Monday, January 6, 2014

SIX ADDITIONAL EDUCATORS PLEAD GUILTY IN APS CHEATING CASE

Plea Tally Now Totals 17

 “When I reflect upon my actions and the damage it has caused to the parents, the students and the community, I am truly regretful.”

Clairetta Davis, former principal Venetian Hills Elementary

Atlanta– Six more educators have entered guilty pleas in connection with the Atlanta Public Schools cheating scandal. The latest group of defendants pleading guilty incudes Clarietta Davis, former principal of Venetian Hills Elementary School, Starlette Mitchell and Kimberly Oden, both former teachers at Parks Middle School, Derrick Broadwater, a former Dobbs Elementary teacher, Gloria Ivey, a former teacher at Dunbar Elementary  and former Kennedy Middle School secretary Carol Dennis.

Davis, Mitchell, Oden, Broadwater, Ivey and Dennis were among 35 educators (including former Superintendent Beverly Hall) indicted in March for their roles in a conspiracy to alter Criterion Referenced Competency Test (CRCT) scores within the Atlanta Public School system.  Each was charged with False Statements and Writings, Theft by Taking and Violation of the Georgia RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) Act.

With her guilty plea, Clarietta Davis becomes the second principal to admit guilt in connection with the historic cheating case. Davis says former Superintendent Beverly Hall knew, or should have known, cheating was occurring within the system because she had access to all the testing data. Despite Hall’s knowledge of students’ true abilities, Davis says, the Superintendent continued to put pressure on administrators like herself to increase test scores without ever offering solutions to address students’ academic deficiencies.

Davis pleaded guilty to a felony charge of making false statements. She was sentenced to two years on probation and ordered to perform 1,000 hours of community service. Davis must also pay restitution in the amount of $500.00 for bonus money she received. In December, Armstead Salters, veteran principal of Gideons Elementary, became the first principal and highest ranking indicted official at the time to plead guilty in the case. He is also the only other person to plead guilty to a felony charge.

In addition to Clarietta Davis, former Parks Middle School teachers Starlette Mitchell and Kimberly Oden pleaded guilty Monday to a misdemeanor charge of obstruction. Each admitted to changing students’ CRCT answers from right to wrong (Mitchell: 2007, 2008, and 2009) and (Oden: 2009). The women were sentenced to one year probation and ordered to perform 250 hours of community service. Mitchell must also pay restitution in the amount of $3,000.00 for bonus money she received.

Derrick Broadwater, also admitted to test cheating while he was employed as a teacher at Dobbs Elementary school. He received a sentence of one year probation and 350 hours of community service after entering a guilty plea to a misdemeanor obstruction count. Likewise, former Dunbar Elementary teacher Gloria Ivey pleaded guilty to obstruction and was sentenced to one year on probation and ordered to perform 250 hours of community service.

Former Kennedy Middle School secretary Carol Dennis who admitted changing CRCT answers, pleaded guilty to obstruction as well and was sentenced to one year on probation and ordered to perform 250 hours of community service.

To date, two principals, an assistant principal, ten teachers, three testing coordinators and one secretary have pleaded guilty in connection with the case—bringing the total of guilty pleas to 17.  Fulton County Superior Court Judge Jerry Baxter, who is presiding over the case, has extended the deadline for negotiated pleas to January 24, 2014. Trial is scheduled to begin this  May.

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