ALBANY, Ga. — The principals of 11 of 16 Dougherty County elementary schools are among the 49 DCSS employees who were singled out for wrongdoing Tuesday as the Governor’s office released the results of its investigation into CRCT cheating in the Dougherty County School System.
“The disgraceful situation we found in the Dougherty County School System (DCSS) is a tragedy sadly illustrated by a comment made by a teacher who said that her fifth-grade students could not read, yet did well on the CRCT,” the 293-page report overview began.
“This incredible statement from a teacher in a school where the principal flatly refused to cooperate with our investigation is indicative of what we found in many of the schools we visited.”
School system attorney Tommy Coleman warned against lumping all principals and teachers into one basket, stressing that there are “different levels of culpability” among the group.
The report said that while some of the principals were active participants in cheating
in their schools, others had failed to perform their duty of ensuring the tests were conducted properly.
The report found three reasons that cheating flourished:
- Pressure of meeting AYP under No Child Left Behind;
- Teachers’ and principals’ fears of being perceived as a failure;
- Failure of leadership at the principal level and, to some extent, by the system’s administration and the Board of Education.
Three of the 11 principals cited in the report — West Town’s Alene Pringle, Northside’s Angela Schumate and Martin Luther King’s Carolyn Scott, invoked their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, the report confirmed.
Pringle was cited for sending emails to teachers directing them to assist students in taking the tests. At Morningside, former principal Jose’ Roquemore was cited for making grade changes and current principal Gloria Baker was mentioned for incorrectly having a child on the free lunch program.
The 11 elementary schools investigated were: West Town, Jackson Heights, Northside, ML King, Turner, Morningside, Alice Coachman, Sherwood, Lamar Reese Sylvester Road and Radium Springs.
The report pointed out that West Town, with 77.2 percent (44) of its classrooms flagged, had the highest number among 1,772 of the state’s schools.
- Of the 18 confessions obtained by investigators, Jackson Heights had six and ranked third in the state with number of classrooms flagged with 57.9 percent, or 33 classrooms. Jackson Heights also led the school system with the number of teachers and administrators cited for misconduct/cheating/failure of duty with 11.
- Following Jackson Heights, teachers and administrators cited for misconduct/cheating/failure of duty charges by schools were: Alice Coachman, 7; ML King, Turner and Sherwood, 6 each; West Town, Northside and Sylvester Road, 3 each; and Radium Springs, Lamar Reese and Morningside one each.
The report shows a dysfunctional relationship between the School Board and superintendent’s office that led to a culture in which school officials felt they could act with impunity.
The report says that imbalanced relationship that was in practice during former superintendent Sally Whatley’s administration continues in Joshua Murfree’s administration today.
“This superintendent/board relationship led to an impotent system of employee discipline. We are aware of numerous situations that demanded prompt termination or other significant action. The administration and the board found ways to avoid terminations and often reduced punishments to an absurd sanction,” the report states. “The end result was a system where there was little fear of the consequences for wrongdoing, therefore misconduct went unabated.”
The report gave poor marks to Whatley for how she managed the system.
“During Dr. Whatley’s tenure, the tendency of some board members to micromanage, and Dr. Whatley’s unwillingness to prevent them from doing so, placed the Board and Superintendent relationship in an unbalanced position and weakened the authority of the Superintendent,” the report says. “Dr. Whatley abdicated the authority she needed to correct, sanction or terminate educators.
“Due to the Board’s failure to support the Superintendent, and her refusal to assert herself, she could not fully and effectively administer matters of employee discipline.”
The investigator also found that Dianne Daniels, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction who answered directly to Whatley, failed to perform her duties in respect to the testing.
“Daniels, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction, answered directly to the Superintendent. According to the management structure at DCSS, Renee Bridges, who was the system’s test coordinator reported to Daniels. While Daniels was the titular second-in-command and Bridges fell under her supervision, she failed to involve herself in the testing process in any meaningful way. Her failure to actively participate in the oversight of the testing process helped create a leadership vacuum, and further empowered principals and teachers to act with a level of impunity whereby cheating occurred. Thus, she cannot absolve herself from contributing to the creation of an environment where this misconduct could fester,” the report states.
Daniels is no stranger to controversy. In May, at a called School Board meeting — with board members Velvet Riggins and Anita Williams-Brown absent — the School Board voted not to renew the contracts of Daniels and former Human Resources Director Tracy Williams and by a 3-2 vote.
Board members Carol Tharin, David Maschke and Darrel Ealum voted against the contract renewals with board chair James Bush and Milton Griffin voting for renewals.
The non-renewal caused contention on the board, with Bush calling the decision “reprehensible” and Griffin briefly storming out of the board room.
Less than two weeks later, the full board voted 4-3 to rehire Williams and Daniels, with Williams-Brown and Riggins joining Bush and Griffin to reverse the earlier decision.
The report gave no credence to the system’s self-investigation by Jim Wilson and said Whatley and and Murfree were both naive to think that cheating could not have occurred.
The report said that “cheating was widespread in some schools while in others it was limited to certain classes. At many schools, the cheating was coordinated or directed by the principal. However, at some of the schools, the cheating occurred inside the classroom without the knowledge of the teacher or test coordinator.”
Investigators believe the largest proportion of cheating occurred in the first and second grades because it was easier to cheat in those grades without getting caught.
“We believe the “clean-up committees” were used as a ruse to illegally alter test documents, especially in the first and second grades where the answers are contained in the booklet,” the report reads.