Friday, February 21, 2014 was the deadline day for 15 remaining Atlanta educators indicted in the cheating scandal, to enter negotiated pleas. But only two agreed to deals. Both had worked at Parks Middle School. Former principal Christopher Waller and former testing coordinator Sandra Ward are expected to testify for the prosecution. Of the two, Waller faced more serious charges. He followed his plea with an emotional apology in open court. WABE's Rose Scott was there, and she talked about the day's events with WABE's Denis O'Hayer.
On Monday, Millicent Few, the former human resources director of the Atlanta Public Schools, agreed to a plea deal with the Fulton County District attorney’s office.
"I just want to sincerely apologize to the citizens of Atlanta and specifically the students and their parents for my role in this matter. It’s taken a toll on my family, my support network and myself. I just want to apologize to them and I look forward to hopefully moving on with my life.”
With time running short before a trial begins, some of the 35 defendants in the Atlanta Public Schools cheating case are negotiating with Fulton County prosecutors on possible plea deals. One defendant, Lisa Terry, has admitted to making false statements; she received 12 months' probation. But on Thursday, December 12, 2013, another defendant rejected a plea offer. Sandra Ward is the former testing coordinator at Parks Middle School. Her attorney, Page Pate, spoke with WABE's Denis O'Hayer.
Jury foreman Greg Pollock (right) and fellow juror Ben Emerson speak to reporters outside the Fulton County Courthouse following the acquittal of former Atlanta Public Schools executive director Tamara Cotman on charges of influencing a witness.
On Friday, September 6, 2013, after nearly 3 weeks of testimony, a Fulton County jury found former Atlanta Public Schools executive director Tamara Cotman not guilty on charges of influencing a witness.
Cotman was accused of pressuring school administrators not to cooperate with the GBI investigation into cheating at APS. WABE's Denis O'Hayer spoke with jury foreman Greg Pollock.
The first defendant connected to Atlanta's school cheating scandal has been found not guilty on a single count of influencing a witness. The verdict from the Fulton County Superior Court jury came late Friday morning.
Tamara Cotman was a school administrator who oversaw 21 schools in Atlanta. She and 33 others still face charges of racketeering.
The acquittal comes after a three-week trial as prosecutors are still preparing for the racketeering cases.
Former Atlanta School Superintendent Dr. Beverly Hall is at the center of the upcoming racketeering trial of 35 former Atlanta Public Schools educators. But now her attorneys confirm that Dr. Hall suffers from breast cancer. That raises the question of whether she will ever go to trial. WABE's Denis O'Hayer spoke with WABE legal analyst Page Pate, an Atlanta criminal defense attorney, about how the cases of her co-defendants might be affected if Dr. Hall does not go to trial.
The prosecution continued to lay out the details as to why the state had to conduct an investigation in the first place.
The first person on the stand was former Georgia governor Sonny Perdue.
Becoming emotional, Purdue testified as to why he signed an executive order to pursue the cheating. Perdue was asked if there was a political agenda involved as to why he kept pushing for an investigation.
The former Republican governor said no and even lost friendships over it.
Former executive director of the Governors Office of Student Achievement, Kathleen Mathers points out the schools in Tamara Cotman's region that had a high wrong to right erasure percentage on the 2009 CRCT.
In a surprise ruling this afternoon, Fulton County Superior Court Judge Jerry Baxter denied four motions to dismiss the indictments (or parts of the indictments) involving former Atlanta Public Schools educators.
At issue is whether or not educators were coerced to give answers to investigators. This question pivoted on so-called Garrity warnings
It could be another week before Fulton Superior Court Judge Jerry Baxter rules on a motion that the 35 indicted Atlanta educators were compelled to make statements in the state’s cheating investigation.
These are the statements which the Fulton County District Attorney’s office plans to use in the criminal case.
Tuesday Judge Baxter indicated he was leaning toward ruling in favor of the defendants.
The presiding judge in the indictment of the 35 former Atlanta educators strongly hinted at how he’ll rule on a key motion in the case. As WABE’s Rose Scott reports, it may not be in favor of the prosecution.
Fulton County Superior Court Judge Jerry Baxter’s ruling will be based on a couple of issues:
First: Were APS educators threatened with loss of employment if they didn’t cooperate with the state’s cheating investigation led by Mike Bowers, Bob Wilson and Richard Hyde?
Former Georgia Attorney General Mike Bowers testified about the investigation into cheating on test results at the Atlanta Public Schools that led to the indictment of 35 former APS teachers and administrators
Motions challenging the indictment of 35 former Atlanta Public Schools educators began today. Attorneys for the defendants as well as the prosecution argued their sides to Fulton County Superior Court Judge Jerry Baxter.
Each defendant has different motions, but all of the defendants have joined in to simply get the indictment thrown out.
One argument is that the indictment was a product of an unlawful investigation.
Fulton Superior Court Judge Jerry Baxter wants to make sure there are no conflicts of interests when it comes to prosecution witnesses and current defense attorneys for the indicted Atlanta educators in the cheating scandal.
Although the trial is not scheduled until next year, today Judge Baxter focused on the potential problem of defense attorneys questioning prosecution witnesses who may have been their client in the past.
Gerald Griggs is currently representing former APS teacher Angela Williamson, but in the past he’s represented others.
As some metro-area school districts wrap up standardized testing this week, a spotlight remains on the Atlanta Public Schools. The district is still trying to heal from the scars of a prior test cheating scandal.
After the scandal, APS shifted course, tightening test security and requiring employees to complete ethics training. APS spokesperson Steve Alford says the district also launched tutoring programs to help kids catch up.
35 former employees of the Atlanta Public Schools, including ex-superintendent Beverly Hall, face criminal charges in connection with a 2009 cheating scandal. But while the adults prepare to duke it out in court, some students are paying a price.
Justina Collins’ daughter was a third grader at Cascade Elementary school in 2006. She failed a school-issued reading test. However, she excelled on the state-issued Criterion Referenced Competency Test at the end of the year. Collins questioned officials about the discrepancy.