The year is ending on a decidedly sour note for the Dougherty County School System.
On Monday, the findings of state investigators were given to Gov. Nathan Deal. Coming in at nearly 300 pages, the report found that 49 principals and teachers in the Dougherty County system had cheated on 2009 standardized tests given to elementary and middle school students in the system.
“The disgraceful situation we found in the Dougherty County School System is a tragedy, sadly illustrated by a fifth grade teacher who said one of her students could not read, yet did well on the CRCT,” the report opens. “What we found was an acceptance of wrong-doing, a pattern of incompetence and a lack of will to correct it.”
The document also names former Superintendent Sally Whatley as “ultimately responsible” for the shenanigans that investigators say went on in the system.
Members of the Dougherty County School Board were expected to get copies of the report, which were delivered to system attorney Tommy Coleman, today.
The number of people implicated by the investigators should not be a surprise to anyone who has followed this story in The Albany Herald and online at albanyherald.com. Through reporting on the investigation, it was clear that the state investigators would be at odds with the bill of clean health the system gave itself after its own probe.
What’s more unfortunate is that this comes after a School Board member, Velvet Riggins, and a school principal, Gloria Baker, were charged with falsifying information on the system’s free and reduced-cost lunch program.
We have deep suspicions that there are many people who should not be approved for free and reduced-cost lunches, but through a lax administration that apparently starts with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, we believe taxpayers who are struggling to put food on their own tables are picking up the tab for families that are better off than they are.
How many roadblocks, many under the premise of protecting the privacy of people working the system, will be in the way of arriving at the truth there is anyone’s guess.
But one scandal at a time.
We don’t know if all 49 people cited in the report are guilty of cheating, but it’s hard to believe that all or even most of them are innocent victims of the investigation process.
Any teacher, principal or staff member who was involved in or knew and kept quiet about cheating on the 2009 CRCTs should do the right thing and resign immediately, rather than put an already teetering school system through more unnecessary anguish. That goes for School Board members as well. Those who don’t are showing they’re only interested in self preservation and don’t care one whit about the students.
The students have already learned about cheating. Now would be a good time for lesson in owning up to your mistakes and putting children ahead of your own selfish desires.
And if that is not forthcoming in short order, we hope that the governor will act decisively and quickly to do whatever state law empowers him so that the students in Dougherty County are not cheated out of a chance to get a quality education.