Nearly three-dozen school officials, including former Atlanta Public Schools (APS) superintendent Beverly Hall were required to surrender to Fulton County jail on Friday, after being indicted in one of the nation’s largest school cheating scandals.
“I never, ever participated in any cheating. I did what was right for my students and that is to teach them,” Angela Williamson, an APS teacher, said to WXIA-TV.
The group was indicted of a variety of charges, including 57 counts of making false statements, five counts of theft, two counts of influencing a witness and one count of racketeering. The school system was cast in the spotlight after a report in the Atlanta Journal Constitution surfaced, accusing APS of cheating in 2001. The AJC’s report prompted then Gov. Sonny Perdue to launch a full investigation, which revealed the school system’s claimed success on the Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests as “statistically improbable.”
“Because there is a single-minded purpose, and that purpose is to cheat to manipulate the grades, what we are alleging is that [Hall] was a full participant in that conspiracy,” District Attorney Paul Howard said to the AJC. “Without her, this conspiracy could not have taken place.”
The grand jury asserts that Hall and her colleges created a culture of “fear and intimidation” in the pursuit of higher test scores. Hall’s bail has been set at $7.5 million. Although the 35 officials were given until Tuesday, three defendants decided to surrender early.
“We plan on surrendering Monday morning around 7 or 7:30,” said attorney Gerald Griggs, who represents teachers Starlette Mitchell and Angela Williamson. “We have made arrangements for bond. That’s why they are turning in so early.”
Hall resigned as superintendent in 2011, shortly before an 800-page investigation report was released, which uncovered a history of institutional cheating that involved 178 educators in 44 schools. If convicted, Hall could face up to 45 years in prison.