An Atlanta Public School teacher named in the district’s test cheating scandal has been recommended for termination after facing a panel.
Wednesday marked the first of 11 tribunal hearings set for educators who received letters outlining evidence and the grounds for termination. The tribunal, made up of three to five education experts, will hear evidence from both sides and make one of three possible recommendations to the school board: termination, reinstatement or suspension for one to 60 days.
The first person in the hot seat, Damany Lewis, taught seventh-graders math at Parks Middle School. An APS lawyer said he previously confessed to state investigators that from 2006 to 2009, he spent up to seven hours each year changing test answers.
Investigators said Lewis used a heated razor blade to open the test booklet packaging, made copies and then, resealed the packages with a heated lighter. They said he also recruited other teachers to cheat, instructing them to change only three answers per every 15 questions.
Lewis signed an immunity agreement that spares him from criminal prosecution, but on the witness stand, he repeatedly refused to answer any questions about test cheating.
“I don’t want to say anything to further incriminate myself," Lewis said.
A hearing officer told Lewis refusal to answer a question is interpreted as an affirmative response.
Lewis suggested school administrators should also be targeted.
"Let's not crucify the teachers and act like there's no systematic problems that need to be addressed to the district all the way up," Lewis said.
He said teachers faced a lot of pressure.
"Teachers had nothing to do with the aura of fear and intimidation within the district that the GBI speaks of,” Lewis said. “See this process to the end and sweep nothing under the rug."
The panel will now send their recommendation for Lewis’ termination to the district for approval.