Former Gov. Perdue testifies in Atlanta test cheating case

Former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue testified Monday in the first trial connected to Atlanta’s standardized test cheating scandal that school system employees “stonewalled” investigations.

Perdue, who ordered a state investigation of scores that appeared too good to be true, said he asked the Georgia Bureau of Investigation in 2010 to assist with the probe because previous efforts had come up empty.

He said his impression was that Atlanta Public School employees thought, “If we hunker down, things will just blow over.”

Perdue, who left office in 2011, was a witness in the trial of Tamara Cotman, a former area director for Atlanta Public Schools who is charged with influencing a witness.

The investigation concluded that 185 teachers and administrators either cheated or should have known about it. Thirty-five educators, including Cotman, face criminal charges.

Many Atlanta school system employees refused to cooperate with requests for interviews until Perdue brought in the GBI, he said.

“Their minds were made up, that nothing happened, nothing wrong went on, and that was the end of the story,” he said.

Teachers were afraid of retaliation from their bosses if they cooperated with the investigation, testified GBI Director Vernon Keenan.

“There were many instances of teachers who were concerned about their jobs, very afraid of the administration, afraid of retribution, terrified,” he said.

Cotman is accused of harassing former Scott Elementary School Principal Jimmye Hawkins, who attended a meeting where Cotman handed out memos intended for investigators labeled, “go to hell.”

After the school board received an anonymous complaint about the meeting, Cotman targeted Hawkins by moving her to a lower-paying teaching position in a different school, according to the prosecution.

Cotman has denied the accusations.

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