by: Richard Elliot Updated:ATLANTA —
A former Atlanta Public Schools paraprofessional testified Tuesday that former APS Area Director Tamara Cotman instructed her to keep quiet about cheating at one Northwest Atlanta elementary school.
Cotman is accused of influencing a witness who came forward to tell school board members that Cotman had instructed principals to tell the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to "go to hell."
Tonette Hunter worked as a paraprofessional at Scott Elementary in 2007. She testified that the school's principal instructed her to cheat on the
Criterion-Referenced Competency Test (CRCT). She said she decided to take the matter up the chain of command and contacted Cotman about her concerns.
But Hunter said the meeting with Cotman did not go as planned.
"Nothing came out of that meeting other than I've got to be quiet," Hunter told jurors. "Be quiet. Shut up about what's going on around Scott, or I could lose my job."
Cotman's attorney, Benjamin Davis, introduced evidence showing Hunter was fired at the end of the school year because of attendance problems.
The Governor's Special Investigator Bob Wilson
told jurors he had trouble gathering information from APS employees and obtaining central office documents.
"We did not receive unfettered cooperation throughout the entire district," Wilson testified.
Wilson also said he and the other special investigators warned APS not to begin its own investigation into the CRCT cheating scandal because there was concern it could lead to witness tampering.
"Under no circumstances, none, zero, was APS to
launch any type of investigation on anything that touched upon the issues of cheating on the CRCT," said Wilson. "Anyone who attempted, from APS, to conduct any investigation into anything that related to what we were doing would be considered tampering with witnesses and interfering and hindering this investigation."
Testimony will continue Wednesday.