Former Parks Middle School employees plead guilty in APS cheating scandal

by: Richard Elliot Updated:

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ATLANTA - Two more high-profile former Atlanta Public Schools employees pleaded guilty Friday including a one-time middle school principal considered to be a key player in the cheating scandal.
 

Former Parks Middle School Principal Christopher Waller and his testing coordinator Sandra Ward admitted to their participation in the scandal.
 
Waller admitted he not only participated in the cheating on the CRCT, he also pressured teachers to cheat as well.
 
"I orchestrated cheating by several teachers and fostered a culture of cheating that continued even after was I not at the school," said Waller.  "My role was continuous for several years and I accept responsibility for this conduct which was unethical, immoral, dishonest and criminal."
 
Several teachers complained Waller bullied them into cheating on the CRCT.
 
Waller was charged with several felonies including racketeering, but agreed to plead guilty only to one felony count of lying to investigators. 
 
In return for a lighter sentence, Waller agreed to testify against his one-time boss, former APS Superintendent Beverly Hall.
 
Waller criticized Hall and what he said were her unreasonable testing goals.
 
"The targets were unattainable, at least by legitimate means," said Waller.  "So we cheated to obtain targets and then many of us, not the least of which was me, tried to cover up this conduct.  I made false statements to investigators and I lied about my participation."
 
Ward admitted to helping teachers get hold of the completed CRCT sheets so they could alter them.  She also blasted APS and Hall for pressuring teachers and administrators to reach unobtainable testing goals.
 
"There was no way for these students to achieve the test scores that were required by the administration at APS," said Ward.  "Faced with the impossibility of making the progress that I was required, a decision was made at Parks to alter students answer sheets on the CRCT.  I regret the fact that the leadership at APS was focused more on improving test scores than helping students learn."
 
Judge Jerry Baxter sentenced Waller to five years’ probation, 1,000 hours community service and he must pay $50,000 in restitution and fines. 
 
He sentenced Ward to one year probation and $5,000 in restitution and fines.