Officials meet with CRCT investigator

Photo by Carly Farrell

Photo by Carly Farrell

ATLANTA -- Dougherty County Superintendent of Schools Joshua Murfree and School System Attorney Tommy Coleman met with former Attorney General Michael Bowers Friday morning.

Confirmed through two independent sources, The Herald learned that Murfree and Coleman had been invited by Bowers, who is heading an investigation to determine whether there had been cheating on the DCSS's 2009 Criterion-Referenced Competency Test exams.

"It was just a get-acquainted meeting, because I'd never met Dr. Murfree," Bowers said. "Bob Wilson (fellow investigator) and I just wanted to chat with him before we get down there on the (Aug.) seventh. He was gracious enough to meet with us.

"It was no big deal. We just wanted to let him know how we were going to proceed with the investigation and we exchanged cell phone numbers."

Richard Hyde, Gov. Nathan Deal's lead CRCT investigator, and DCSS Public Information Director R.D. Harter were both unaware of the meeting.

"I had no idea they (Murfree and Coleman) were meeting with Mike Bowers this morning," Hyde, who is in town purchasing furniture for his investigative command post, said. "But if they were called to Atlanta, it doesn't surprise me."

Harter was also unaware of the meeting.

"This is a surprise to me," Harter said.

The investigation into the exams administered to first- through eighth-graders in Atlanta and Dougherty County began last August at the direction of then-Gov. Sonny Perdue. At issue is the number of erasures on the 2009 CRCTs in which wrong answers were corrected.

State officials were concerned that at some of the schools there were too many of those corrections, and eventually focused on Atlanta and Dougherty County.

The findings of state investigations into Atlanta's school districts were announced July 5. Among other things, the governor's report found cheating in 44 of the 56 Atlanta schools examined and said that 178 teachers and principals in the schools had been involved in the cheating.

Of the 178 system employees, 82 confessed to misconduct. Six principals pleaded the Fifth Amendment, refusing to answer questions. The report concluded that those six -- and 32 more -- were either involved with or should have known that cheating was going on in their schools.

The report also said the Atlanta cheating was widespread and had been going on since as far back as 2001.

Hyde said the Dougherty phase of the investigation will begin in earnest on Friday.

Murfree could not be reached for comment.