Principal Admits to Role in APS Cheating Scandal as Trial Continues

Trial Continues as Key Witness Testifies That He Orchestrated the APS Cheating Scandal

APS Cheating ScandalOn Monday, December 1st, the Atlanta Public Schools (APS) trial continued with testimony from a former principal of Parks Middle School who candidly discussed his role in the APS cheating scandal that rocked the city’s school system.

Christopher Waller became principal of Parks Middle School in 2005, and he noticed that students coming in from feeder schools such as Gideon Elementary didn’t perform at the levels they tested at.

“It wasn’t the children’s fault that they were so far behind,” Waller said. “Some of them didn’t know that they were so far behind.”

Waller testified that he told his supervisor at the time, defendant Michael Pitts, that he suspected the elementary students had cheated, or had help, on the standardized tests. Waller testified that Pitts told him, “You can’t go around accusing people. Keep your mouth shut.” Pitts allegedly also threatened to send higher-performing students to other middle schools.

Because of Parks Middle School’s repeated failure on the Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests used throughout APS, the school was under threat of being closed in 2006. That was when Waller testified that he joined the APS cheating scandal and helped to orchestrate it at his school.

Waller is out on probation after pleaded guilty to RICO charges related to the APS cheating scandal.

The dramatic turnaround in the school related to the cheating scandal led to cash bonuses for many teachers and other employees that year, Waller said. However, he testified that the APS cheating scandal was not centrally organized, although it was well-known throughout the APS.

“Principals didn’t get together and sit around a table and talk about what we’re going to do to make target and how we were going to cheat,” he said.

Judge in APS Trial Says He Is Doubtful of RICO Charges

On Tuesday, December 2nd, the judge overseeing the APS trial said he is somewhat doubtful that the most serious charge related to the APS cheating scandal – racketeering, which falls under the RICO Act – will stick.

However, he did say that many of the lesser fraud charges made sense based on the testimony in the APS trial so far. The current 12 defendants not only face RICO charges, but charges of influencing witnesses, theft by taking, false swearing and false statements, and false writings.

“I’ve told y’all, you’re taking a big gamble here,” Fulton County Superior Court Judge Jerry Baxter said, addressing the defendants and their attorneys, referring to potential punishment. ” … If found guilty, they need to know there could be dire consequences.”

Later, the judge added, “It could be the state prevails and (jurors) find a RICO verdict. I don’t know what’s going to happen.”

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