ALBANY — The fate of 44 Dougherty County School System teachers and administrators caught in the recently completed CRCT cheating probe hangs in the balance as Dougherty District Attorney Greg Edwards and DCSS attorney Tommy Coleman await evidence files from investigators.
The case files are crucial as the system pursues possible discipline against the accused educators.
Former Georgia Attorney General Mike Bowers, former DeKalb District Attorney Robert Wilson, Richard Hyde and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation conducted the four-monthlong investigation into CRCT cheating within the DCSS.
“The Dougherty County district attorney has requested evidence files from us, and we have them together,” said Jim Hollis, an attorney at Bowers’ Atlanta law firm Blasch and Bingham. “We are currently waiting on other files from Bob Wilson to put the package together. We can have the files in Albany in a matter of days as soon as we get them.”
The investigators’ report named 49 DCSS teachers and administrators, accusing the group of behavior ranging from “directed and participated in cheating,” “no evidence of cheating but ultimately responsible” to “prompted students.”
In early January, the Dougherty County School Board took action against 18 educators who had confessed to wrongdoing, firing two teachers and accepting the resignations of two principals. Three other principals were reassigned, as were 13 teachers.
That leaves 31 teachers and administrators remaining in their positions. Timing is critical moving forward, as teachers’ annual contracts are up for renewal on May 15.
“There is a good chance that none of the people named in the governor’s report will have their contracts renewed,” Coleman said.
If the Atlanta CRCT cheating scandal is to be used as an indicator, settling the local cases will not be a quick process. In Atlanta, more that 180 educators were implicated in July, but months later Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard halted hearings in late October while his office reviewed case files for possible prosecution.
The Professional Standards Commission just resumed the hearings last week.
The DCSS hopes Edwards’ office moves swiftly to determine which individuals could be prosecuted and which cases are better suited to administrative action.
“I have assigned an assistant prosecutor to review the case files when they come in,” Edwards said. “We will evaluate each individual and decide which ones, if any, we’ll prosecute and which ones should have administrative review.”
Edwards added that he is considering moving obvious administrative cases to the school system quickly to help speed the process.
Once Edwards gives the case files to Coleman, the teacher or administrator would go before an independent administrative tribunal, which will deliver an opinion to the school board.
The board then has a range of options from doing nothing to termination. The PSC might also get involved in the process and has the option to pull teachers’ certification.