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Reactions on report varied

ALBANY, Ga. — As the fallout begins from the governor’s investigative report of CRCT cheating in the Dougherty County School System in 2009, local reaction was mixed, but State School Superintendent John Barge used the opportunity to take a swipe at No Child Left Behind.

On Tuesday, the report to Gov. Nathan Deal included 11 DCSS elementary school principals among the 49 educators the 293-page document cited for misconduct, cheating or failure of duty. Eighteen of the 49 confessed to state investigators.

“It appears to me that if I confessed, I would tender my resignation immediately and move on to curtail future humiliation,” DCSS Board Chairman James Bush said. “It’s really a shame because there are some good people caught up in this. As a board we need to move expeditiously on this. We need to meet soon to deal with this situation and we need to move fast.”

Sally Whatley, who was DCSS superintendent when the cheating occurred in 2009, acknowledged there were trust issues with the school board.

“In a perfect world a school board has to trust a superindentdent to do his or her job,” Whatley said. “It’s when the board loses trust in the superintendent that the lines becomes blurred. Every decision I made I felt was in the best interest of children.

“I did the very best job I could but I bear ultimate responsibility. I never condoned wrong-doing, and I felt that was also the position of the board.”

Gov. Deal, who inherited the investigation begun by then-Gov. Sonny Perdue in 2010, called the report “alarming.”

“There is nothing more important to the future of our state than ensuring that today’s students receive a first-class education,” Deal said. “The findings out of Dougherty County are alarming as they paint a tragic picture of children passed through with no real or fair

assessment of their abilities. To cheat a child out of his or her ability to truly excel in the classroom shames the district and the state.

“We’ll now send the results to the Professional Standards Committee and the Dougherty County District Attorney’s office. It is my hope that brighter days are ahead for the children affected by this unfortunate situation.”

Barge used the opportunity to tout an alternative to No Child Left Behind, which he implied shared some blame in this case.

“Today’s report on cheating by some educators in the Dougherty County School System is another sad case of adults putting personal interests above those of their students,’ Barge said.

“I am especially disappointed in education leaders who would threaten teachers’ jobs if students did not perform well on the CRCT. While this behavior is inexcusable, it does highlight the need to look at a different, more thorough accountability system such as Georgia’s new College and Career Ready Performance Index, which we have already submitted in the form of a waiver to the U.S. Dept. of Education seeking relief from the narrowly defined designation of success found in No Child Left Behind.

“Relying on a single test to determine a student’s and a school’s academic success is plagued with problems.”

DCSS Board Member Darrel Ealum, who said he had read the report twice, was braced for the worst when he learned the report was in the school system’s hands.

“We anticipated early on we’d have serious accusations against principals and teachers,” Ealum said. “We’ve established a tribunal to make recommendations to the Board. These people are from outside of the system and I still concur with that concept.

“We want to reach fair and just responses to these accusations.”

Board member Carol Tharin was shocked by some of the names in the report.

“I am extremely sad right now,” Tharin said. “I am sad that some within the school system think the best they can do for a child is to cheat. I am surprised by some of the people named in the report. Now I think we want to be fair, responsible and move as swiftly as we can to fix the situation.”

Fellow board member Anita Williams-Brown had yet to see the report and refused to comment while Velvet Riggins and Milton Griffin did not return calls for comment.

District Superintendent Joshua Murfree said he wants all educators who cheated out of the school district, either through resignation or firing. Some of those teachers will not return to the classroom after Christmas break, he said.

“This won’t be a Band-aid approach,” he said in a phone interview with The Associated Press on Tuesday night. “This is a system that has been broken, a system that has hurt children.”

Murfree said the schools will offer extra academic help to any student who could have been affected by the cheating. Investigators estimate that hundreds of children likely had their tests tampered with by educators.

Last month the district created a nine-member tribunal of people from outside the county to hold hearings for each educator named in the report.

“We are committed to removing anybody involved in cheating from Dougherty county school system,” said school board member David Maschke.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Comments

LuLu 2 years, 3 months ago

Williams-Brown, Riggins and Griffin's silence on the matter speaks volumes. What possible reason could they have for NOT commenting, hmmm??

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Spike 2 years, 3 months ago

This is BULL. Murfree should have cleaned house when he took over but of course he was THE ONLY person considered for hiring once our ILLUSTRIOUS Board of Education was challenged by the media for an OPEN HIRING PROCESS. THIS BOARD MUST RESIGN OR BE REMOVED AND REPLACED BY COMPETENT PEOPLE WHO CARE ABOUT EDUCATION FIRST! Not their cronies. Mr. Murfree was hired under SHADY conditions and now all of a sudden he’s tough on integrity. When he was going through the hiring process why didn’t he insist that everything be open too? Once the board is replaced then they should conduct a new OPEN HIRING process and allow Mr. Murfree to “Reapply” If he’s the right guy then let it be determined in an open forum. These are our kids!!!!

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PatrickY2K 2 years, 3 months ago

The decision to hire Dr. Murfree is when the School Board lost credibility. If he was their choice, why did the imbalance between the Board and Superintendent that allowed the lack of discipline continue? Dr. Murfree has the support of the School Board, so why is he scared to issue fair and adequate punishment to administrators and teachers? It's unfortunate that carrying out discipline in the CRCT investigation is now in the hands of the DCSS. This will require initiative, a backbone, and someone to finally stand-up for what is right. Does the DCSS have anyone who will do that?

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Spike 2 years, 3 months ago

Murfree was the one that got Daniels reinstated. The very person in charge of testing. Come on man! Now he's calling for her to be fired. I don't think we should be looking for anyone on DCSS to stay on the board. I know David Maschke may have been an outsider BUT the only way to fix this is to CLEAN HOUSE. Period.

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firefly 2 years, 3 months ago

Do we really need a tribunal to make recommendations to the board? Are they really that dense that they don't know what needs to be done in this situation???

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chinaberry25 2 years, 3 months ago

The only reason anything is getting done now is the state DOE has taken over. It would have been swept under the carpet for generations to come. There are a lot of positive changes that could have been made and never will be. Carol Tharin stated once that many employees got the job for who they know and applications were received for better qualified applicants. This whole CRCT still does not address the issue of high school. The drop out rate is high and grades are given so they can pass. What about summer school? If they cannot pass all year, how can they suddenly learn in 6 weeks? I know of 1 high high school, if you pass tests on first try, good for you. If you go to summer school and pass then, you get a trip to Wild Adventures. Am I missing something. It should be the other way around.

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Spike 2 years, 3 months ago

PUBLIC EDUCATION begins in the ELEMENTARY schools. IF BAD HABITS and LACK OF INTEGRITY is taught there then it is amplified as they get older. There is no short term, quick fix for High Schools. If we fix the school board and the elementary schools the middle and high schools will get better.

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rorschach 2 years, 3 months ago

It's good for the State Superintendent to point out the flaws in No Child Left Behind although I seriously doubt if anyone paid his comments any attention. This whole fiasco starts with NCLB. NCLB threatens principals' jobs if the students don't pass the assessments. The trickle down effect causes the Principals to put pressure on the teachers who administer the test to make sure a certain percentage of students pass so that Principals and teachers can keep their jobs. The reason so many good teachers and principals are caught up in the scandal is simply because they disagree with the type of assessment imposed on the children by NCLB in the first place but have no say so in the matter. The state Superintendent, public school Superintendents, principals and Teachers know that some children will pass all year long but for whatever reason don't do well on the CRCT. These children are capable of moving on to the next grade and doing well.

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rorschach 2 years, 3 months ago

For all of you who are calling for the heads of everyone caught up in this scandal you need to understand one thing. No Principal or teacher at any private or public school in this state believes that NCLB is a fair assessment tool. It is only the public school teachers and administrators who are burdened with the task of administering the test. I seriously doubt if any student was adversely affected by teachers cheating on the CRCT. I, and I know that I am the only one who feels this way, believe that no one should lose their job as a result of this scandal. Heavy handed fines and sanctions should be the route taken as opposed to terminations. Many of those teachers are your friends, neighbors and church members. They are for the most part good people who pay their taxes and have some of the community's smartest and best behaved children who will probably be tomorrow's model citizens. Let's not make these children the only true victims in this fiasco.

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ObjectiveEyes 2 years, 3 months ago

You must be a teacher in the DOCO system. You don't believe anyone should be terminated? I hate they are "...your friends, neighbors and church members...pay their taxes...best behaved children..." There are many people in prison who only made one mistake. I say, you've got to drain the swamp!

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Margie 2 years, 3 months ago

There is a flaw as a result of the No School Left Behind, yet it does not excuse the facts. Murfee answers to the school board. I am amazed how there is such an attack on him with regards to the cheating scandal, but done on Whately. Why? Futhermore, the school board consists of more than four members. Every member that were on the board at the time of the cheating should be removed, and that is FAIR. But, what is RIGHT, is to put the blame where it belong....

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