Atlanta Educators Get 7 Years In Prison After Test Cheating Scandal

From The Atlanta Constitutional Journal:

In a stunning statement about the gravity of the Atlanta Public Schools cheating scandal, three former top administrators were given the maximum 20-year sentence Tuesday, with seven years to be served in prison and 13 on probation, and fines of $25,000 to be paid by each.

Judge Jerry Baxter gave one final warning to educators Monday that they would face stiff punishment unless they admitted guilt and waived their right to appeal. He delivered on that promise Tuesday, doling out punishments to Tamara Cotman, Sharon Davis-Williams and Michael Pitts that elicited gasps and sobs from spectators in the courtroom.

“Everyone starts crying about these educators. There were thousands of children harmed in this thing. This is not a victimless crime,” Baxter said.

Five Lower-ranking educators — those who were principals, teachers and testing coordinators — received sentences of up to five years with at least one-year in prison and hefty fines ranging from $1,000 to $5,000. All the defendants were granted first-offender status, meaning their record would be wiped clean after they served their time.

Only two of the 10 convicted educators, Donald Bullock and Pamela Cleveland, chose to admit guilt and waive the right to appeal. They did not receive prison time. An 11th convicted educator, Shani Robinson, recently had a baby and is due in court for sentencing in August.

The sounds of chains rattling as the educators were unshackled could be heard just outside the courtroom. Bullock was led into the courtroom first, and he was the first to announce he would take the deal in exchange for a lighter sentence. He was given five years probation, six months of weekends in jail, a $5,000 fine and 1,500 hours of community service.

Baxter voiced frustration that more defendants weren’t willing to accept the deal and admit what they had done. After Bullock, he handed down a sentence to Sharon Davis-Williams that sent a startling signal about how the rest of the day would go. Davis-Williams and two other former administrators were given seven years in prison, 13 years probation, 2,000 hours of community service and a $25,000 fine.

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