by: Mark Winne Updated:
ATLANTA, Ga. - The former head of human resources for Atlanta Public Schools pleaded guilty Monday, the highest-ranking educator to admit wrongdoing in the widespread cheating case.
Millicent Few, 55, said in a plea agreement with prosecutors that former Superintendent Beverly Hall was aware of cheating and ordered her to destroy investigations of suspicious score increases on standardized tests.
Few will likely play a key role as a witness for the prosecution when the case against the remaining defendants goes to trial, said Fulton County Superior Court Judge Jerry Baxter.
Channel 2 investigative reporter Mark Winne broke the story on Channel 2 Action News at Noon.
He says Millicent Few, who was Beverly Hall’s director of human resources from the beginning of ex-superintendent Hall’s tenure and a member of her executive cabinet, agreed to cooperate with the prosecution.
Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard says she now becomes the prosecution’s most significant witness because she is the first person who will testify that she personally observed Hall commit a crime ordering the destruction of the Deerwood Academy internal investigation.
Deputy Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis said the allegations she listed in court came from the mouth of
Few and that Few became the highest -ranking defendant in the Atlanta Public Schools cheating case to plead guilty.
Few entered a plea under the first
-offender act to misdemeanor malfeasance in office in exchange for 12 months’ probation, her testimony , including against Hall , community service, $800 restitution and a letter of apology.
Hall's lead attorney, Richard Deane, released a statement on her behalf Monday afternoon saying, “We have heard through news accounts that Millicent Few has resolved the felony conspiracy and false statement charges against her by pleading guilty to a misdemeanor, paying $800 restitution, and agreeing to perform community service. This does not change Dr. Hall's resolve to continue to fight the charges against her. She is presumed innocent and continues to look forward to her day in court.”
Willis suggested APS senior officials hatched a plan to treat the destroyed records as drafts and use that as an excuse to withhold them from the public.
No one answered the door at Hall's Buckhead home Monday afternoon, though someone peered through the blinds when Channel 2’s Richard Elliot knocked, trying to get Hall's reaction to the news that Few planned to plead guilty and testify against her former boss.
District Attorney Paul Howard said Few will testify that she personally witnessed Dr. Hall ordering the destruction of an internal investigation into the cheating allegations at Deerwood Academy.
"I think it's really shocking," said State Rep. Able Mable Thomas, D-Atlanta.
Thomas said she worked closely with both Hall and Few over the years and always hoped the charges against them were false, but this new revelation could change her mind.
"It could be what they call a deal breaker," said Thomas. "It's something that does take things to a different level."
State Rep. Ed Lindsey, R-Atlanta, had three children who attended Atlanta public schools. He called the news disturbing.
"We're going to have to be drilling down a lot harder in order to root out some systemic problems that we have with APS and restore the trust that parents and taxpayers deserve," said Lindsey.
State Rep. Pat Gardner's House district runs from Northeast Atlanta, through Downtown, to Southwest Atlanta. She called the new revelations "alarming" but hopes APS can move forward from this.
"It's time to move on," said Gardner. "We're looking for a new superintendent. We have a number of new board members who just got elected. I'm very hopeful that they will put the Atlanta school system on a new footing."