Thursday, December 19, 2013

Defendant is the First of Six Indicted Principals to Admit Guilt

“As a seasoned administrator and educator for almost fifty years, I always tried to place the interest of the children first. In this instance, I placed the concern of the school administration for test results and test scores above the interest of the children.”
-Armstead Salters, Former Principal Gideons Elementary

Atlanta– A veteran educator who served as principal of Gideons Elementary School for 29 years has entered a guilty plea in connection with the historic Atlanta Public School system cheating scandal. Armstead Salters pleaded guilty to a single felony count of False Statements and Writings during plea proceedings before Fulton County Superior Court Judge Jerry Baxter Thursday afternoon.

Salters is one of 35 educators 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.

Salters, who began his career with APS as a science teacher in 1966, was appointed to Gideons as principal in 1981 and remained in that role until 2010. The charges against Salters date back to 2005 through 2009 when he provided teachers with improper access to completed CRCT answer sheets so they could change incorrect responses.  Salters also admits falsifying CRCT certification forms “knowing that my actions would contribute to the school system fraudulently reaching the unrealistic and unreasonable targets established by Defendant Beverly Hall and her administration.” Salters also withheld information from the GBI regarding his participation and that of his subordinates in cheating activities. Like many other educators who were financially rewarded for meeting specific academic targets with high CRCT scores, Salters received a $2000.00 bonus for his students’ ‘achievement.’ Salters says the culture of cheating at Gideons emerged as a result of unrelenting pressure from APS senior administration.

Under the terms of his plea agreement, Salters was sentenced to two years on probation, ordered to perform 1000 hours of community service and pay $2,000.00 in restitution for the bonus money he received. Most importantly, Salters is required to provide truthful testimony at trial. Prosecutors believe Salters’ testimony is critical because of his role as the lead administrator at Gideons and knowledge of directives from APS executives that promoted a culture of cheating.

Salters is the first of six former principals indicted to enter a guilty plea in connection with the cheating scandal.  To date one assistant principal, four teachers and a testing coordinator have each pleaded guilty to obstruction charges and have been sentenced to probation, ordered to perform community service and pay restitution for bonuses obtained under false pretenses. The number of defendants who have entered guilty pleas now totals seven.

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