The U.S. Army major in Donald Bullock was on full display Monday as he fought charges from the Atlanta Public School system that he orchestrated cheating as the testing coordinator at Usher Collier Heights Elementary in 2009.
Testifying in his defensef for the first time, Bullock said there is an extensive set of procedures that govern how Georgia's Criterion-Referenced Competency Test is to be administered. And Bullock said he followed those procedures faithfully.
"Just as I did in the military," said Bullock, who spent 17 years in the Army before his 16 years working for APS.
Bullock is the latest APS educator to go before a district tribunal to fight for his job. APS is seeking to fire Bullock and about 90 other educators named in a state investigation into test cheating. Those educators are on paid leave and costing the district about $1 million per month. Overall, 180 APS employees were implicated in what is thought to be the largest test cheating case in U.S. history.
State investigators concluded that administrators either turned a blind eye to or should have known about widespread test cheating across several campuses.
APS has alleged that Bullock gave teachers the CRCT their students had taken so they could change incorrect answers to correct ones. The district has also said Bullock allowed some teachers to keep their tests after the testing period so they, too, could change student answers.
A series of teachers backed up APS' allegations during testimony on April 13. One former teacher, Stacy Smith, tearfully said Bullock used what he knew of her -- that she did not have tenure and needed her job to provide for extended family members -- to pressure her to cheat.
But Monday, near the end of two hours of questioning from his attorney, Daniel Digby, Bullock said he did not know Smith as well as she claimed.
"I don't know anyone well enough, nor would I approach anyone to cheat on the test," Bullock said.
While the hearing on April 13 was fiery and emotional, Monday's was deliberate and detail-oriented as Digby asked test officials for the district about test procedures.
Digby expressed frustration that his client has not been given access to all the documents APS is using in its case. He also said that on Friday he issued a subpoena for records from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, whose agents interviewed teachers and administrators about cheating.
Digby said a GBI summary of an interview agents conducted with Ameerah Malcolm-Hill, a former testing coordinator at Usher Collier Heights, claimed Malcolm-Hill said Bullock used the public address system at the school to announce that teachers could get their tests early and keep them late.
That would be a violation of testing procedures, and, under questioning from Digby, Malcolm-Hill said she never told agents that Bullock made such an announcement.
"That's not what I was attempting to say," said Malc0lm-Hill, who added that she believes Bullock simply announced the beginning and ending of the testing period. "I don't know how my words were misconstrued."
As he was during the April 13 hearing, Bullock, a small, bald man with glasses, sat quietly at his attorney's side during testimony. He wrote frequent notes and occasionally whispered something in Digby's ear.
Digby was occasionally exasperated by the tribunal process, objecting to a line of questioning from APS' attorney or insisting that one of his own lines of inquiry was appropriate despite a sustained objection to the contrary.
At the outset of the tribunal, Digby made it clear that he objects to the tribunal's attorney, Eugene Medori, doubling as a quasi-judge during the proceedings.
Digby said then that Bullock did not do what he has been alleged to have done, an assertion Bullock forcefully repeated on Monday.
Bullock said his pay was not tied exclusively to student performance on the CRCT, and the praise he would have received for having students perform well was not worth cheating to achieve that goal.
Even under pressure from investigators, whom he said told him things would go a lot easier if he simply admitted to cheating, Bullock said he resisted. Other teachers and administrators received immunity, he noted. He did not.
"I don't need immunity if I didn't do anything," he said.
Bullock's hearing will resume at 10 a.m.
Our investigative reporters broke the story of cheating at Atlanta Public Schools, and we're still digging. Our coverage continues today as we take you inside a hearing for one of the accused.
WHERE THEY STAND NOW
About 90 Atlanta educators suspected of cheating remain on the payroll, including teachers and administrators. They must make their case to keep their jobs before an APS tribunal. Once the hearings are held and terminations recommended, the matter goes to the school board for approval. Once approved by the board, the employees are terminated immediately. This happens regardless of their intent to appeal, said Atlanta public schools spokesman Keith Bromery. Where the cases stand.
26 Number of final resignations/retirements that have been received since late February
2 Number of educators terminated after a tribunal hearing
50 Number of letters sent to educators outlining charges and the district's intent to terminate
12 Number of employees issued charge letters but who resigned/retired with understanding the letter would be removed from his or her personnel file.