Accused APS educator fights cheating allegations

Hezekiah Wardlow, a former test coordinator at Toomer Elementary, didn’t follow procedure on 2009 state exams and should be fired from Atlanta Public Schools, district officials said Tuesday.

Wardlow is accused of telling a teacher to cheat on a fifth-grade writing test. According to a state investigation released last year, Wardlow told a teacher to seat her students in a way to maximize test scores. District officials said he knew about testing improprieties at the school but failed to respond.

Wardlow challenged efforts to fire him Tuesday at an employment hearing. His attorney, Torin Togut, said the claims against Wardlow are false and unsupported with direct evidence.

“He didn’t commit any violations he is charged with,” Togut said. “He had nothing to do with any alleged, proven or admitted testing improprieties.”

Wardlow was placed on paid administrative leave during the 2011-12 school year. The Professional Standards Commission, which polices Georgia educators, recommended his teaching certificate be revoked because of the claims against him.

Because Wardlow no longer has a teaching license, school officials want to fire him from the district. Karen Waldon, Atlanta’s deputy superintendent for curriculum and instruction, said the district has lost confidence in him as an educator.

“I believe to allow any educator to return to our classroom under those circumstances — revocation of license — would question the integrity of this administration,” she told a panel of retired educators at the hearing.

Atlanta Public Schools has been working to sever ties with approximately 180 educators accused of cheating. Most resigned or retired from the district, while others have challenged efforts to fire them by requesting a hearing in front of a tribunal.

Last week, a tribunal upheld the decision to fire Tonya Saunders, who was principal at Toomer in 2009. She was accused of instructing teachers to cheat on state exams but denied any wrongdoing.

The Wardlow hearing is expected to resume in early October.

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