APS judge denies leniency bids; he really had no choice

Judge-Jerry-Baxter

It should never have come to this. Never. But somehow, it seems almost preordained.

Superior Court Judge Jerry Baxter has sent eight of the 11 teachers and administrators convicted in the Atlanta Public Schools scandal to prison terms of a year up to seven years. The harsh sentences came just a day after Baxter said he had a change of heart and wanted to avoid sending people to prison.

What changed overnight, one baffled defense attorney asked? While an angry and frustrated Baxter didn’t respond directly, the answer was pretty clear. Nothing had changed, and that was exactly the problem.

From the beginning, many of those involved in the cheating scandal have never seemed to understand the gravity of what they had done. At every step, they wasted every chance to accept responsibility.

Seven years ago, when reporters for the Atlanta Journal Constitution began publishing evidence of widespread cheating on standardized tests, the response of the APS bureaucracy was complete and utter denial. Those who suggested there was a problem just didn’t believe that poor children could learn, we were told.

Five years ago, a so-called “Blue Ribbon Commission” created and led by the business community produced a whitewash of the problem, minimizing the scale and scope of the cheating and improbably concluding that “Neither the erasure analysis nor the traditional investigation revealed any data or other evidence that there was any district‐wide or centrally coordinated effort to manipulate the 2009 CRCT scores and outcomes of students in the 58 APS schools.”

Later, state investigators armed with subpoena power confirmed the evidence and exposed just how widespread the scandal had become, reaching from APS’ nationally recognized Superintendent Beverly Hall down to dozens of classroom teachers. Once again, denial was the official response. No one, most notably Hall, took responsibility.

Eighteen months ago, after extensive documentary and eyewitness evidence had been gathered, 21 teachers and administrators finally admitted to their role and escaped jail time in return for accepting responsibility. Twelve more refused, forcing a six-month jury trial. Eleven of those 12 were found guilty.

In a blogpost last week, I expressed hope that even those 11 would be treated leniently, with sentences for the ringleaders measured in months, not years, and lower-level participants given probation, fines and community service. While that was not to be, you can’t blame Baxter. Only two of the 11 would agree to admit guilt and take responsibility, and those two were given light sentences. Eight others wanted the same lenient treatment, but they wanted it while denying their role. (The ninth defendant will be sentenced later).

No deal, said Baxter. Clearly frustrated and angry, the judge called the scandal “the sickest thing to ever happen to this town” and acknowledged that many more people than just those before him had played a role in it. But that didn’t mean that those 11 should escape justice.

It’s fitting, I guess, that this scandal has ended just as it began, with a stubborn, close-minded refusal by those involved to comprehend their own actions. The ending was tragic, the beginning was tragic, the whole damned thing was tragic.

 

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1018 comments
St Simons he-ne-ha
St Simons he-ne-ha

wow that judge - put a little mustard on that ham & cheese whydontcha

agentoranj90
agentoranj90

As many have noted, the people who refused to take the plea deal think that their attorneys will get them off scot free.  I think their strategy is to try and get public sympathy and have community leaders try and speak for them.  I wish someone could tell me what Andrew Young's motivation is for standing behind these people.  If you haven't seen the speech he gave before the judge I urge you to watch it.  He was making comparisons to Dr. King and these people.  What is really a tragedy is we may never really know Mrs. Hall's involvement was in this entire episode.  I believe they have another 30 days to reconsider the plea deal; they need to take it and not have our city get dragged further through the mud with an appeals process.  Still this case really stirs up the "No Child Left Behind" law and shows how ineffective this is and and how it promoted corruption within our school systems.  And it goes further beyond this law in highlighting just how many problems we have in our public school system.

slydawg
slydawg

Testing is not an accurate measure of whether a human being learns a "thing." The majority of the parents involved in this case are more concerned with learning, not test scores. If these children could not read, they should not have been tested in the first place. The architect of this "crime" cannot be held accountable. People have been convicted of worse "crimes" and have received far less punishment for child abuse and molestation. He had a choice. He chose to follow the dictates of those in power in order to preserve a fundamentally flawed education system which consistently ranks in the bottom of the lower half in all the country.

skruorangeclown
skruorangeclown

Who said teachers are supposed to be role models? what about pensions and earned and vested  bonuses for false improvement aren't those equally important?

MotocrossSurvivor
MotocrossSurvivor

You can tell that the holdouts think they will walk on this...they plan to just buy time with the appeals.

PJ25
PJ25

@MotocrossSurvivor I wonder if their sorry attorneys will tell them, you do know the judges on the appellate court are great buddies with Judge Baxter and they have watched us make fools out of ourselves in his court room to the point of noticeably angering him and almost being in contempt.  Therefore, the odds of your case succeeding on the next level, if it makes it that far, is slim to none. 

CanBee
CanBee

In the madness and soil of that sad earthly scene

Only then I am human

Only then I am clean

Ooh oh. Amen. Amen. Amen.

Amen, Amen, Amwn, Amen,

Amen to you Bill!!!

Bill OrvisWhite
Bill OrvisWhite

Want to bet that this type of nefarious activity has been occurring in this once-free nation's urban Socialist-Democrat strongholds for the past 50 years? Hmm, what happened about 50 years ago? Oh yes, it's when secular leaders kicked God out of the public schools  ("screwels"-I love that Rush uses that proper term).


"That's not true Bill, you're being wrongheaded and unfair!" you liberal fools might say. 


I kindly respond that I'm on the money with this one. The ends justify the means with corrupt "leaders" like these in our public screwels. For once, I agree with Librul Jay on the fact that these failed "educators" have been too stubborn to admit guilt. Bravo, @JayBook! Your head just left the sand for five minutes!


Here's the thing: these so-called "educators" worship at the alter of Barack Hussein Obama. Which means that same attitude of not admitting guilt has been unfortunately happening in The Oval Office in Washington for more than six years now. 


"What, are you crazy Bill? What has that got to do with the president?" you naive secular progressive fools might say.


I kindly respond: EVERYTHING!


GOOD NIGHT!


Amen,

Bill 

Tuna Meowt
Tuna Meowt

@Bill OrvisWhite @JayBook "Oh yes, it's when secular leaders kicked God out of the public schools" 


"I kindly respond that I'm on the money with this one."


Except that you're not.  If your daughter wants to say grace in the cafeteria before lunch, no one will stop her.  If your son wants to pray before that monster Algebra test (especially when he's notso-hotso in Algebra), he can have at it.


Your god was never 'kicked out' of public schools.  We simply stopped forcing people to kowtow to him in schools, which is just as it should be.


Quackmeyer
Quackmeyer

They are off to jail, good.  Next story please.  Forget these these low life's

LeBrick James
LeBrick James

These people committed a crime against children. It was an organized racket and they deserve to be punished Jail time is appropriate. Sorry, my sympathy for them has run out.  

I'm tired of seeing these "teachers" being made out to be victims. People seem to forget that the children were the real victims here.

jpgeorgian
jpgeorgian

@LeBrick James  Didn't they also get performance based bonuses? That would also be a crime against the tax payers.

slydawg
slydawg

He also stuck up for Danny Ferry

davidhoffman5
davidhoffman5

The judge may have fouled up in demanding a waiver of the right to appeal as part of the offered deal. Now all those sentenced can appeal, as is their right under the judicial system we have. They probably will not win much, but they do have due process.

LeBrick James
LeBrick James

@davidhoffman5 No, he didnt foul up. Taking the offer would be like essentially pleading no-contest. That was the offer on the table. They could accept it or reject it. Clearly they chose to reject it.. but that doesnt mean the judge fouled up by making the offer. 

HIbought theRefs
HIbought theRefs

@davidhoffman5 It was part of the plea deal that the District Attorney offered, not the judge. And he gave them a chance to take the plea deal, which included admitting guilt, apologies, and waiving the right to appeal.  Paul Howard's no fool. He didn't want to try these cases again. Waiving the right to appeal was the reason that deal was so light on jail time and penalties.

And when they didn't take it ... bam!


The Doom
The Doom

I'm out. Ya'll have a good night. I gotta get a good nights rest so that I can git up and go shopping with the snap card that Commonsense was gracious enough to pay for what with all his hard work. LOL!

CommonSenseisntCommon
CommonSenseisntCommon

I'm out some of us have to get up and support you lazy moochers tomorrow LOL

LeninTime
LeninTime

So Obama has removed Cuba from the list of state sponsors of terrorism. 

But what about the US itself?

The Doom
The Doom

@LeninTime


I hate it for you that you have to live in a terrorist state. You should probably move to a workers paradise- like North Korea perhaps. Their ideology certainly suits you. Go ahead. Delta is waiting. 

GwinnettDad
GwinnettDad

A culture of denial continues in Atlanta. The APS bureaucracy stone walled the entire story for years. Eight that still suffer from their disease of denial deserve their sentences. They are thieves and crooks that steal.

Brosephus
Brosephus

@GwinnettDad 

Originally 178 teachers and administrators were implicated in the scandal.  Of that number, 21 was cleared of any wrongdoing.  That leaves 157 that had the appearance of being involved.  Of that 157, only 35 were indicted.  Out of the 35 indictments, 13 went to trial.

So, around 20% of those who were implicated actually had charges filed against them.  One passed away, and one was found not guilty..  Given there were more than 3000 teachers in the entire school system plus administrators, there was maybe 5% of the teachers and administrators implicated in what was a system wide racket.

Not saying there was no criminal activity, but I won't use such a broad brush to paint the entire school system when it was a small subset that was actually found guilty.  That would be like accusing you of being guilty of whatever malfeasance your coworkers are guilty of.  No matter what profession we work in, there are going to be people who do stupid crap, even criminally stupid crap.

The Doom
The Doom

@honested


A month ago is not relevant to his statement. Today is. And as of today they are convicted criminals who will be serving time if they haven't already. And the point remains- what crime was Deal convicted of and how much time did he serve. End of stow-ree!

josef
josef

@Brosephus @CommonSenseisntCommon 

Heh, heh.  When we were having to deal with this on a daily basis with the public, our principal wanted to put out a sign:  "We didn't cheat.  We didn't have to."

Brosephus
Brosephus

@josef 

LOL!!!

On a more serious note, your comment goes to the point that, while APS is a huge system, not everyone nor every school was involved in the cheating.  Either way, if you're an APS teacher, you're stained by the actions of a few because of all the publicity.  In the past few years, we've had several CBP people go to jail/prison here, but nobody paints us all by the actions of those few idiots.  Can't say the same for teachers in Atlanta.

bu2
bu2

@Brosephus @GwinnettDad 

Its not a few.  Those 157 were just the ones they could prove.  There was a lot more that they didn't have enough statistics or witnesses to prove, but there were clear indicators.


This is more denial that is part of the problem.  It was massive and involved nearly every school on the south side of the city.