Judge drops prison time for former Atlanta principal in cheating case

Dana Evans, a former Atlanta Public Schools principal convicted in the district's test-cheating scandal, will not have to serve prison time after a judge agreed to reduce her sentence to probation. AJC FILE PHOTO.

Credit: TNS

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Dana Evans, a former Atlanta Public Schools principal convicted in the district's test-cheating scandal, will not have to serve prison time after a judge agreed to reduce her sentence to probation. AJC FILE PHOTO.

Credit: TNS

A former principal convicted in the Atlanta Public Schools’ cheating scandal will be spared from prison after a Fulton County judge agreed Tuesday to lighten the sentence he imposed seven years ago.

Dana Evans, the former principal of Dobbs Elementary School, was sentenced to one year in prison and four years of probation in 2015 after a jury found her and 10 other former Atlanta educators guilty of racketeering.

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Jerry Baxter on Tuesday agreed to drop the prison time, revising his sentence to five years of probation.

The prior sentence had been on hold during her unsuccessful appeal.

“I think she has taken responsibility as opposed to just a whole lot of people that have not,” Baxter said.

He cut in half the 1,000 hours of community service she had been ordered to serve. He gave her credit for working and volunteering for a nonprofit organization that serves refugees and needy families as well as a marriage ministry.

When she completes her community service, the remainder of her probationary sentence will be terminated.

ExploreAltered test scores years ago altered lives, stained Atlanta schools

Evans said she’s remorseful for her inactions at Dobbs, where she didn’t believe cheating was taking place. She now describes that as “naive negligence.”

“I take full responsibility for the events that bring us here today,” she said. “Although I didn’t cheat, I didn’t stop cheating from happening, which was my job as a principal, and for that I am sorry.”

Kevin Armstrong, an attorney with the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office, opposed the lighter sentence. He said Evans didn’t just fail to reveal cheating, she took actions to help conceal it.

“Every scrap of objective evidence indicates that she was aware of it,” Armstrong said.

The districtwide cheating scandal dates back more than a decade. Educators corrected students’ answers on tests and received bonuses and raises based on bogus results.

Armstrong said students were denied educational opportunities that they were entitled to.

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Evans was among defendants who, years ago, declined an offer for a lighter sentence if they publicly admitted guilt.

In addition to the racketeering conviction, Evans also was found guilty of one count of false statements and writings.

Two former APS educators convicted in the cheating case have already served prison time.

Six other defendants are still waging appeals, while two convicted educators took the deal back in 2015 and avoided prison time.

ExploreAltered test scores years ago altered lives, stained Atlanta schools