Investigators going after administrators' certifications over cheating scandal

by: Mark Winne Updated:

None - Channel 2 Action News has learned the Atlanta Public Schools CRCT cheating investigation is leading to a different investigation that could cost former school executives their teaching credentials, which would mean APS could stop paying three of them while they are on administrative leave.

Investigative reporter Mark Winne spoke to John Grant, the chief investigator for the Ethics Department of the Georgia Professional Standards Commissions, about complaints filed by the Governor’s special investigators against five high-ranking APS officials.

Grant confirmed Special Investigators Bob Wilson, Mike Bowers and Richard Hyde referred former Superintendent Dr. Beverly Hall, former Deputy Superintendent Kathy Augustine and SRT Executive Directors Tamara Cotman, Dr. Sharon Davis-Williams and Michael Pitts to the PSC this week for possible action against their Georgia education certificates.

Grant said the PSC will treat all APS referrals with the same standard treatment as all other complaints received by the agency, which likely means a rigorous investigation by the PSC staff.

Grant told Winne the PSC files on APS cases include information from the Governor’s team of special investigators as well as other sources, plus fresh material from the PSC staff.

Grant said 90 of at least 184 APS referrals are currently under investigation and about 10 are ready for the commission to consider action already.

Grant said the commission has to formally approve the investigation of each APS official but he indicated it is likely in the cases of these high-ranking school officials.

According to Grant, if the commission finds there is enough evidence after the investigation is complete, the commission may choose to impose a sanction against an educator’s certification. The sanctions can range from warning to suspension to revocation.

Grant told Winne educators who have their certification revoked will permanently lose their teaching credentials, not only in the state of Georgia but nationwide. “We belong to a national database, those educators couldn’t teach in any state,” said Grant.

Attorney George Lawson represents Cotman, Davis-Williams and Pitts. Lawson told Winne these PSC investigations are very significant because if his clients lose their state educator certificates, APS may stop paying them.

The three SRT executive directors are currently on administrative leave with pay while awaiting their hearings with APS.

Winne interviewed Cotman, Davis-Williams and Pitts earlier this year. Each denied he or she knew or should’ve known about cheating on the CRCT test and disputed allegations against them in the 800-page state report by the Governor’s special investigators.

“They still affirm that they did nothing wrong, had no knowledge of anything being done wrong,” said their attorney Lawson.

Lawson said he is confident an objective look will vindicate his clients.

Winne spoke to Keith Adams, one of Dr. Kathy Augustine’s lawyers, who said, “Dr. Augustine has devoted her life to educating children.” Adams said she’s faithfully served any school district in which she was employed and she strongly maintains she has done nothing wrong, and he says he is confident any investigation will bear that out.

Winne was unable to reach Hall’s lawyers for comment.