Here are some initial reactions to the verdicts in the Atlanta Public Schools test cheating trial:
“I knew some of the teachers. It was heart-wrenching to me to know they were involved in it,” said Kay Sheats, the parent of three children, two of whom are no longer in APS and one, her daughter, a junior at Carver Early College. “I am very glad that it’s over. It hopefully will die down somewhat and not have such a negative impact on the school system which is trying to restructure itself for the positive.”
“This has been a sad and tragic chapter for Atlanta Public Schools that has now come to a close. It has been a painful time for our students, families, employees and the City,” the Atlanta school board said in a statement. “Dr. (Meria) Carstarphen and the school board continue to work together to create a new culture at APS, that is a caring one of trust and collaboration where every student graduates ready for college and career. Last fall, the district established a new vision of a high-performing school district where students love to learn, educators inspire, families engage and the community trusts the system. The district remains dedicated to always putting the needs of our students first.”
“Today’s verdict marks the end of a dark chapter for Atlanta Public Schools, but it is not the final chapter,” said former Gov. Sonny Perdue, who ordered an investigation into possible cheating. “I want to personally thank Judge Baxter and the members of the jury and the prosecution team for their hard work and perseverance.”
“Oh my gosh. I’m honestly just upset,” said Rewa Berry, the parent of three APS students. “I hate that teachers felt the need to go to this length. For them to feel under pressure to do this, not realizing that stats and tests don’t matter to me. What matters is my child comprehending and learning.”
“This originated because (former) Gov. Perdue had the courage to take on an issue that could very easily have been swept under the rug and disregarded,” said Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal. It says a lot that we want to achieve good test scores, but we don’t want to achieve it in a way that doesn’t truly recognize and evaluate the advancement of student learning.”
“The APS cheating scandal marked one of the darkest periods in the life of our city,” said Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed. “I am hopeful that with the jury’s verdict today, we can finally close this chapter and move forward with the education and development of our young people. I want to thank Judge Baxter and the Court for their service.”
“I’ve been in Atlanta 36 years. I’ve been in courts all throughout this state and this is the most appalling decision I’ve ever seen,” said Gerald Griggs, who defended Angela Williamson. “I don’t know how you s end educators to prison. I’m trying to figure out which case they were listening to for the last seven months.”
“Quite frankly, I’m glad to see that a jury found appropriately in this case.” said Denise Romeo, whose two sons graduated Grady High in 2013 and 2014. “Basically they’re going to pay for their negative actions and hopefully the affected students will get some closure. Those educators that were convicted today knew the difference between right and wrong, and they chose to do the wrong thing.”
“Now we’ve got third grade teachers who are compared to a John Gotti racketeering. That’s kind of heavy for me,” said David Payne, president of Southwest and Northwest Atlanta Parents and Partners for Schools.
“We’re surprised. We’re disappointed. We’ll move on to the next step,” said Keith Adams, an attorney for one of the defendants.
“As strong proponents of due process, we are satisfied that these educators had the opportunity to face their accusers and present their evidence on their behalf. We respect the process and the decision of the jury. We truly hope the children impacted in these cases have been able to move on and get back on track toward reaching their true potential in the classroom and, ultimately, society,” said Sid Chapman, president of the Georgia Association of Educators.
“I think every teacher understands now the downsides of bad integrity. That’s abundantly clear to all teachers,” said former APS Superintendent Errol Davis. “If you don’t go about life in general with integrity you’re going to have problems. Life’s hard enough. You can’t cut corners.”