13 principals named in cheating scandal leave APS

Thirteen Atlanta Public Schools principals implicated in the state cheating investigation have resigned or retired from the district.

Ten left before the state’s report was issued July 5, according to data released Friday by the district. All told, 41 of the 179 educators suspected of cheating have vacated their positions.

Last week, Superintendent Erroll Davis sent a blunt message to educators implicated in the report -- quit or face termination. The firing process could be costly for the district because educators have due process rights. According to state law, when a district moves to suspend or fire a teacher, principal or other employee, the employee is entitled to a hearing.

Three principals left after the scathing report was released. Of all the educators who have left, 28 departed before the report was released, 13 after. The specific reasons they left were not disclosed by the district.

Attempts to reach several of the principals Friday evening were unsuccessful.

One, Karen Riggins-Taylor would not elaborate on her decision to leave when reached Friday.

“At this time, I really don’t want to discuss it,” she said.

Riggins-Taylor was the former principal of Turner Middle School, where cheating was “widespread,” according to the state report, with 54 percent of classrooms flagged for erasure marks of wrong to right answers on the 2009 CRCT. The number flagged dropped to 9.3 percent in 2010 when state monitors were present for the exam, investigators said.

Riggins-Taylor denied cheating on the exam, the report said, but did not have an explanation for the high percentage of erasures.

Those named in the report could be penalized in any of three ways: criminal prosecution, potential job loss and potential certification loss, with the latter decided by the state Professional Standards Commission.

State investigators granted immunity from criminal charges to an estimated two to three dozen educators they said told the truth and aided the investigation. They could not say Friday how many of those granted immunity were listed in the report. Principals and administrators were not cut deals.

The immunity does not cover certification or job status, but former Attorney General Mike Bowers, who headed the investigation, said the Professional Standards Commission will be told who cooperated.

In another development, the Board of Trustees of DeSoto Independent School District in suburban Dallas will decide on Monday what to do about the contract with new superintendent Kathy Augustine, a former APS administrator named in the cheating investigation.

The board’s agenda states that there could be a “possible voluntary exit agreement” under negotiation. The board also will discuss legal issues regarding her employment.

Augustine, former deputy superintendent at APS, spent only one day at the office before the DeSoto board placed her on leave with pay.

Augustine was accused of “illegally” withholding public documents, making false statements and “aiding and abetting” former Atlanta schools Superintendent Beverly Hall in “falsifying, misrepresenting or erroneously reporting the evaluation of students” on the 2009 CRCT, according to the investigation. She denies any wrongdoing.

Thirteen principals named in the cheating report have resigned or retired. Some left before the report was issued.

Name/school

Left before the report was released:

Gwendolyn Benton, East Lake Elementary

Armstead Salters, Gideons Elementary

Mable Johnson, Perkerson Elementary

Clarietta Davis, Venetian Hills Elementary

Corliss Randall-Davenport, Dunbar Elementary

Willie Davenport, D.H. Stanton Elementary

Andre Williams, Coan Middle

Marcus Stallworth, Fain Elementary

Patricia Lavant, Whitefoord Elementary

Karen Riggins-Taylor, Turner Middle

Left after the report was released:

Linda Paden, Finch Elementary

Donald Clark, Humphries Elementary

Rebecca Dashiel-Mitchell, Hutchinson Elementary

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.