ATLANTA, Ga. -- After two days of speculation, confirmation and denials, Gov. Nathan Deal's office finally went on the record Thursday evening -- the state's investigation into alleged CRCT cheating in the Dougherty County School System is not over.
Previously, a communications office staffer for Gov. Deal told The Herald in an email Wednesday that the Dougherty probe had been dropped, confirming an Associated Press report.
A spokesperson for Deal said Thursday that the governor reversed himself and granted the request of state investigators to complete their probe into the 2009 administration of the standardized exams by the DCSS.
"After reviewing the preliminary results of the investigation in Dougherty County on Wednesday and today, contrary to my initial impression, I do not believe the investigation should be terminated," said former Georgia Attorney General Mike Bowers in a message sent to the Governor's Office. "Given those preliminary results, it is my recommendation that we complete the investigation in Dougherty. We will do this expeditiously with as little intrusion into the school system as is possible."
On Tuesday, Deal released the investigators' findings of how the Atlanta Public Schools administered the 2009 exams. The report found systemic cheating.
Later that day, an AP story was published that read "Dougherty County was later dropped from the state investigation because a Deal spokeswoman said the governor was satisfied with the district's probe."
On Wednesday, Stephanie Mayfield, who works in Deal's communications office affirmed in an email that "yes, the AP story (is) correct."
Deal Deputy Director of Communications Brian Robinson said Thursday those reports were true at the time, but changed "after investigators took another look at the county's preliminary test results."
"After completing the Atlanta Public Schools report, we had hoped that we were at a stopping point," said Deal. "Unfortunately, I have received word today that the investigators' review of their preliminary results in Dougherty County has raised grave concerns. We owe it to the children of Dougherty County to get answers, and our commitment to equal protection under the law requires us to treat all jurisdictions equally. In other words, the state simply cannot single out Atlanta if strong evidence suggests similar patterns elsewhere."
Deal promised the investigation would be completed as quickly as possible.
"I have instructed the investigators to present me with a complete report of their investigation into the Dougherty County School System as quickly as possible."
Dougherty County School Board Chairman James Bush said the news caught him off guard.
"I am very sad to heard this," Bush said. "But he (Deal) is the governor and he has changed his mind. We will wait for the outcome which we hope will be as positive as the statement was on yesterday."
DCSS attorney Tommy Coleman said he was not shocked by the governor's reversal.
"We're back to Plan A and all I can says is that we will abide by whatever they decide to do," Coleman said. "We will remain open, above board and forthcoming. If we have cheating in the system, we need to root it out, and do it expeditiously.
The probe into the exam administration in Atlanta and Dougherty County began at the behest of then-Gov. Sonny Perdue in 2010.
Among other things, the governor's report on Tuesday found cheating in 44 of the 56 Atlanta schools examined and that 178 teachers and principals in the APS had cheated.
Of the 178 system employees, 82 confessed to misconduct. Six principals pled the Fifth Amendment. These six, and 32 more, were either involved with or should have known that cheating was going on in their schools.
The report concluded the Atlanta cheating was widespread and had been going on since as early as 2001.