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Mother, son provide face of scandal

Carlton Fletcher

Carlton Fletcher

I see faith in your eyes, never you hear the discouraging lies. I hear faith in your cries. Broken is the promise, betrayal.

— Metallica

When the young mom told me she wanted to talk to me about “that mess with the school system,” I tried to direct her to Herald education reporter Terry Lewis.

“He’s the one you want to talk with,” I said.

But she persisted.

“You’re close with a friend of mine,” she told me. “He suggested I talk to you.”

After listening to her sometimes tearful comments — which, in retrospect, must have come from some need she felt to unburden herself, to have someone actually listen to her without judgment — I had a better understanding of how deeply the school system’s CRCT cheating scandal is impacting this community.

“I’ve been afraid to say a whole lot about this in my neighborhood,” she said. “There are other parents who are outraged like I am, but there are some who have questioned my ‘loyalty’ when I have complained.”

I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised — I have lived here long enough, after all — but I’ll admit to being stunned and even angered when she told me some people have tried to turn the scandal into a black-white issue.

“I had a lady yell at me when I said the whole mess was shameful and a disgrace, and she said, ‘You’re doing just what the white folks want you to do’, got right up in my face as she said it,” the mom said. “I told her what was going on wasn’t about race but was about my baby, but she said all the uproar was an attempt to ‘bring down all the black leaders in the school system.’

“When I told this woman I thought she was wrong, I really thought she was going to hit me. She had the nerve to tell me ‘people like you are what’s really wrong with the school system.’ ”

The mom told me a little about her son, about how he doesn’t quite know how to deal with the things he’s hearing about the scandal. Although the bright-eyed youngster was timid about talking with me, he did say one thing that stuck with me.

“People are saying (here, the youngster mentioned the name of one of his teachers) did wrong, that she cheated,” he said in a voice that was halting and quiet. “My mama always told me that cheating is wrong, but I don’t want (teacher) to get in trouble. She just wanted us to do good on our tests.”

Her son’s comments brought tears to the young mom’s eyes.

“I think that’s the worst thing about all this,” she said. “The people whose names are in the newspaper and on the television, the people who we trusted to educate our children, they took a shortcut to try and make themselves look better. They were willing to do what they knew was wrong just so they could meet some quota.

“They didn’t think about the little children like my son who idolize them and look to them for guidance. I know it’s not their job to raise my child, but it is their job to reinforce what I’ve tried to teach him. And one of those main things I’ve tried to teach is what’s right and what’s wrong.”

I offered no meaningful response to the woman’s comments. Clearly, she wanted to vent. And, frankly, I didn’t know what to say.

I’ve said for years that No Child Left Behind, while good-intentioned, is a flawed standard by which school systems are judged. Among its unintended byproducts is a tendency of teachers to “teach tests” and, apparently, of educators to seek shortcuts to meet what most agree are all but unattainable standards.

But blaming this piece of legislation for unethical and illegal behavior is an example of one of America’s favorite cop-outs and one of its people’s biggest failings: finding a way to point a finger at others for our own shortcomings.

The CRCT scandal has a face for me now. When I listen to some bureaucrat use mumbo-jumbo to try and explain away the action of people who should have known better, I’ll think of this mother and her son, innocents who are left to pay a steep price for others’ betrayal. And I’ll also think, sadly, about the words of a friend who teaches in the school system: They’re only beginning to scratch the surface.

Email Carlton Fletcher at carlton.fletcher@albanyherald.com.

Comments

Abytaxpayer 2 years, 3 months ago

People trying to make this a black-white issue are killing this town! This young person, along with all the other school children are the real causalities in all this mess and too many people are forgetting the children while screaming to save the cheaters who short changed the children. They have seen people they lookup to let them down for the sake of taking a short cut in life. People who think this “Disgrace” does not affect them or people who say you don’t have a child in the school system this does not affect you so stay out of it, are part of Albany's problem too. The “49” plus who disgraced themselves by cheating for whatever reason, like it or not, have shown the children of DCSS that cheating is ok if you think life is too hard for you. They are teaching “Cheating” is the way to get what you want and not “Hard Work”. Make all the excuses you want whether it was the Pressure of meeting AYP under No Child Left Behind or Teachers’ and principals’ fears of being perceived as a failure or Failure of leadership at the principal level and, to some extent, by the system’s administration and the Board of Education and what you have is just “Excuses”.
People who advocate save the “Disgraceful Cheaters” are proving to the children, cheating in life is no big deal. The loss of the “Disgraceful 49” will have a “impact” on the children but that “impact” of the firings would be short lived on the children’s education while the firing of the “Disgraceful 49”would provide a life lesson that many of the children will carry the rest of their lives. That message to the children would be “Hard Work” can never be replaced by cheating no matter the excuses because there are repercussions for cheating. Too many times the children of Albany are being shown how to work the system for “Entitlements” by family, friends or other sections of society and they see no down side to it. This is a cycle that has been repeated for generations in Albany. Saving the “Disgraceful 49” only goes to reinforce you can get away with cheating the system with little or no consequences, so why not cheat all you can. On the other hand, firing the “Disgraceful 49” will show taking short cuts in life has consequences and can not be a replacement for “Hard Work”. I say rip the Band-Aid off and lets start rebuilding DCSS, and yes it will be “Hard Work” but it will be in the BEST interest of our children’s future. Taking the short term easiest way out by saving the “Disgraceful 49” will short change our children for life. People who want this to be Black against White issue care nothing about the children’s future. So do we stand up and demand a future for the children of Albany or do we just settle for excuses?

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Abytaxpayer 2 years, 3 months ago

In order to fight these things you have to get out of your chair. Government works but not by words in a blog. Who cares what you think? But action! A Citizen who tears himself or herself away from their self-righteous blather to actually participate in government is a force to be reckoned with. The more the BETTER.

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whattheheck 2 years, 3 months ago

Very well said. However, I expect the "easy way out" since those in a position to do what is needed know that the citizens bark and have no bite. We wind up in situations such as this because concerned people won't get involved--it is always easier to let someone else do it. Apparently there is little done wrong that is worth getting personally involved in. Expect nothing--and you won't be disappointed.

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Spike 2 years, 3 months ago

Great piece. DO NOT LET THIS STORY DIE UNTIL WE'VE CHANGED THE SYSTEM! There is a face to this and it represents the future!

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waltspecht 2 years, 3 months ago

Did you note the child said the teacher just wanted the students to do good? Like they were doing the students a favor. Not what really went on with them covering their own inabilities and failures. That is probably the worst of it, those trying to say they cheated for the children, not themselves.

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whattheheck 2 years, 3 months ago

It is unfortunate that the feeling of helping students by cheating for them is systemic in the DCSS. I have seen similar before in connection with fraud in Federal programs. Those doing "intake" consider anything done for blacks, such as enrolling people who do not legally qualify, as furthering "the black cause". As such, it is never considered improper as the end always justifies the means.

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ObjectiveEyes 2 years, 3 months ago

Yep, as long as someone, anyone is "sticking it to the man..."

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cdeiter1 2 years, 3 months ago

Dougherty County asked for and demanded this type of school system, just look at the school board,, well you got,,, there will always be a place for the Deerfield's.

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Abytaxpayer 2 years, 3 months ago

"Cheating for the Children" you are so right that is the sad part of this. The Children are hungry for knowledge and the “49” cheating for them is in reality cheating the Children. Give a hungry man a fish and you feed him for one meal TEACH him to fish and you give him the skill to feed himself for life. “Cheating for the Children” is only ONE fish.

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Amazed2 2 years, 3 months ago

Really the victims here are the children. This is not and should not be viewed as a black white issue. Green, BLue, Yellow, White or Black does is not this issue. The main white person that was on duty at the time resigned in 2009. Whatley should not be amune to criminal charges either if they have evidence that she was part of this back in 2009 and before. I applaud this young mother that talked to Carlton Fletcher to get her side of this out and she is a mother concerned for what is right and wants here son to learn right and wrong and get a good education that can pull him above all the mess in ALbany. For that it sounds like that at least some of her neighbors don't want to hear the truth they want to blame others for the DCSS mess. I guess what is obvious is where is the voice of the black leadership such as the incoming mayor and current mayor and the leaders of the churches around town. Very little coming from the black leadership?? Does that mean they condone it? Pray for all the children in this mess.

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whattheheck 2 years, 3 months ago

When the DCSS is basically "run" by blacks top to bottom, most teachers are black, and most students are black, the only thing that realistically can be blamed on "minority" whites is paying the "majority" of the local property taxes helping to prop up a morally corrupt system . And I am sure most whites, given a choice, would be happy to end their financial participation in the endeavor. As usual, there are those who choose to play the race card rather than face the fact that the system has become merely a "jobs program" sucking the life from the community with highly questionable results. After all if the kids don't benefit from the DCSS who does? But in this case, don't blame "whitey"--he sits on the bench not getting to play much these days.

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ObjectiveEyes 2 years, 3 months ago

If you'd like to see how this is playing out in the national arena, read "Injustice."

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Merlin 2 years, 3 months ago

Really great article. I see the black and white leaders in this community, the honest ones, flinching at finally being told how it really is out there. The truth hurts. If people want to blame "The Man" and teach their fatherless kids about how it is all whities fault then we need to adjust and come together to somehow inform, enlighten them about how to change things. Perhaps we need Sanford Bishop to come here and tell the great unwashed how he made it to the top.

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Darien 2 years, 3 months ago

It is a black-white issue. When the courts forced systems to place blacks in charge, the blacks had so much hatred in their hearts and minds being fed by the likes of Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton( notice lack of use of Reverends as if they are Reverends I am next Pope)they hired people who were unqualfied for the positions, but yet it was a way to over come. If MLK was alive he would shutter as to how those he trained have abused the system and screwed America over. Kids out of wedlock, morals gone down the drainno ethics. You can sweep the problem under the rug if you want but it will only get worse. June Bug votes and operates full of spite, vindictive, and uneduated about the issues. He doesn't see an issue, he sees black and white.

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Spike 2 years, 3 months ago

I don't like the way you said that and it sounds ugly but you bring up a good point that if it's a race issue then its black on black.

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Amazed2 2 years, 3 months ago

Spike, based on the fact that we have a majority black commission, school board, mayor, a black school supt; a black school police chief and officers, black albany police chief, district attorney, a large majority of the school system personnel, majority black teachers, most all staff of Willie Weavers are black as well as other courtrooms, a black City Manager I guess I would have to agree somewhat with your statement/observation. Im sure Whatley gave up on the mess and quit.

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Merlin 2 years, 3 months ago

Congrats Carlton, you made the AJC Get Schooled blog. Really interesting reading there from people outside if DCSS.

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agirl_25 2 years, 3 months ago

While I don't believe there was a "young mom who wanted to talk about the mess in the school system", I do believe it was a good way for you to get a your point across without sounding racist. In other words..nice way to cover your butt. It is about race, to a degree. It is about how the whites perceive the blacks have taken over the school system and are slowly ruining it. It is about the blacks having a power base now and the whites not liking it because they feel it is getting out of hand. Now the whites are beginning to feel a bit of what the blacks felt back in the 50's when the whites had all the power...in government, on the school board, etc. James Gray died and it all began to crumble. It is like he was Albany's answer to Chicago's Richard Daley, .... and you know some of his legacy. (P.S. I do believe the school system and the city of Albany ARE being run into the ground by poor management and poor governing.) I think it is sad because when I moved here 30 years ago it was a fine city but now it is nothing more than a crime ridden slum.

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Spike 2 years, 3 months ago

Wow. Now that's a racist statement! Your argument is flawed. Whites did things to the detriment of blacks and targeted them specifically out of hate. The leadership right now which happens to be black isn't targeting anything other than our children out of their ignorance, apathy and arrogance. The whites aren't suffering anymore than the blacks, latinos, asians, fill in the blank.

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Amazed2 2 years, 3 months ago

Agirl-25, You are right that in the last 30 years (1981) since you moved here Albany has gone from a "Fine City" as you stated to a "Crime Ridden Slum". I also agree that the City of Albany and the DCSS are being managed poorly and governed poorly!! Thanks for making those points to what has occured over the last 30 yrs since the last great mayor of ALbany died.

'

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Amazed2 2 years, 3 months ago

Really Amzing to me that when someone does not like the truth regardless if where it come from they basically to be kind call the person in this case Carlton Fletcher a stretcher of the truth and say he must of made it all up. That would mean that Carlton Fletcher and the Albany Herald Newspaper are publishing FICTION. Also "agirl_25 why is it so hard for you to believe that a young black mother could care enough about her small child enough to cmoe forward and express concern about him learning what is right and to want him to get a quality education in the DCSS. Guess I am Amazed2

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bubbavet 2 years, 3 months ago

ASU HAS BEEN DOING THIS SINCE THE EARLY 70'S. "DON'T WORRY ABOUT PASSING YOU WILL GET AT LEAST A "C" WAS COMMON UNDERSTANDING BACK THEN. CHEATING WAS THE NORM.

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Sister_Ruby 2 years, 3 months ago

I have been really struggling with this issue since the report came out. The evidence, based on probabilities and statistics, is completely foolproof and completely devastating to anybody who claims that it happened by accident. However, after days of pondering, fuming, raging, blaming, and fighting off playing of the Race Card, I have come to what I think is the bottom line for me.

Right now is a watershed moment for the DCSS Board and the Superintendent. Their decision on how to address the CRCT situation, including the fate of the administrators and teachers with their various levels of culpability, WILL HAVE THE MOST SIGNIFICANT IMPACT ON ALBANY'S FUTURE THAN ANY OTHER CONTEMPORARY ISSUE. Will they face facts, step up to their responsibilities, act swiftly and justly, and establish a toe-hold upon which to move from here to respectability? Or will they seek an "out", a reason to do nothing, or worse yet....maintain the same position that their past behavior has demonstrated, which could be considered nothing less than the entitlement mindset of protecting their own, no matter the offense.

To repeat: DCSS, your response to this situation will determine the fate of Albany, GA for the next 100 years. WILL YOU ACCEPT THIS RESPONSIBILITY? WILL YOU DO THE RIGHT THING, BEFORE ALMIGHT GOD? I pray with all my might that you will. Thank you.

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agirl_25 2 years, 3 months ago

I think you hit the nail on the head Sister Ruby, if I may quote you..." will they seek an "out", a reason to do nothing, or worse yet....maintain the same position that their past behavior has demonstrated, which could be considered nothing less than the entitlement mindset of protecting their own, no matter the offense." Certainly they will....it is how things are done in this fair city, isn't it. You cover for me and I will cover for you, right? No matter what...no matter who it hurts, right? No matter that it means sending some kid into the next grade even if then can't read or write, no matter if it means they graduate those innocent kids from high school who can't even read a job application to work at McDonald's, right? Yes that is the mindset they have. I wonder how proud they are when they watch the 6 o'clock news some nights and see one of those former students they had being arrested for robbing a convenience store, knowing the kid was one they shuffled thru classes, one who they knew could neither read or write, yet they had to make themselves look good on paper. I wonder if they even care. I doubt it.

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BigEd 2 years, 3 months ago

Sister_Ruby you have thrown down the gauntlet, you are absolutely right on the mark with you comments, the handling of this will truly determine the fate of Albany, GA; I pray a wrong will be righted.

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Amazed2 2 years, 3 months ago

I personally think all most everyone in the community are for the right decisions to be made and to fix the previous atomosphere of anything is ok as long as we get Federal Funds. The end result must result in improvements to the system and I am also distressed at the silence from the black leaders in this community. Surely they see the wrong in what has happened. This does not have to be a black white issue but it seems like it is being toned that way. Kind of like they are still trying to read the situation and hold back because they want to be sure they align themselves correctly. That is not leadership that is called following. Again, our product is our children. They are the future. Do we want to pass along a generation of young adults that cannot read or write enough to get a job. The world is a changing you know. Just basic stuff barely cuts it now so the future is slim for people that cannot read or do basic math.

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Jimboob 2 years, 3 months ago

We have a new mayor... Now we need to replace everyone else. No member of the schoolboard or any other elected offical should be reelected. They always talk about replacing everyone in congress and never do. Well here is our chance to start over here and only vote for folks who will work for us.

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