A Fulton County grand jury has subpoenaed Atlanta Public Schools, seeking among other things the names of all employees paid bonuses for improved student test scores, as well as a list of those disciplined since 1999.
The subpoena, obtained Monday evening by Channel 2 Action News, is the latest and one of the most serious developments in the ongoing Atlanta school test cheating scandal. The documents must be delivered to the Fulton County Courthouse on the morning of Aug. 26.
One part of the 12-point subpoena seeks a list of all employees or received bonus or incentive payments, including the amounts paid, “based in whole or in part on reaching an academic benchmark.”
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Channel 2 reported last week that educators from at least 13 Atlanta schools named in the state cheating investigation were paid about $500,000 in bonuses tied to student test scores since January 2009.
Board chairwoman Brenda Muhammad said the district will work to fulfill the request in a “timely and efficient manner.” The future of the bonus program is also under review.
“That’s a recommendation we’re going to trust the superintendent to bring to us,” she said. “I have not heard him speak in favor of bonuses, but that is something we will wait on to hear.”
Another point seeks a list of all teachers, principals and administrators “fired transferred or demoted since 1999, along with reasons for their status change.” It previously has been reported that employees who reported test cheating risked retaliation by school administrators.
Additionally, the subpoena seeks “any document, communication or complaint” by parents, teachers or students concerning CRCT scores and alleged improprieties related to the test since 1999; and “signed copies of any and all Oaths of Office taken by Beverly Hall as Superintendent of the Atlanta Public Schools.”
A state investigation named about 180 educators, including 38 principals, as participants in cheating, including erasing and correcting mistakes on students' answer sheets to standardized tests. More than 80 APS employees confessed. Investigators said they uncovered evidence of cheating in 44 of 56 schools they examined.
Also on Monday, the Atlanta school board approved a $240,000 yearlong contract for Erroll Davis, who took over as superintendent July 1, and reached agreement on a key piece of policy needed to salvage the district's accreditation.
Davis, who retired as University System of Georgia chancellor just before taking the Atlanta position, will receive an additional $10,000 annually for travel allowance and $10,000 for miscellaneous expenses. He will be paid about $27,600 in retirement benefits, or 11.5 percent of his base salary.
Hall earned $332,230, including benefits.
Davis' contract is set to expire June 30, 2012, with the option to renegotiate on or before Dec. 31. Davis said he did not know yet whether he would consider an extension, but added that the job of superintendent was more "intense" than that of chancellor.
"I am closer to the action here than I was as chancellor. I was over 35 schools with fully developed presidents, cabinets and infrastructure," he said. "Here, I am dealing faculty and parents, which I did not deal with."
Davis was first appointed interim superintendent while the board looked for a replacement for Hall, who left June 30.
The board also agreed on rules as to how new leaders will be elected. The policy is significant because it caused last year's leadership coup and the board's subsequent meltdown, which eventually lead to the district being put on probation by Georgia's primary accrediting agency.
Board members agreed to a policy that would require a two-thirds vote to remove the chair or vice chair from office provided members complete a three-step process. The policy is expected to be finalized in September.
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