APS educators learn fate today. Should it be prison?

UPDATE Monday morning:

WSB reports a deal may been struck on amount of jail time:

 A deal negotiated by the prosecution and defense lawyers will be recommend by each side when Judge Jerry Baxter takes the bench Monday for sentencing, according to the news station.

The offer for Michael Pitts, Tamara Cotman and Sharon Davis Williams is one year in jail, a $10,000 fine, 5 years of probation and community service in exchange for acceptance of responsibility, a waiver of appeal and an apology. The offer for Dana Evans, Angela Williamson, Donald Bullock and Tabeeka Jordan is six months of weekends in jail, a $5,000 fine, 5 years of probation and community service in exchange for acceptance of responsibility and an apology. The offer for Pam Cleveland, Diane Buckner-Webb and Theresa Copeland is one year of home confinement in which they would have some freedom of movement during the day, a $1,000 fine, five years of probation and community service in exchange for acceptance of responsibility, a waiver of appeal and an apology.

Back to original blog:

The APS defendants are supposed to learn their fates Monday. They face possible prison sentences of five to 20 years because of the seriousness of the racketeering charges.

In the last week, a fierce national debate has erupted over whether the Atlanta educators deserve prison time for tampering with CRCT answer sheets.

We have had that same debate here on the blog.

??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????The most common argument against prison is that regulatory agencies usually adjudicate school cheating cases, not the criminal courts. And, typically, educators face resignation and loss of licensure, not jail time.

That’s what occurred in Dougherty County. In the state’s review of CRCT answer sheets, Atlanta had the most suspicious number of wrong to right erasures, followed by  Dougherty County, a 16,000-student district in south Georgia.

The 2011 state investigation found 49 educators there were involved in testing misconduct, and 18 confessed. But no one is going to jail in Dougherty. The AJC reported last week:

Unlike Atlanta, no Dougherty teachers were indicted. Prosecutors found no evidence of a conspiracy to cheat.

The state’s Professional Standards Commission revoked the license of one Dougherty teacher. Twenty more received suspensions ranging from 40 days to three years. The PSC reprimanded five other teachers and issued warnings to two others. The PSC found no probable cause to discipline 17 teachers. One teacher‘s case is pending and another is awaiting judicial review.

In the Sunday editorial, the AJC argued against lengthy jail sentences for the Atlanta educators.

Editorial page editor Andre Jackson wrote: (This is an excerpt.)

This Editorial Board’s urging of compassion at sentencing should not be taken as dialing down the severity of what a jury has now found to be a reprehensible, far-reaching conspiracy of wrongdoing. Far from it. Vulnerable children were harmed by this cheating and, short of divine intervention, there seems no way to fully address the damage done. The full sweep of the injury visited on kids, APS, public education in general and society is hard to fathom.

Yet, all of that taken together does not make for an offense worthy of sending wayward educators to prison for decades, where they would unproductively fester alongside violent offenders whose sentences more aptly fit their crimes.

We won’t condemn Baxter if he deems the APS defendants worthy of spending some additional period of time in jumpsuits and behind bars. The call of justice would seem to demand, though, that prison sentences be measured at most in months or single-digit sums of years. Decades of incarceration would be cruelly excessive in our view, and out of proportion with sentences routinely handed down for similar offenses. Especially when considering also that public humiliation, financial decimation, loss of career livelihood and forfeiting of pensions are significant punishments in their own right.

In an AJC news story on the national discussion over appropriate sentences, the AJC’s Jaime Sarrio and Eric Stirgus wrote: (Again, this is a short excerpt.)

Chicago-based Boyce Watkins, who posts YouTube videos geared toward black audiences, put together 17 minutes of comments about the APS trial that have been viewed more than 10,000 times. He said the educators were chasing “meaningless” measuring sticks like No Child Left Behind and said America’s education system “is the real criminal in all of this.

“I don’t understand for one second why you would give a damn schoolteacher five to 20 years in prison unless they molested someone, unless they shot somebody, unless they robbed a bank. That’s what state prisons are for,” Watkins said in the video. “They’re not supposed to be for schoolteachers who maybe pressured other teachers into erasing some answers on a standardized test.”

Richard Quartarone, co-president of the Southeast Atlanta Communities for Schools, an advocacy group in Atlanta’s Maynard Jackson High School cluster, in which cheating occurred, believes prison is necessary for those convicted. By cheating, he said, the educators reinforced negative perceptions that students cannot succeed.

“An entire generation lost the opportunity for a public education,” said Quartarone, who has two sons in a charter school under APS. “If there is anything that is more frustrating, I don’t know what is.”

 

 

 

 

Reader Comments 0

79 comments
AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

The following is not to say there should be no punishment for system personnel who changed test scores, but I really do wonder why the "Cheating Atlanta Teachers" story seems to evoke so much more media play and disgust  than this type of story from 2014.


Bank of America (BAC) has now joined JPMorgan Chase (JPM) in a special category called: Banks That Agreed to Pay Billions in Fraud Fines While No Executives Have Gone to Jail. http://www.bloomberg.com/bw/articles/2014-03-27/billions-in-fines-but-no-jail-time-for-bank-of-america


Would it be okay for APS to just pay a fine and the cheaters keep their personal spoils that came from cheating?

Astropig
Astropig

@AvgGeorgian


Two wrongs don't make a right-they just make two wrongs. If you can get a jury to convict these bankers that are living rent-free in your head of real crimes, I'd say throw away the key.But nobody has done that yet.What they did is apparently legal,even if its reprehensible.There has been the most liberal administration EVER in power the last 6 plus years and they've not even brought charges against any of these people you detest,much less convictions. You are comparing people that have been convicted in a court of law of felonies with people that have not even been charged with anything. You got some facts and evidence? Haul 'em into court and make your case.


MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@AvgGeorgian


Teachers can be bullied; bankers cannot.  How does that happen?  Power in a capitalistic system of wrong values gone wild.

Astropig
Astropig

@MaryElizabethSings @AvgGeorgian


Far from being bullied,these teachers were given every chance to admit responsibility and take a plea. Even now, Judge Baxter has held open the possibility that he'll moderate his sentence if they will simply stop the denial of what was proven in his courtroom. If they stupidly or arrogantly still contend that they're innocent,they may be very sorry when he pronounces sentence.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@Astropig @AvgGeorgian Maybe you misread me. I in no way said two wrongs make a right or even twinkle twinkle little star. I simply wondered why so many people are so much more upset with a crime that seems  less significant compared to much larger crimes that are barely noticed. I really am at a loss to understand the difference in the magnitude of outrage given the two situations. Not complaining, just at a loss.

booful98
booful98

@AvgGeorgian Who says anyone here was ok with the banks getting away with that crap???? I surely wasn't.


Just because there was one wrong done with that doesn't mean another wrong should be done here.

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@AvgGeorgian 

I can only speak for myself.  There is another dimension to the APS story: these teachers have cheated thousands of children out of a necessary education. That causes my disgust.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

The time for dealing was months and years and hundreds of thousands of dollars ago.  AFTER a trial, to make a deal?  Preposterous!  The judge needs to get on with it, and get this done!  Differentiate by level of responsibility, yes, and forget this "weekends only" mess!


(I think about a robber. S/he is convicted.  THEN, the judge allows a plea to be struck?  What? This isn't a situation where the convicted should have ANY say so about their punishment!)

living-in-outdated-ed
living-in-outdated-ed

I believe that whatever "deal" is struck, the ringleaders must get a harsher sentence than the followers.  I'm not sure 1 year should be the largest prison term.  They can serve in a minimum security prison and of course, they will never again be educators. But the administrators must be punished more harshly than the teachers who were pressured into following orders.

straker
straker

Will any of these people ever be allowed to teach again?


Will there be any followup on this?


These are the real questions.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

The sentences contained in the UPDATE seem just and fair to me.


Time to repost this, for later readers, for a different perspective:


I agree that people are responsible for their own actions.  However, one cannot deny the umbrella of the business mindset which dictated that students must improve by 2% - 5% each year every year and which permeated the emotional environment of the APS' schools, with students, teachers, and administrators for years.  Totally unrealistic expectations.  The city's business leaders were demanding it of the APS for profit reasons.  That was like expecting assembly line workers to increase the cars produced on the line each each by 2% - 5%.  Works maybe with products, but not with children and all of their complexities of needs.  Business people, for the most part, do not comprehend the full range of the destructiveness of this "business projection of goals" in education.  Beverly Hall is probably dead today as a result of it, as one of the "Georgia Gang" said yesterday on Atlanta's Channel 5 broadcast.

Infraredguy
Infraredguy

@MaryElizabethSings I agree, it's unrealistic to expect parentless children from ghetto homes to be anything other than failures and as for Ms Hall, it's a medical certainty that her breast cancer came for the stress she had when paying herself those bonuses  

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@booful98 


"Yes, I get that you expect certain children to be unteachable."

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++


That is blatantly false.  Evidently, you do not "get" much of what I write.

MiltonMan
MiltonMan

@MaryElizabethSings 


APS is a system full of liberals - the same liberals you constantly drum on about being the best candidates and politicians who care about people.

RealLurker
RealLurker

@MaryElizabethSings There are thousands of APS teachers who did not engage in such activities.  There are tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of workers in private business who are held to harsh standards but do not engage in such activities.  Having a difficult job IS NOT an excuse for bad behavior.


Beverly Hall COULD have acted as a leader and guided the district.  She could have held the principals of bad schools accountable.  She could have studied and understood if a middle school is actually doing a good job with bad results because of bad feeder schools.  She could have held the feeder school principals responsible. Those principals know the teachers and could have held bad teachers responsible.  However, Hall decided to take the easy way and pressure only for results that would get her bonuses.  SOME of the administrators and teachers DECIDED to go along with her.  Even in the army, where following orders blindly is expected, following orders is not a defense to criminal activity.

booful98
booful98

@MaryElizabethSings Good GOD ALMIGHTY WOMAN, would you give it REST already!!!

Yes, I get that you expect certain children to be unteachable. Yes, I get that teachers have been prosecuted for centuries. Yes I get that we cannot possibly hold any teacher accountable to anything for any reason whatsoever.

What YOU don't seem to get is that these people LIED, CHEATED, and STOLE. As in stole REAL MONEY. That makes them CRIMINALS. I do not buy at all the "high stakes test pressure"  BS you have been spewing for weeks now. You are fooling yourself and doing the other teachers a great disservice if you believe that these were all fine, upstanding, moral people until the pressure got to be too much and they were forced (forced I tell you!) to take bonuses they did not earn and change answers. Get over yourself. They stole because the money was easy. End of freakin story.

Astropig
Astropig

@MaryElizabethSings


It's clear that Judge Baxter is going to force the APS 10 (soon 11) to do something they didn't want to do today-Admit responsibility or else.He's not kidding around. They can either stop their circumlocution about who's to blame and show some contrition or they can tell their new roommates at the jailhouse how they were framed by the system. He's disgusted by them and that was obvious today.

popacorn
popacorn

@MaryElizabethSings My eyes are getting cancer from seeing your repetitious posts day after day. You never mention the thousands of kids. But, and let me repeat myself, you teacher gals gotta stick together, felony or no felony, ruined young lives or no ruined young lives. Sad to say, it's more about MaryBeth than it is the kids. 

Dismuke
Dismuke

The whole point of the Beverly Hall exercise was to "improve" test scores enough to make the city look appealing to new business and to potential residents with decent paychecks and a college education.  "Those people," the kids in these schools, never really mattered; it was all about appearances.  And now many of the families of these kids have been pushed out of their neighborhoods by rising home prices, moving on to fail in some other school district.


Most of the tears shed these days are crocodilian.  The powers that be don't really care about "the children."  They are far more concerned with new business and rising property values.  (Having the opportunity to make teachers look bad is just an added bonus.)  So, umm, mission accomplished, right?  Shouldn't they be cheering Beverly Hall and all the teachers that were coerced into making her look like a success?  They made it happen.  They did exactly what they were supposed to.

popacorn
popacorn

Too bad their students are unable to write to them in jail. They can't write. Don't drop the erasers, teachers. 

MaureenDowney
MaureenDowney moderator

WSB reports a deal may been struck on amount of jail time for all defendants except the one who just delivered a baby. Her sentencing is slated for August.

A deal negotiated by the prosecution and defense lawyers will be recommend by each side when Judge Jerry Baxter takes the bench Monday for sentencing, according to the news station.

The offer for Michael Pitts, Tamara Cotman and Sharon Davis Williams is one year in jail, a $10,000 fine, 5 years of probation and community service in exchange for acceptance of responsibility, a waiver of appeal and an apology. The offer for Dana Evans, Angela Williamson, Donald Bullock and Tabeeka Jordan is six months of weekends in jail, a $5,000 fine, 5 years of probation and community service in exchange for acceptance of responsibility and an apology. The offer for Pam Cleveland, Diane Buckner-Webb and Theresa Copeland is one year of home confinement in which they would have some freedom of movement during the day, a $1,000 fine, five years of probation and community service in exchange for acceptance of responsibility, a waiver of appeal and an apology.

Starik
Starik

@MaureenDowney Please keep an eye on whether they get First Offender Act treatment and whether the "one year" is to be served in prison or the local jail - in a VIP Suite?

bu2
bu2

@MaureenDowney 

If true, I'm disappointed PItts, Cotman and Williams won't get more time in jail.


But the prosecutor does have to weigh the possibility of something being overturned on appeal.  This was a long complex case.

Infraredguy
Infraredguy

@MaureenDowney I say they should turn it down and go for the standard Government package of dropping all charges, paying back pay and bonuses plus offering early retirement and a work from home City job.

Astropig
Astropig

@Starik @MaureenDowney


There won't be any VIP suites after what I saw today. Judge Baxter wants to put these people in jail.When Ms. Evans stood before him and still would not accept responsibility, I believe his tone changed for the worse from that point on. He even admitted (and apologized for it) to cussing out the DA for bringing him a "deal" that amounts to a wrist slap.

Astropig
Astropig

@OriginalProf @Astropig @bu2 @MaureenDowney


He maintained his same demeanor even after that judge that wrote an essay in this space last week addressed him in court. He listened (politely) while Ambassador Young rambled on with no apparent point. He seemed to be most interested in what the retired military people had to say. I thought that the lady from Elberton (didn't catch her name) was the most effective speaker of the day. She was to the point and sincere. Through tears,she begged the judge to spare her daughter.

Astropig
Astropig

@bu2 @MaureenDowney


He didn't say it in so many words, but I believe that he told the DA that he would not accept any deal that slapped the upper crust on the wrists.That deal is dead. The defense attorneys are going to have a "Come to Jesus" meeting with their clients tonight and tell them that they're going to have to cowboy up and take responsibility or get ready for a harsh sentence.He told one defense legal eagle that he was in no position to bargain.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

I would hope these folks would have had an epiphany: You don't give someone else control over  your soul.  Not B Hall, not your colleagues. NO one or thing (a job) should be granted authority over you doing right!


It will remain a great injustice that the second tier (Few, etc) will not reap what they sowed.

4PublicEducation
4PublicEducation

6. Leniency should be predicated on confession and providing evidence of the wrong doing of others who are currently employed by APS. Period. 

4PublicEducation
4PublicEducation

1. These folks turned down a plea deal and forced taxpayers to pay for a very expensive trial.  That was a risk and has consequences.

2. Bullies should receive stronger sentences than the bullied.

3. All should lose teaching certificates.

4. Addressing the unrealistic testing expectations for all students  is a separate issue.

5. Bringing in the criminal justice system was warranted because of the arrogance, stonewalling, obfuscation, and retribution against whistle blowers of the Hall administration.  Normal regulatory agencies would have been adequate if the majority of the organization had been honest and professional; that was not the case.  There are others who still hold positions in APC who had to know what was going on and did nothing to stop it.


FIGMO2
FIGMO2

Yet, all of that taken together does not make for an offense worthy of sending wayward educators to prison for decades, where they would unproductively fester alongside violent offenders whose sentences more aptly fit their crimes.

For decades I've listened to liberals argue that people end up in prison due to a lack of education.

The convicted teachers don't have to fester, they can make amends by teaching in prison.

Hopefully the children whom they were supposed to cheat won't end up in prison due to their neglect.

MiltonMan
MiltonMan

@FIGMO2 


Leave it up to THE AJC to "spice things up" - most inmates in jail/prison are non-violent.

FIGMO2
FIGMO2

Make that "were supposed to teach".

jezel
jezel

Would be hard to name a profession  with more honest and honorable people. Yet in designed attacks... teachers have been blamed for the failure of education and now 11 are facing jail time. Will people ever wake up to what is going on ?

RealLurker
RealLurker

@jezel The 11 are not all teachers.  These 4 teachers are not facing jail time over being "blamed for the failure of education".  These 11 administrators and teachers are not "honest and honorable".


I don't think long jail terms are appropriate.  However, I find it disturbing to soil the "honest and honorable" people in education by attempting to use their dedication to cover up for the "bad" educators.  There are good people and bad people in every occupation.  The good people should not be blamed for everything.  However, the bad people should not have their deeds swept under the rug.

MiltonMan
MiltonMan

@jezel 


Teachers are honest and honorable???  We hear on the media all the time about teachers having inappropriate sex with their students, teachers found guilty of cheating, etc., etc.

redweather
redweather

These teachers defrauded their students, their profession, and the tax payers.  Then they lied about it.

Belinda51
Belinda51

Maybe the judge will give them less time if they ADMIT what they did, if given the chance. Maybe each gets to make a statement. If I were the judge, I would like to hear from each one. Of these 11, I don't know of any that have admitted cheating. There must be remorse for a lighter sentence.

gactzn2
gactzn2

Those quick to indict have never made a mistake in their  lives- at least not for public consumption.  The jury has spoken- but let the consequence fit the crime.  Being a convicted felon and being shamed before millions is enough.  Anymore and it appears heavy handed- and definitely not blind justice considering how the cases in Dougherty County have been handled.  Be fair.

Mandingo
Mandingo

Seems like the majority of people commenting believe in leniency and second 2nd or 3rd chances but no one believes in accountability. Maybe this is why Georgia public schools as a whole do such a poor, poor job educating our children. Children may well learn more being home schooled by some one with a GED that loves them than they ever would being taught by an army of well paid on-line degree public school teachers that are in it for the money.

Mandingo
Mandingo

@gactzn2 @Mandingo 

A lot of people ( including me )  do not think a lying, cheating, dishonest teacher should go to jail for falsifying a test. These folks were either to dumb or prideful to accept plea deals that involved probation with no jail time. Now unlike them , Judge Jerry Baxter has a job to do that he seems to perform with a lot of integrity and accountability.

gactzn2
gactzn2

@Mandingo I doubt you have been accountable for all the things you have done- or do you not make any mistakes- just asking...

gactzn2
gactzn2

@Mandingo Poor jobs in medicine, accounting, financial services, etc.... You pick the field- poor jobs are not exclusive to education.

gactzn2
gactzn2

@Mandingo @gactzn2 Does it matter?  Accountability is accountability whether a misdemeanor, ordinance offence, or felony- or anything

gactzn2
gactzn2

@Mandingo @gactzn2 If I am not mistaken- not all were offered plea deals.  This is what the general public believes - but it is just not true. Now I see why some of them went the distance. Others gambled and lost and get a consequence far stiffer- but not prison I hope.