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CCSD’s missing investigation records highlight need for transparency

The Clark County School District would like you to believe it has paid more than $66,000 for nothing.

That’s how much the district has spent for an external investigator to look into Associate Superintendent Edward Goldman and Jason Wright, a teacher who also is the husband of School Board member Deanna Wright.

They’re each at the center of their own dramas. Goldman faces accusations, penned by a retired employee, that he was effectively the man behind the curtain at the district, using information he collected on colleagues to manipulate them and showing favoritism to certain employees.

Jason Wright landed a job in the district after former Superintendent Pat Skorkowsky overruled a human resources recommendation to reject him from an alternative licensing program for teachers. Now, he and the district face two lawsuits alleging that he physically and emotionally injured students.

But when I asked the district for documents related to these investigations in December, officials responded that they don’t have any such records.

Furthermore, they said that even if the district did have such documents, they would not be public records.

So the district has paid $66,825 from last May through November for these investigations — at least one of which, the Goldman investigation, has ceased — and has nothing to show for it. The district contends that no written report exists.

Or perhaps the district strategically doesn’t want its investigator, Robert Freeman, to turn over any investigatory documents? Naturally, that would make them more susceptible to future public records requests.

Freeman hasn’t responded to requests for comment or information.

Do the outrageous accusations leveled against Goldman by the retired employee have any merit? Did Jason Wright get a job in the district solely because of his wife’s status as a School Board member?

These are no doubt questions of interest to the public. Yet we don’t know the answers.

“The Clark County School District has been hostile to transparency for decades,” Review-Journal Executive Editor Glenn Cook said. “Not just to the media, but to parents and taxpayers as well. The public has every right to demand evidence of accountability in these cases. The public paid for these investigations. It is not credible for the system to claim it has no record of them.”

Granted, a lawsuit filed by Goldman that has been dismissed in District Court but appealed to the state Supreme Court might be one reason for the district’s reluctance to produce the documents. Any time litigation is involved, I usually encounter a bunch of zipped lips.

“This investigation was initiated before several related lawsuits were filed involving the district,” the district said in a statement. “Since there was ongoing litigation, the district decided to put a permanent hold on the investigation.”

Even without lawsuits, it’s easy for the district to cite personnel matters or attorney-client privilege as an excuse not to provide the records.

But these cases are about so much more than some random employees. They are about public trust in the district administration. They are about whether anyone has ever been wronged by Goldman or Jason Wright, or vice versa.

And they are about knowing whether, if there was any wrongdoing in these matters, the district met its obligation to fix it.

In the spirit of Sunshine Week, it’s only fitting that the district finishes what it started — and does so publicly.

Contact Amelia Pak-Harvey at apak-harvey@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4630. Follow @AmeliaPakHarvey on Twitter. On Education appears every other Saturday.

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