Educators turn themselves in

Apr 3, 2013 by

After just missing Tuesday’s midnight deadline to turn themselves in to authorities, four more of the 35 educators indicted in the Atlanta Public Schools cheating scandal were booked into the Fulton County Jail early Wednesday.

Dana Evans, Millicent Few, Diane Buckner Webb and Shani Robinson were booked into the jail after the midnight deadline, according to online jail records.

That left just four of the 35 teachers, testing coordinators and school administrators – Lucious Brown, Willie Davenport, Clarietta Davis and Lera Middlebrook – still unaccounted for in jail records as of 6:30 a.m. Wednesday.

Just after 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, former Atlanta schools superintendent Beverly Hall, walked into the jail surrounded by her legal team. Hall, 66, flashed a slight smile but did not comment, on the advice of her attorneys.

Shortly before Hall arrived, top administrators, Tamara Cotman, Sharon Davis-Williams and Michael Pitts, came to the jail with a throng of lawyers and friends. Some of the indictees, including Hall, have already been released.

Tuesday was the deadline set by Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard for all of the accused to turn themselves in.

Some of the educators spend several hours in jail before posting bond amounts starting at $40,000.

Hall’s bond is $200,000 bond. A grand jury had recommended a $7.5 million bond, but that amount was reduced after negotiations with prosecutors.

“I don’t think there was really any serious entertainment of that,” said her attorney, David J. Bailey.

Teachers booked

Teachers moved from the school house to the jailhouse when they allowed themselves to be fingerprinted and taken into custody.

Three teachers from Humphries Elementary surrendered to authorities on charges of racketeering, making false statements and theft by taking.

Lisa Terry, Ingrid Abella-Sly and Wendy Ahmed are accused of altering standardized test scores in 2009 and then accepting bonus money based on the falsified test results. Abella-Sly and Ahmed both misled Georgia Bureau of Investigation agents when they claimed they didn’t have knowledge of anyone giving students answers to the Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests.

At Parks Middle School, teacher Starlette Mitchell is accused of committing similar crimes, including making false statements to investigators. Her bond was originally $400,000, but negotiations with Howard resulted in her bond shrinking to $50,000 after she agreed to a gag order prohibiting her from speaking to the media about the case, said her attorney Gerald Griggs.

He also represents Angela Williamson, a former teacher at Dobbs Elementary. Williamson was the first educator to win an appeal for her job before an Atlanta Public Schools tribunal last June, but she lost a second tribunal in December after the district attorney’s office produced new evidence.

“They want everyone to know they are innocent and will fight this vigorously,” Griggs said.

Williamson’s bond was initially set at $500,000, but it was reduced to $60,000.

The attorney for teacher Francis Mack, Torris Butterfield, said his client did not cheat. “She gave not one, not two but three statements and she never changed her story,” he said.

Testing coordinators held

Former Benteen Elementary School testing coordinator Theresia Copeland was checked into the jail on charges of racketeering, theft and making false statements.

Copeland allegedly collected a bonus check based on falsified test results and misled investigators when she said she wasn’t involved in cheating, according to the indictment.

Her attorney, Warren Fortson, said he wants to Copeland’s $1 million bond to be reduced.

“I think this whole thing has turned into something rather ridiculous,” Fortson told reporters outside the jail. “They didn’t treat Al Capone like this.”

Fortson said a bond is meant to ensure that a defendant appears at trial.

“I would be very hopeful that a judge would look at it and say, ‘I don’t think that a Cobb County grandmamma needs … $1 million to secure that she will be here,’” he said.

Former Parks Middle School testing coordinator Sandra Ward received a $50,000 bond on charges of racketeering and making false statements.

The indictment claims Ward falsified students’ answer sheets on standardized tests and then took bonus money based on the inflated test scores.

Donald Bullock, a former testing coordinator at Usher-Collier Heights Elementary, was held on a $1 million bond.

Bullock is accused of asking two teachers to participate in falsifying standardized test answer sheets and telling the Georgia Bureau of Investigation that he wasn’t aware of teachers erasing test answers. He’s charged with racketeering, false swearing and making false statements.

Bullock had no comment for reporters as he walked briskly from his car to the jail lobby.

Former Gideons Elementary testing coordinator Sheridan Rogers also turned herself in today. Her bond wasn’t immediately available.

Administrators implicated

Former Parks Middle School Assistant Principal Gregory Reid is accused of working with Ward and former Principal Christopher Waller to change student test scores, take bonus money, solicit educators to participate in falsifying test results and deceive state investigators, according to the indictment.

He was being held on a $50,000 bond, according to jail records.

Former school improvement specialist Tameka Goodson of Kennedy Middle School was the first person to turn herself in at 12:30 a.m., and she was being held on a $200,000 bond, according to jail records. Goodson is charged with racketeering and making false statements.

The indictment accuses Goodson of working with her school’s principal and secretary to change students’ wrong answers to right answers on standardized tests.

Goodson’s attorney, Ray Lail, said after visiting his client late this morning that she had been booked in, put in an orange jail jumpsuit and placed among the general jail population.

Staff writers Nancy Badertscher, Daarel Burnette, Jeffry Scott and Rhonda Cook contributed to this report.

Hall, others report to the Fulton County Jail | www.ajc.com.

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