Audio tapes show former superintendent bullying state official over CRCT cheating

by: Richard Belcher Updated:

ATLANTA,None —

Channel 2 Action News has learned a well-known former school superintendent at two metro districts is caught on tape bullying and threatening a state education official.

The issue was the state's use of erasure analysis to spot potential cheating on the CRCT exam.

James Wilson was the superintendent at Cobb and Fulton County school systems.

After the state released its analysis of answer sheet erasures, Wilson was hired by one school district to conduct his own investigation.

Using the state open records act, Channel 2's Richard Belcher obtained an audio recording of Wilson's effort to bully the governor's lead official on the testing to back off.

Two years ago when Kathleen Mathers told the state school board of her agency's erasure analysis suggested there'd been testing misconduct in school systems, including Atlanta and Dougherty County in Albany.

Dougherty County hired former Cobb and Fulton County superintendent James Wilson to investigate the allegations.

Wilson met with Mathers to tell her he thought the erasure analysis was unfair.



Kathleen Mathers: "Well, you'd prefer that we hadn't done the erasure analysis at all?"

James Wilson: "You're absolutely right. In think you made a huge mistake in doing that … Kathleen, I think ya'll are being perceived as gestapo tactics."


Mathers said her office had said the vast majority of Georgia schools didn't seem to have a CRCT problem.


Mathers: "That's overwhelmingly positive."

Wilson: "I don't know about that."

Mathers: "So what are you saying -- don't look under the hood of the car?"

Wilson: "No, I'm saying we should have fixed the car before you looked under it."


Wilson suggested the investigation would damage the careers of Mathers and her assistant.

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Wilson: "You'll pay dearly for it. I'd love to help you, but if you really believe in an erasure analysis this strongly that is the right way to do this."

Mathers: "Uh, huh..."

Wilson: "Then it just shows me that you're incompetent of what your job is entitled, and that's a shame, that we have people with big titles that don't know what they're doing."


Wilson not so subtly hinted that he would try to use political clout to undercut Mathers.


Wilson: "I have a decision to make based on how we finish this conversation and where I go from here. And remember, I'm the old guy. I have nothing to lose. I really want to be part of helping make this good. But I can go wherever I need to go."

Mathers: "What do you mean by that?"

Wilson: "I'm not going to give you any threats. But let me tell you, I can get there."


In their report to the governor about cheating in the Dougherty county schools, state investigators were openly contemptuous of Wilson's investigation, saying he was "unqualified to perform such an inquiry."

Belcher left a voicemail at Wilson's Marietta consulting company, but the former superintendent did not respond.