Principal Cheryl Twyman holds a Benihana certificate in September 2010 in celebration of West Manor Elementary School passing the state's CRCT. The school was one of 58 Atlanta Public schools under investigation for excessive erasures on tests.
A former Atlanta Public Schools principal named in a widespread cheating scandal has become the 13th educator — and first accused principal — reinstated by the school district.
Cheryl Twyman was accused of failing to properly monitor 2009 state exams while principal at West Manor Elementary. Erasure data found a "strong indication of cheating on a broad scale." But, there are no confessions or witnesses mentioned in a state investigation released last year that ties Twyman to cheating.
On July 11, APS notified Twyman she would be reinstated after a year on paid administrative leave. The district determined there was "insufficient evidence" to prove Twyman violated any testing protocol, but said she would not be offered a position as a principal or administrator.
Twyman said she returned to work Monday in a central office job in the department of curriculum and instruction. Everyone in the district has been pleasantly receptive to her return, she said.
"I will not be assigned the position of principal for this school year and I understand that the superintendent has the right to reassign any employee at any time," she said in an e-mail to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "Of course I will miss my West Manor family, but I am excited about being cleared and I am ready to move forward with helping all children of Atlanta Public Schools."
In June, APS announced it would allow 12 teachers named in the investigation to return to the classroom after determining there was not enough evidence to fire them. It was the first time any of the approximately 180 educators named in the case were reinstated. Most resigned or retired while a small number chose to challenge attempts to fire them at an administrative hearing.
The district has been taking a tougher stance on principals named in the report. Superintendent Erroll Davis said he believes principals should be held responsible for cheating in schools, regardless of their involvement. But Twyman had job protection rights, sometimes referred to as tenure, that guarantees her a teaching contract unless the district can prove it has grounds to fire her, said district spokesman Keith Bromery.
"The district did not have sufficient evidence based on the state investigation to bring specific charges against the employee," Bromery said.
All reinstated educators may still lose their jobs through layoffs or for other personnel reasons, according to district documents. They may also be fired if new evidence is discovered against them related to the cheating investigation.
The reinstatements stirred criticism from attorneys who say some of the allegations made in the voluminous state investigation were unfounded. State investigators stand by their report, and say APS is sending the wrong message by allowing suspected employees to return to work.
"It's a sad day when a principal, the captain of a ship, has it run aground and then is not held accountable," said Attorney Bob Wilson, one of the state's lead investigators in the cheating scandal. "If you are in charge, then you are responsible, even if you did not know."
Twyman's attorney, Michael E. Kramer, said she's a marvelous and beloved principal, and there's no evidence she did anything wrong.
"We're grateful Mr. Davis individually evaluated her case and understood that if any cheating went on at her school it was covert and she was not responsible," he said.
2 Number of educators whose recommended firing was not upheld by a tribunal.
14 Number of educators whose recommended firing has been upheld by a tribunal.
13 Number of educators recently notified they will be reinstated back to classrooms.
30 Approximate number of educators named in the investigation who are challenging efforts to fire them.
127 Approximate number of educators named in the investigation who resigned or retired.