Mirroring our struggle

ajc.com

An emotional sentencing hearing for former APS educators reflects community dismay over a cheating scandal and how best to move beyond it. The need to educate kids should urge us forward.

Andre Jackson, for the Editorial Board.

A spectacularly wild, up-and-down banging of the scales of justice raised enough of a racket last week for the entire world to hear. Such was the magnitude of a two-day sentencing hearing for 10 former Atlanta Public Schools educators convicted of felony charges around a test cheating scandal.

The courtroom arguments quickly devolved into an electrifying emotional debate of wrong and right, and policies around public education. At stake were the future of now-disgraced educators. Also top of mind were cheated children whose prospects for tomorrow were assaulted by this wrongdoing.

It should’ve been no surprise then that emotions surged throughout the proceedings. The APS scandal battered metro Atlanta, shaking our faith in the public schools that should be a cornerstone of our civic commitment to prepare future generations for the world they’ll inherit. That system failed spectacularly in this instance. Staring into that systemic breakdown should — and did — shake us all to our core.

Thus, Superior Court Judge Jerry Baxter bore the awesome weight of Atlanta’s dismay as he struggled to make sense of it all. Jail educators — or not? Side with teachers — or harmed students? Baxter’s back-and-forth gyrations from the bench were an accurate reflection of the tremendous angst this case piled upon metro Atlanta.

Baxter struggled through, but it was not pretty to watch. Atlanta and the nation must do something similar if we’re to truly find better ways to school poor kids.

This complex, solution-resistant problem demands a resolution which won’t be easy to attain — or maintain. Yet we have no other choice. We must begin to think and act.

Toward that end, we today present three viewpoints on the cheating tragedy.