Judge Jerry Baxter sentenced the mother of a 4-month-old to a year in prison and then ordered a 76-year-old former principal to spend the next eight weekends in the Fulton County Jail for their roles in the Atlanta Public Schools cheating case.
Though five months have passed since a jury convicted 11 former educators of racketeering, Baxter is still perturbed that none of them will admit they are guilty.
Former elementary school teacher Shani Robinson, who gave birth to her son just days after she and 10 co-defendants were convicted, was sentenced today to one year in prison to be followed by four years in probation. She also will have to perform 1,000 hours of community service, much of it with the yet-to-be implemented Redemption Program being set up the the Fulton District Attorney’s Office to help children who were hurt by the cheating scandal. She also was fined $1,000.
On Monday, Baxter emailed Robinson’s attorney with an offer that he would sentence her to home confinement instead of prison if she would admit that she was guilty of cheating.
Attorney Annette Greene said Robinson was willing to accept the jury’s verdict and her punishment but she continued to insist that she did nothing wrong.
“She rejected her avenue out of this mess,” Baxter said after Robinson’s mother pleaded with the judge to let her go free so she could care for her 4-month-old son.
Baxter agreed Robinson could be free on bond while she appealed, just as he did the others convicted with her of racketeering and other felonies for changing students’ answers on the 2009 Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests.
Though the jury convicted 11, two of the former educators agreed to say in open court that they were guilty so they could avoid prison. Like Robinson, the other eight would not say they were guilty, as the jury had voted, so they were sentenced to prison for one to three years.
Once he finished with Robinson, Baxter turned his attention to former Gideons Elementary School principal Armstead Salters. Salters had pleaded guilty to making false writings and statements to avoid the possibility of a lengthy prison sentence should he be convicted of racketeering. In exchange, Salters was to have testified truthfully at trial.
Salters was expected to testify that former School Superintendent Beverly Hall, who died before she could go on trial, and the administrator who supervised his school had pressured him to recruit teachers to give students answers on the CRCT.
But them “he lied on the witness stand and it made me sick. So I don’t think its over,” Baxter said when prosecutor Clint Rucker recommended that Baxter just let Salters complete his sentence of two years on probation and not punish him further.
Salters read his statement, saying he was sorry “for all my actions in regards to this cheating thing, but most especially my actions in the court.” He said he made bad decisions while under the stress of testifying.
“Maybe he can spread his insight to the young people he runs into (at the Fulton County Jail) over the weekends,” Baxter said. “He avoided the trial and then came in and lied. It’s unbelievable.”