As part of their investigation into cheating at Atlanta Public Schools, investigators for the governor’s task force interviewed dozens of school officials and teachers. They also interviewed Gary Price, managing partner with PricewaterhouseCoopers, who served as chairman of a Blue Ribbon Commission backed by the Metro Atlanta Chamber. The commission’s report, issued in 2010, found no systemic cheating at APS. But the inadequacies of those findings prompted then Gov. Sonny Perdue to appoint a task force to dig deeper.
The following are excerpts from separate interviews investigators conducted with Price and chamber president Sam Williams in the spring of 2011.
Questions to Price about how Gov. Perdue received the commission’s findings
Q: Did that meeting go okay?
A: No… It was clear he wasn’t happy. He was very upset.
Q : What was he upset about?
A: That he felt like we – you know our 12 schools (that the BRC listed with substantial irregularities in scores), and 109 (APS educators listed for further investigation) was well short of the reality. I don’t know how to be any more blunt that.
Questions to Price about how former superintendent Beverly Hall publicized the commission’s findings
A: Then the superintendent gave her presentation. Her first words were, I’m not going to have it right, we were vindicated.
A: And we were incredibly disappointed.
Q: what was your reaction to that?
A: I couldn’t believe it.
Q: Did you express that reaction out loud to the board.
A: Not at the meeting. We expressed it to each other, the Blue Ribbon Commission members. We had some dialog about that.
Q: Did you express it to the media?
A: No. No.
Q: Did you agree with her statement that they had been vindicated?
Questions to Williams about the Blue Ribbon Commission
A: John Rice called me. (He says) ‘I don’t really think APS ought to investigate itself. As a business man, I don’t see the logic. That’s too much of a conflict of interest.’ Then John also suggested the chamber had also done big task forces. I said, ‘John, this is not our cup of tea.’ John said ‘Well, if you won’t do this task force, will you give me ideas on who we can get to do this?’ I said, ‘What do you mean a consulting firm?’ He said, ‘No, lay leaders. Who could chair it? Who might be people to volunteer.’ That later became known as the Blue Ribbon Commission.
Questions to Williams about the commission’s independence
Q: Do you have any conversations with Mr. (John) Rice or Renay (Blumenthal) or Mr. Price about having (then- school board chairwoman) LaChandra Butler Burks serve on the commission?
A: I remember Renay telling me at the time that she wanted to. My advice was, ‘Well, I don’t think that’s a very good idea because I don’t know how they can, if this is independent, she shouldn’t be sitting on it,’ is what I was counseling Renay. I remember Renay telling me that she was under a lot of pressure.
Q: Renay was or LaChandra?
A: LaChandra was under pressure from other people within APS.
Q: To be on the Blue Ribbon?