A Meeting At Last

Just two weeks after the Superintendent of Public Instruction lost his attempt to have our lawsuit against him dismissed, we were finally offered a meeting to discuss the misconduct at NCVPS.  Of course, this was also 753 days since we first raised our concerns about plagiarism by the developers of the NCVPS APUSH course…but of course, response much less action from bureaucracies takes time.  As a bonus, State Board of Education Chairman Bill Cobey also showed up for what was billed as a “mediated settlement conference”.  The meeting was requested by the AAG Tiffany Lucas before the court order allowing our suit to proceed, and the Superintendent even agreed to pay 100% of the costs for the mediator as an enticement to put an end to this lawsuit.

It was an interesting meeting to say the least.  We reminded everyone in attendance that we offered to drop our lawsuit back in January when we met with AAG Lucas, SBE Attorney Katie Cornetto, NCVPS Executive Director Eliz Colbert, and others.  All they needed to do was commit to investigating the misconduct at NCVPS, but none of them were willing to make that commitment.  Superintendent Johnson appeared earnest in wanting to fix the problems at NCVPS, but could not explain why he had done nothing so far.  He specifically noted his department’s recent audit of NCVPS, his impression that the findings showed real issues at NCVPS, and his intent to follow through with the audit recommendations.  SBE Chairman Cobey took a much different approach to the meeting, offering no solutions, getting in the way of compromise with a “take it or leave it” retort and attitude altogether, and asserting that the State Board of Education could not devote 10 minutes a month to addressing the numerous issues in the largest school in our state and the only one for which they are directly responsible.   No one in attendance (except us) seemed the slightest bit concerned that a group of contractors were paid approximately $25,000 of state funds to develop a new APUSH course for NCVPS, chose instead to slap together content copied from the web that was a total impediment to learning, still requested payment and cashed their checks, and then NCVPS executives re-hired for approximately $10,000 some of those same contractors to re-work the course after we notified them of significant deficiencies (that NCVPS execs retroactively claim they knew about).

We expressed some reasonable skepticism that the Superintendent would get the job done given the 753 days that had already elapsed since we formally notified NCVPS of the problems in their course and the 10 1/2 months the Superintendent had been in office with zero action.  We expressed outrage that no one in government cared about the financial fraud that occurred at NCVPS, or the students who are subjected to horrible educational experiences via NCVPS.  Finally, we told the Superintendent that we thought the DPI audit of NCVPS was incredibly weak with a narrow scope that intentionally avoided looking at many important issues and numerous unsubstantiated opinions that are not part of a well-executed audit.

Despite our concerns, we decided to give Superintendent Johnson a chance to prove he can get the job done.  We agreed to settle our lawsuit.  Johnson committed to the following actions:

  • implementing the recommendations from the DPI Audit of NCVPS
  • responding to a list of additional topics provided by us that we contend the DPI audit should have addressed but did not
  • providing an interim update to us on his actions to improve NCVPS by March 1st
  • providing a public update on his actions to improve NCVPS at the June 2018 State Board of Education meeting

Even Bill Cobey ultimately chipped in by agreeing to allow the Superintendent 15 minutes to make his presentation to the SBE (although Cobey declined to sign the written settlement agreement).  On our part, we agreed to dismiss our lawsuit without prejudice (meaning we can file it again), and dismissed it the following week.  Of course, we are still receiving the public records we requested since we should have been receiving them all along without the need to file suit to receive them.  We followed up with a memo to Superintendent Johnson on December 1st detailing our issues with the DPI audit of NCVPS.

So, now we wait to see if Superintendent Johnson follows through on his end of the bargain, or if SBE Chairman Cobey finds some other way to derail the agreement.  Time will tell.