Former Official Accuses APS Of Cheating Cover-Up

ATLANTA — A former senior official with Atlanta Public Schools accused the system of editing the findings of a cheating investigation, claimed Superintendent Beverly Hall intentionally misled the governor and the public about the cheating problem and withheld public records sought by reporters.

READ: Letter From Howard's Attorney To APS New Accusations Of Corruption In APS Scandal

The allegations of corruption came in a 2010 letter written on behalf of Colinda Howard, the former head of the school district's internal affairs unit.

Channel 2's Richard Belcher learned of Howard's letter when a state investigator contacted Channel 2 Action News about open record requests made by Belcher.

"When local media, including investigative reporter Richard Belcher, made requests under the open records act, they only received what you and your staff wanted them to have," the letter from Howard's attorney stated.

The letter also accused the school district's human resources director, Milicent Few, of acting under the authority of Hall when she ordered Howard to "manipulate data requested by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution." Colinda Howard IM Colinda Howard Colinda Howard

Howard's letter also included more serious allegations about the school district's 2009 investigation into suspected cheating on standardized tests at Deerwood Academy. Atlanta attorney Penn Payne was hired to conduct the independent and external investigation.

The letter states, "Members of your administration....edited (Payne's final draft) and directed Ms. Payne to amend many of her adverse findings regarding systematic problems not only at Deerwood ... but throughout the school system."

"A second final draft was also edited and modified by your staff," the letter continues.

Hall later presented Payne's findings in August 2009, and publicly said "the investigation uncovered no evidence of cheating."

That statement triggered another response from Howard's attorney, who five months later wrote, "the general public, governor's office and Professional Standards Commission accepted ... that Payne's findings were indeed independent, when they were not."

"There was never an internal investigation ... despite your public representation to the contrary," the letter stated.

The letter from Howard's attorney said had Channel 2 Action News received Payne's initial report Belcher would have learned of "systematic problems with testing."

The letter addresses Hall's remarks by saying, "your representation to the general public as well as to your board that there were no systematic problems ... was not true."

The governor's investigative team and Howard declined comment on the letter from Howard's attorney.

Late Tuesday, a school official released records showing the district paid Howard $35,000 to settle legal claims she made after her employment was terminated. The district also released a report that concluded Howard had a history of making inappropriate, sexually explicit remarks while she worked for Atlanta Public Schools.

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