiple witnesses, and the massive supporting evidence (screenshots) of grade-falsification I had accumulated — would naturally occasion a wholesale housecleaning within the district.
I now believe that, had it been provided to the school district on the public record, rather than confidentially, it almost certainly would have had seismic effects throughout Nevada and beyond. That is because it would have put CCSD’s leaders publicly on notice — and also legally — of the felony lawbreaking proceeding under their noses.
My thinking was that the district leaders — aware now of what was in my report to CCEA and (secondarily) to CCSD — had a fiduciary obligations to the public, to parents and the district’s children, to conduct a comprehensive district-wide investigation.
And indeed, during that January 11 meeting, that very obligation was acknowledged by Superintendent Jara.
Responding to a demand for such an investigation from CCEA Counsel Kim, Jara had announced in front of everyone present that a district-wide investigation of such grade-changing would, in fact, be conducted, and it would probably take a year.
The subject of the “observations”
During her part of the CCSD headquarters meeting, Attorney Kim had — as she’d told me in the elevator — spent most of her time on the intentionally damaging “observation” Treem Assistant Principal Cyprus had created immediately after learning I was refusing to participate in the grade-changing operation. Her observation explicitly threatened termination of my employment and thus my livelihood.
Attorney Kim argued emphatically that it — as well as another ‘observation’ with which Treem administrators were justifying an admonitory hearing they’d scheduled for the coming Monday — needed to be voided.
Kim noted that I had had “great observations as an ARL teacher” — my previous school, Bailey ES, had rated me nine times at 3.0, the category of an effective teacher — and that Cyprus giving me what Kim called the “dirty” observation only minutes after I’d refused to participate in their grade-falsification operation was clearly retaliation.
It followed, Kim argued, that this was clearly an instance where a usual practice of CCSD schools — forwarding transferring teachers’ latest administrative observations on to their new schools — should not be followed.
Superintendent Jara had quickly agreed.
At that point, Cupid-McCoy announced that she, Okazaki and Long now needed to go into the adjoining room. When they got up and left, I asked attorney Kim why they were doing so. She replied, “Well, that’s where he [Jara] is.”
When Okazaki, Long and Cupid-McCoy returned, Jara began speaking to us, over the telephone.
He said, “We are going to transfer you to another school, and you will not have to meet with the Treem administration.” He said he instead would personally call Treem and inform them that I would not be returning to the school, nor be present for the admonitory meeting Treem admin had set for the coming Monday.
He told us that, until his people had identified the new school where I would be assigned, I could work from home.
Later that evening
About two hours later that same evening, after the meeting was over, I received a phone call from Ms. Kim. She said she was with Jara chief of staff Cupid-McCoy, who wanted to know if I still had the screenshots of children’s grades from the start of the school year. If I did, could I please make them available?
Because Treem’s administrators had erased the original test results on Infinite Campus, the superintendent’s office wanted to see what had existed before the erasing.
The chief of staff also wanted to remind me, said Ms. Kim, that “you cannot say a word to anybody at Treem or the next school you go to, about what you’ve reported to us.”
If I did, I was told, that could “compromise” the investigation.
Multiple times over the remaining months of the school year Kim again reminded me of the necessity of silence.
As requested, on the following day, I forwarded multiple screenshots to the union. When I double-checked to see if they’d arrived, I was told they had.
Whether the images ever actually made it to Jara’s chief of staff, however, I do not know. Kim had instructed me to send the files to John Vellardita, the union’s executive director. However, Ms. Kim herself that spring left her position with the union — unhappily — and also left Nevada. And I found myself now represented by CCEA’s Ron Lopez, who began making arguments I should resign from CCSD.
I do not believe CCSD ever actually did any real investigation. Not only was there no news of such, but both Treem administrators who orchestrated the grade fraud received promotions and compensation increased from the Superintendent.