Timeline

Below is a timeline of major events surrounding the misconduct at NCVPS, the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction (“DPI”) and the State Board of Education (“SBE”) associated with the Advanced Placement United States History (“APUSH”) course.  While our investigation has been focused on the APUSH course, we have stumbled upon evidence of plagiarism (and a cavalier attitude toward the topic) in at least two other courses, and therefore suspect widespread scarcity of ethical behavior and accountability at NCVPS and DPI.

 

Date Event
August 2014 The College Board (owner of Advanced Placement tests) revises the standards for the APUSH test, causing schools around the country to update their courses.
September 2014 NCVPS hires a team of eight licensed educators to create a new APUSH course aligned with both the new College Board standards and NC state requirements.
October 28, 2014 NCVPS APUSH course development team leader Sandra Waters instructs her team to copy material from a publicly accessible website rather than “reinvent the wheel” by developing original course content aligned with College Board and NC standards.
August 2015 Revised NCVPS APUSH course first offered to students.
August 2015 Students and parents begin raising numerous APUSH course quality issues to NCVPS teachers, the NCVPS helpline, the NCVPS instructional lead for APUSH, and the NCVPS curriculum staff with very little substantive response.
October 21, 2015 Detailed email to NCVPS Executive Director Eliz Colbert, Chief Academic Officer Michelle Lourcey, and Curriculum Director Jennifer Nobles documenting numerous APUSH course quality issues, but not yet including plagiarism.
October 29, 2015 Conference call with Chief Academic Officer Michelle Lourcey, Curriculum Director Jennifer Nobles, and other NCVPS staff regarding APUSH course quality issues.  This call included a lengthy description of the course development process by Jennifer Nobles which specifically highlighted the need to develop original content in order to comply with federal copyright laws and NC educational standards.  NCVPS executives were first informed by us of the extensive plagiarism by the APUSH course development team at the end of this call.
October 29, 2015 Within 45 minutes of the end of the call mentioned above, NCVPS staff who had participated in the call had tracked down a copy of Sandra Waters’ October 28, 2014 email instructing the APUSH development team to plagiarize material from a public website rather than create original content as required by the development process detailed by Jennifer Nobles.  This email was forwarded back to Sandra Waters then distributed to NCVPS staff on the call including Chief Academic Officer Michelle Lourcey.
October 29, 2015 NCVPS Executive Director Eliz Colbert and Chief Academic Officer Michelle Lourcey begin hiring staff to rewrite the APUSH course again, while maintaining there is nothing wrong with the course.  This included re-hiring Sandra Waters (who directed her development team to copy unlicensed content) to again be responsible for developing original content for the APUSH course.  NCVPS also began removing unlicensed material from the APUSH course and destroying evidence of the plagiarism.
October 30, 2015 Detailed email to NCVPS Executive Director Eliz Colbert documenting numerous APUSH course quality issues and providing specific evidence of plagiarism in 11 course lessons (all that were open to students at the time).  Colbert responds with thanks “for pointing out the missing citation in module four of the course” and noting that NCVPS was “making some immediate changes to the notes sections of the modules.”
November 1, 2015 Detailed email to NCVPS Executive Director Eliz Colbert documenting that NCVPS staff have started deleting plagiarized course content, and documenting other serious APUSH course quality problems that remain unaddressed.  No substantive response ever received.
November 2, 2015 First open records request to the NC Department of Public Instruction (“DPI”) for emails related to the APUSH course.
November 17, 2015 Detailed email to NCVPS Executive Director Eliz Colbert documenting ongoing APUSH course quality problems, despite promises of thorough reviews of all course materials before releasing them to students.   No substantive response ever received.
December 14, 2015 Detailed email to NCVPS Executive Director Eliz Colbert documenting ongoing APUSH course quality problems, despite promises of thorough reviews of all course materials before releasing them to students.
December 17, 2015 Response email from Colbert ignoring most issues raised, but promising to use our feedback, along with feedback from others, to improve the APUSH course at some unspecified date in the future.
January 5, 2016 Follow up email to Colbert noting inaccuracies and/or misleading statements made by Colbert in her 12/17/15 email.
January 25-28, 2016 Phone call and email exchange with NCVPS Chief Academic Officer Michelle Lourcey regarding ongoing APUSH course quality issues.
January 31, 2016 DPI provides emails in response to the first open records request, and characterizes the volume of documents returned as “small” compared to requests on other topics.
February 2, 2016 Email to NCVPS Communications Director Vanessa Jeter providing specific details of deficiencies (including but not limited to not producing emails we had in our possession via other sources) in DPI’s production in response to the first open records request, and asking for details on the search terms and process used.  This requested information was  provided 11 1/2 months later in January of 2017.
February 3, 2016 Detailed email to NCVPS Executive Director Eliz Colbert and Chief Academic Officer Michelle Lourcey documenting evidence provided by DPI’s response to the first open records request including:  1) evidence documenting that NCVPS’ statements in response to the APUSH course quality concerns were dishonest, 2) evidence documenting that NCVPS’ actions following notification of plagiarism in the course far exceeded correction of a “missing citation”, and 3) evidence documenting disparaging and slanderous statements about our minor child by multiple licensed educators working for NCVPS.  We called for an independent investigation of NCVPS based upon this evidence.
February 12, 2016 Second open records request submitted to NCVPS Communications Director Vanessa Jeter after extensive conversations/correspondence clarifying the deficiencies in DPI’s first response.  This request was more extensive than the first request, including 13 categories of requested records.
June 30, 2016 By this date, DPI had provided partial responses to 4 of the 13 categories of records requested in the second public records request.
July 8, 2016 Letter to Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson providing notice of DPI’s failure to comply with NC open records laws with respect to both public records requests, including a detailed description of deficiencies in DPI’s production by category of document required.
July 22, 2016 Letter to Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson demanding compliance with NC open records laws with respect to our two requests.
July 28, 2016 Call from Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson demanding to know why we wanted the requested public records and how we would use them to improve her department.  Atkinson agreed, as a textbook author, that teachers cannot copy chapters of her work and claim it as their own.
July 29, 2016 Follow up letter to Superintendent Atkinson documenting in detail DPI’s lack of compliance with NC open records laws and offering to make accommodations in our requests to ease the administrative burden of compliance on DPI.  No response ever received.
August 20, 2016 Letter to each member of the NC State Board of Education (“SBE”), Governor McCrory, Attorney General Cooper, Superintendent Atkinson, and candidate for Superintendent Mark Johnson documenting detailed evidence of misconduct at NCVPS and calling for an independent public investigation.  No substantive response ever received from any party.
August 21, 2016 Superintendent Atkinson considers the detailed evidence of misconduct at NCVPS “harassment” in internal communications to NCVPS staff and SBE members.
August 22, 2016 Email response from  Superintendent Atkinson noting that DPI has provided 4,000 pages of emails in response to our two open records requests, and demanding that we direct all future correspondence or requests to SBE Staff Attorney Katie Cornetto.
September 23, 2016 Request by us for a status update from Superintendent Atkinson regarding unfulfilled open records requests.
September 30, 2016 Email from SBE Staff Attorney Katie Cornetto providing a small number of additional documents and declaring DPI’s completion of production related to our two open records requests.
October 5, 2016 Letter to SBE Staff Attorney Cornetto (copied to each member of the SBE, Governor McCrory and Attorney General Cooper) detailing DPI’s lack of compliance with NC open records laws with respect to our two requests, and renewing our call for an independent investigation into the misconduct at NCVPS.  No substantive response received from any party.
October 24, 2016 Third open records request submitted for records pertaining to any investigations into the misconduct at NCVPS.  SBE Staff Attorney Cornetto confirms that the only records that exist on this topic (one year after notifying NCVPS of the misconduct) are our own correspondence calling for an investigation.
October 24, 2016 Complaint to compel production of public records filed in Wake County Superior Court (16CV013177).
November 1, 2016 Complaint filed with NC Department of Justice Consumer Protection Division regarding misconduct at NCVPS.  A similar complaint was filed with the NC Office of the State Auditor at approximately the same time.
November 2, 2016 Written request and substantiating information for a licensing investigation of E. Colbert, M. Lourcey and S. Waters submitted to Superintendent Atkinson pursuant to 16 NCAC 6C.0312.  No response ever received.
November 8, 2016 Letter from Department of Justice stating that they do not have jurisdiction to investigate misconduct at NCVPS.
November 18, 2016 Summary of issues and correspondence sent to Superintendent-elect Johnson.  No response ever received.
November 22, 2016 DPI (through counsel at the Department of Justice) files a motion to dismiss the complaint to compel production.  As of August 27, 2017, no one at DOJ has bothered to set this motion on a calendar to be decided by a judge.
November 28, 2016 Filed Request For Pre-Litigation Mediation of Public Record Dispute with the Wake County Superior Court.
November 29, 2016 Follow up letter to each member of the SBE, Governor McCrory, and Attorney General Cooper detailing the student failure rate (approximately 2/3) associated with the APUSH course, as well as failure rates for other NCVPS AP courses that significantly exceed state and national averages.  We again called for an investigation of the misconduct at NCVPS.  No response ever received from any party.
November 29, 2016 Letter to the NC Senate Standing Committee on Education and NC House Stading Committee on Education K-12 calling for an investigation into the misconduct at NCVPS and providing detailed substantiating information.  Most members of these committees provided no response or acknowledgement of this letter, and no substantive follow up ever occurred.
December 1, 2016 Conference call with DOJ Attorney Tiffany Lucas (defense counsel) regarding our complaint to compel production of open records.
December 2, 2016 Email to SBE Vice Chairman Collins regarding NCVPS’ annual report presentation to the SBE in which an NCVPS executive provided a misleading response to a question by Collins regarding failure rates in AP classes.  This is the only communication to which the SBE has ever responded, and the response (through counsel) simply says the “issues you raised will continue to be reviewed”.  However, an October 2016 open records request showed that SBE and DPI had zero records related to any review of these issues.  Documents obtained from DPI do show that Collins agreed the response to his question was inadequate, but there is no record of any follow up by any party.
December 10, 2016 Approximate timing of phone call from Office of State Auditor Ombudsman Frances Lyons seeking further information regarding our complaint and expressing serious concern over the issues we raised.
December 12, 2016 Correspondence from DOJ Attorney Tiffany Lucas providing the first partially substantive responses to our detailed list of deficiencies in DPI’s production in response to our open records requests.  Lucas offers to arrange a mediation session to further discuss these deficiencies and work toward a resolution.  Lucas also admits that NCVPS executives destroyed some records we requested after receiving our notification of plagiarism.
December 15, 2016 Detailed response to DOJ Attorney Lucas and agreement to meet for a mediated resolution of the public records dispute.
January 16, 2017 Fourth open records request for all licensing investigations pursuant to 16 NCAC 6C.0312.  DPI’s response (March 15, 2017) revealed that Superintendents Atkinson and Johnson failed to initiate an investigation as required by law in response to our request and substantiating information.
January 18, 2017 Mediation session at Education Building with DOJ Attorney Lucas, DOJ Attorney Laura Crumpler, SBE Attorney Cornetto, DPI Communications Director Jeter, NCVPS Executive Director Colbert, NCVPS Chief Academic Officer Lourcey, and an NCVPS technology representative.  This meeting established conclusively that DPI did not comply fully with NC open records laws with respect to our first two requests.
January 19, 2017 DOJ Attorney Lucas mails us documents never previously provided for one of the 13 categories in our second open records request, thereby conceding the merit of our complaint.
January 27, 2017 Update from DOJ Attorney Lucas where she estimates DPI possesses approximately 100,000 documents responsive to our open records requests, despite having previously provided only 4,000 pages.
January 31, 2017 Letter to Superintendent of Public Instruction Johnson (copied to each member of the SBE) regarding the misconduct at NCVPS including details on the plagiarism of the APUSH course, dishonest statements about the APUSH course by NCVPS executives, destruction of evidence by NCVPS executives, failure by DPI to comply with NC open records laws, and failure to conduct licensing investigations as required by NC Administrative Law.  No response has ever been received from any party.
January 31, 2017 Letter to NC Senator John Alexander and Representative Joe John regarding the misconduct at NCVPS.
February 2, 2017 Letters to NC Senate and House Standing Committees on Education and NC State Auditor Wood regarding misconduct at NCVPS.  No substantive response ever received.
February 10, 2017 Conference call with DOJ Attorney Lucas regarding 70,586 emails to be produced by DPI in response to our first and second open records requests.   Following this call, DOJ began producing emails every two weeks at a pace that would result in complete production of identified emails only by August of 2018, 2 1/2 years after public record request was initially filed.
February 10, 2017 Phone calls placed to Superintendent Johnson and DPI Chief Academic and Digital Learning Officer Maria Pitre-Martin.  No return calls ever received.
February 12, 2017 Letter to Speaker Moore and President Pro Tempore Berger regarding misconduct at NCVPS, and asking for action by the Joint Legislative Commission on Governmental Operations.  To date, the Speaker and President Pro Tempore have taken no action on the misconduct at NCVPS, although their staff have been helpful.
February 13, 2017 WNCN investigative report on misconduct at NCVPS airs in which former Superintendent Atkinson continues to promote the dishonest “missing citation” explanation of the plagiarism.
February 13, 2017 Letter from DPI’s Pitre-Martin claiming that DPI is internally investigating the misconduct at NCVPS (despite the prior results of open records requests on this topic).  This in the only response to our correspondence or inquiries ever received from DPI.
February 16, 2017 Amended complaint filed in Wake County Superior Court adding causes of action to compel Superintendent Johnson to comply with licensure investigation policies and to comply with open records laws related to preservation of records.
February 19, 2017 Letter to State Auditor Wood providing copies of APUSH course materials including plagiarized materials as replacements for originals destroyed by NCVPS executives.
March 2. 2017 Letter to DOJ Attorney Lucas asking for a status update on non-email production and asking DPI/SBE to provide a description of any investigations being conducted into the misconduct at NCVPS.  Our requests were denied.
March 14, 2017 Superintendent Johnson, through DOJ Attorney Lucas, files a motion to dismiss the amended complaint, but still no one takes any action to schedule the November 2016 motion to dismiss (or this one) for hearing.
March 26, 2017 Email to DOJ Attorney Lucas asking for an explanation of how DPI can be conducting an investigation into the misconduct at NCVPS without creating a single open record.  No substantive response ever received.
March 30, 2017 Letter to State Auditor Wood (copied to Superintendent Johnson, each member of the SBE, Governor Cooper, Speaker Moore, and President Pro Tempore Berger) providing evidence of intentional plagiarism directed by the NCVPS team leader for the development of the APUSH course, as well as evidence of plagiarism in at least two additional NCVPS courses.
March 30, 2017 Letter to the Lieutenant Governor’s Office regarding the misconduct at NCVPS.   In a reply the next day, the Lieutenant Governor’s Office stated they would not get involved in investigating the misconduct at NCVPS due to the outstanding open records lawsuit.
April 4, 2017 Fifth open records request to DPI for records related to  any and all investigations into the misconduct at NCVPS.
 April 5, 2017 Letter from the Office of the State Auditor stating that they are not conducting a performance audit of NCVPS.
April 21, 2017 Email to DOJ Attorney Lucas inquiring whether any emails have been redacted or withheld from the production to date.  Lucas responds that none have been redacted and only a small number have been withheld because they contain confidential information requiring redaction.  We have yet to receive any documents with redactions, but we have received dozens with inappropriate confidential student information (names, emails, grades).  This leads us to believe the entire production schedule by DOJ is a farce and no actual review is taking place.
July 17, 2017 Email to DOJ Attorney Lucas complaining of the slow pace of email production, and providing a courtesy copy of a First Set of Interrogatories to Defendants filed with the Clerk of Court earlier that day.
July 21, 2017 Letter to Superintendent Johnson with a third request and substantiating information for license investigations for E. Colbert, M. Lourcey and S. Waters for actions stemming from the misconduct at NCVPS.
July 31, 2017 Conference call with DOJ Attorneys Lucas, Crumpler and Weber and SBE Attorney Cornetto regarding the slow pace of email production.  DOJ refused to accelerate the speed of production.  In a follow up email the same day, we noted that at the current pace, DPI would not complete production until March of 2019 which hardly meets the statutory requirement to produce records “as promptly as possible” for records originally requested in October of 2015.  We also publicly questioned whether DOJ is actually reviewing emails prior to producing them.  We have received no response to this email.
August 7, 2017 DOJ Attorney Lucas surreptitiously and with deceitful arguments obtains an order extending Superintendent Johnson’s time to reply to our First Set of Interrogatories.  She does not tell us about the order until August 23rd.  We believe Lucas’ actions violate local rules of Superior Court, NC Rules of Civil Procedure, and her professional ethical obligations.
August 10, 2017 We receive DOJ Attorney Lucas’ Motion For An Enlargement Of Time To Respond in the mail (without an order attached).
August 11, 2017 We provide DOJ Attorney Lucas with a courtesy copy via email of our Response In Opposition to her motion, which is filed in Superior Court and mailed to her the next day.
August 14, 2017 We provide SBE Attorney Cornetto (and every member of the SBE) a request for declaratory rulings pursuant to NCGS Chapter 150B-4.  We are asking for a ruling regarding whether or not the conduct we have documented by NCVPS staff (plagiarism, destruction of evidence, dishonesty, slander, etc.) violate the Standards of Professional Conduct for educators which have been adopted by the SBE.  We suspect we will never receive a response.
August 22, 2017 We request a conference with DOJ Attorney Lucas to understand why Superintendent Johnson has failed to respond to the First Set of Interrogatories.  It is only in response to this request that Lucas provides us with a copy of the order she obtained on August 7th extending Johnson’s time to reply.
August 29, 2017  This website (www.ncvpsmisconduct.com) goes live.
August 15, 2018 Estimated date DOJ Attorney Tiffany Lucas will finish producing emails responsive to our public record requests, which were originally requested on November 2, 2015.
April 14, 2019 Estimated date DOJ Attorney Tiffany Lucas will finish producing non-email records responsive to our public record requests, which were originally requested on February 12, 2016.

 

All dates are approximate.