During the fifth week of testimony in the Atlanta Public Schools test-cheating trial, prosecutors faced a recurring problem: key witnesses not adhering to what they swore to be the truth when they entered guilty pleas.
Former Kennedy Middle School principal Lucious Brown became the third such witness Tuesday when he finished two days of testimony.
In early October, Judge Jerry Baxter felt testimony given by former principal Armstead Salters and testing coordinator Sheridan Rogers did not match what they swore to be the truth in plea deals. So he stopped the clock on their probation sentences, reserving the time left to be used for potentially more severe punishment in the future if he finds they were not being truthful.
Baxter did not indicate whether he would do the same thing with Brown.
Here are highlights from Week 5:
MONDAY, OCT. 27
Former Kennedy Middle School principal Lucious Brown admitted to working with three other staff members at Kennedy to change answers on state achievement tests for two years in a row. Brown said they vowed to keep what they did secret. “We said we wouldn’t say anything and we would take it to our graves,” he said.
TUESDAY, OCT. 28
Judge Baxter said former Kennedy Middle School principal Lucious Brown had not adhered to the details of an agreement he swore to be the truth when he pleaded guilty. “He’s got a problem,” Baxter said of Brown, before testimony resumed Tuesday. Defense attorney Akil Secret disagreed, saying he believed Brown had followed his agreement “to a T.” But Baxter quickly interjected, “No, he has not. I took his plea.”
WEDNESDAY, OCT. 29
Former Venetian Hills Elementary School principal Clarietta Davis said her students came from a highly transient population and most performed below grade level. Yet the school district set unrealistic test targets that increased every year, causing her to fear she and her teachers would lose their jobs if test scores continued to fall short. For that reason, she said, she changed answers in 2008 and allowed cheating to occur the following year. “I regret it because I did have some smart children,” Davis testified.
THURSDAY, OCT. 30
Former Venetian Hills Elementary School testing coordinator Milagros Moner testified about working with teachers to change answers on state tests. They didn’t want to change answers, Moner said, and under normal circumstances wouldn’t have done it. The teachers were good people, cared about their students and were exceptional at their jobs. “You’d want your child taught by them,” she said.
QUOTES OF THE WEEK:
“That lady went on and on and on. I thought I would jump out the window.”
— Judge Baxter, during a break in testimony Monday, referring to a witness who repeatedly gave long-winded answers, sometimes to simple yes-or-no questions.
“In my mind, we were the world’s dumbest criminals.”
— Former Kennedy Middle School science teacher Tameka Goodson on Tuesday about how careless she and three colleagues were when they changed students’ answers on standardized tests.
“Perjury is being committed daily here. It’s going to be up to the jury that you have selected to determine what the truth is.”
— Judge Baxter on Thursday in response to a defense attorney’s request to strike one witness’s testimony because it differed from another’s.
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