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Updated: 6:24 p.m. Wednesday, April 3, 2013 | Posted: 5:16 a.m. Tuesday, April 2, 2013

All accused Atlanta educators report to jail



By Mike Morris and Mark Niesse

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

All of the 35 educators indicted in the Atlanta Public Schools cheating scandal have been booked into the Fulton County Jail, with the final defendant turning herself in Wednesday afternoon.

Former D.H. Stanton Elementary Principal Willie Davenport surrendered to authorities and posted bond, said Fulton sheriff’s spokeswoman Tracy Flanagan. She’s charged with racketeering and making false statements for falsifying student records. The Fulton County Jail listed her bond as $100,000.

“All APS personnel have met their obligation to surrender,” Flanagan wrote in an email.

District Attorney Paul Howard had set a Tuesday deadline for educators to turn themselves in, but there were a few stragglers.

Davenport had previously tried to be booked in, but she was turned away Wednesday morning by jail staff after they discovered that the warrant for Davenport’s arrest incorrectly listed her as a “black male.”

The warrant also listed an incorrect Social Security number for Davenport, Channel 2 Action News reported.

Other defendants who reported to jail Wednesday were Human Resources Director Millicent Few, Kennedy Middle School Principal Lucious Brown, Venetian Elementary Principal Clarietta Davis, Dobbs Elementary Principal Dana Evans, Dunbar Elementary testing coordinator Lera Middlebrooks, Dunbar Elementary teacher Diane Buckner Webb and Dunbar Elementary teacher Shani Robinson, according to online jail records.

Just after 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, former Atlanta Superintendent Beverly Hall walked into the jail surrounded by her legal team. Hall, 66, flashed a slight smile but didn’t comment.

Shortly before Hall arrived, top administrators Tamara Cotman, Sharon Davis-Williams and Michael Pitts came to the jail with a throng of lawyers and friends.

Some of the educators spent several hours in jail before posting bond amounts starting at $40,000.

Hall’s bond was $200,000 bond. A grand jury had recommended a $7.5 million bond, but that amount was reduced after negotiations with prosecutors.

“I don’t think there was really any serious entertainment of that,” said her attorney, David J. Bailey.

Teachers booked

Teachers moved from the school house to the jailhouse when they allowed themselves to be fingerprinted and taken into custody.

Three teachers from Humphries Elementary surrendered to authorities on charges of racketeering, making false statements and theft by taking.

Lisa Terry, Ingrid Abella-Sly and Wendy Ahmed are accused of altering standardized test scores in 2009 and then accepting bonus money based on the falsified test results. Abella-Sly and Ahmed both misled Georgia Bureau of Investigation agents when they claimed they didn’t have knowledge of anyone giving students answers to the Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests.

At Parks Middle School, teacher Starlette Mitchell is accused of committing similar crimes, including making false statements to investigators. Her bond was originally $400,000, but negotiations with Howard resulted in her bond shrinking to $50,000 after she agreed to a gag order prohibiting her from speaking to the media about the case, said her attorney Gerald Griggs.

He also represents Angela Williamson, a former teacher at Dobbs Elementary. Williamson was the first educator to win an appeal for her job before an Atlanta Public Schools tribunal last June, but she lost a second tribunal in December after the district attorney’s office produced new evidence.

“They want everyone to know they are innocent and will fight this vigorously,” Griggs said.

Williamson’s bond was initially set at $500,000, but it was reduced to $60,000.

The attorney for teacher Francis Mack, Torris Butterfield, said his client didn’t cheat. “She gave not one, not two but three statements and she never changed her story,” he said.

Testing coordinators held

Former Benteen Elementary School testing coordinator Theresia Copeland was checked into the jail on charges of racketeering, theft and making false statements.

Copeland allegedly collected a bonus check based on falsified test results and misled investigators when she said she wasn’t involved in cheating, according to the indictment.

Her attorney, Warren Fortson, said he wants to Copeland’s $1 million bond to be reduced.

“I think this whole thing has turned into something rather ridiculous,” Fortson told reporters outside the jail. “They didn’t treat Al Capone like this.”

Fortson said a bond is meant to ensure that a defendant appears at trial.

“I would be very hopeful that a judge would look at it and say, ‘I don’t think that a Cobb County grandmamma needs … $1 million to secure that she will be here,’” he said.

Former Parks Middle School testing coordinator Sandra Ward received a $50,000 bond on charges of racketeering and making false statements.

The indictment claims Ward falsified students’ answer sheets on standardized tests and then took bonus money based on the inflated test scores.

Bullock, a former testing coordinator at Usher-Collier Heights Elementary, was still jailed early Wednesday on a $20,000 bond, according to Flanagan and online jail records.

Bullock is accused of asking two teachers to participate in falsifying standardized test answer sheets and telling the Georgia Bureau of Investigation that he wasn’t aware of teachers erasing test answers. He’s charged with racketeering, false swearing and making false statements.

Bullock had no comment for reporters as he walked briskly from his car to the jail lobby early Tuesday.

Former Gideons Elementary testing coordinator Sheridan Rogers also turned herself in today. Her bond wasn’t immediately available.

Administrators implicated

Former Parks Middle School Assistant Principal Gregory Reid is accused of working with Ward and former Principal Christopher Waller to change student test scores, take bonus money, solicit educators to participate in falsifying test results and deceive state investigators, according to the indictment.

He was being held on a $50,000 bond, according to jail records.

Former school improvement specialist Tameka Goodson of Kennedy Middle School was the first person to turn herself in at 12:30 a.m., and she was being held on a $200,000 bond, according to jail records. Goodson is charged with racketeering and making false statements.

The indictment accuses Goodson of working with her school’s principal and secretary to change students’ wrong answers to right answers on standardized tests.

Goodson’s attorney, Ray Lail, said after visiting his client late this morning that she had been booked in, put in an orange jail jumpsuit and placed among the general jail population.

Staff writers Nancy Badertscher, Daarel Burnette, Jeffry Scott and Rhonda Cook contributed to this report.

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