Curtis Thomas-Collier said he taught at a school in Ohio that became embroiled in a cheating scandal and learned his lesson then: Stay as far away as possible.
But he wound up among about 80 APS educators who were fired after being accused in the cheating scandal that has rocked Atlanta Public Schools.
A hearing began Wednesday on his appeal of the firing. Several witnesses weren't able to make it, so the hearing will continue Tuesday, when the superintendent is expected to testify.
Thomas-Collier told a tribunal of retired educators that when, a decade after his Ohio experience, teachers at Atlanta's William Finch Elementary School asked him to stay after school with them to erase stray marks on CRCT standardized test answer sheets in the principal's conference room, he became suspicious and refused to take part.
"It blew my mind," he said. "I didn't feel comfortable with it."
But at least three of his peers said he stayed during what become known as "changing parties" where hundreds of wrong answers were erased and right answers were marked.
Thomas-Collier said that although he stopped by the principal's conference room to drop off his second grade students' tests, he didn't stay.
"I had never heard of cleaning up tests," he said. "The kids had pencils with erasers. If they wanted to erase something on the test, they could do it themselves. I had no knowledge of anything unethical going on in that room."
Atlanta Public Schools' attorneys argued that he did stay in the principal's conference room, joining what had become part of a widespread culture of cheating.
Wendell Goodman, an agent for the Georgia Bureau of Investigations, said Thomas-Collier's testimony contradicted other teachers' testimonies.
"It's hard when everyone else is telling you something different," he said. "Curtis had a straightforward personality. He was personable and well spoken but, I mean, I can't say whether he was being honest because I work somewhere where someone seems they're telling you the truth and they're lying to your face every day."
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