A Fulton County grand jury could hand up indictments as early as Friday in the Atlanta Public Schools test-cheating scandal.
As grand jurors met again Thursday, their second day of hearing testimony this week, District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Yvette Jones said the plan is for the grand jury to be finished before the weekend.
“If they move along at a decent pace, Friday would be good,” she said.
During a break in Wednesday’s daylong proceedings, District Attorney Paul Howard declined to discuss which educators may be targeted
Six prosecutors, including Senior Assistant District Attorneys Fani Willis, Brett Pinion and Clint Rucker, are working on the case, a DA’s office spokeswoman said.
Howard also has deputized Atlanta attorney John Floyd as a special assistant district attorney. Floyd, a partner with the firm Bondurant, Mixson & Elmore, is an expert in racketeering law and has helped prosecute other high-profile cases.
Defense attorneys familiar with the APS case said this week that dozens of educators could be indicted in the scandal. They also said racketeering charges are expected.
Kathleen Mathers, the former executive director of the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement, confirmed in an email that she was among the witnesses who testified Wednesday before the grand jury. She declined further comment.
Mathers oversaw an analysis of erasures on answer sheets statewide from the 2009 administration of the Criterion-Referenced Competency Test, the standardized exam that largely determines whether schools in Georgia meet federal standards. The analysis found strong indications of cheating at 191 elementary and middle schools across the state — 58 of them in Atlanta. The findings led Gov. Sonny Perdue to appoint special investigators Mike Bowers, Bob Wilson and Richard Hyde.
The three investigators found cheating occurred at 44 Atlanta schools and involved 178 educators, including 38 principals. The probes were launched after The Atlanta Journal-Constitution published numerous articles that raised questions about the validity of APS test scores.
Private investigator Reggie Dukes, who sat waiting in a witness room Wednesday, expects to testify Thursday.
He is prepared to tell the grand jury about cheating he found on writing tests at Parks Middle School in 2006, before allegations of standardized test cheating surfaced.
Leaders of Atlanta Public Schools should have taken steps to prevent cheating after Dukes reported the problems at Parks Middle School, he said. “They were put on notice that cheating was taking place. Arrangements were made to cheat on exams.”
Dukes said he briefed then-Superintendent Beverly Hall on the cheating, but school officials couldn’t produce a record of his report. He saved a copy of the report and turned it over to state investigators and the district attorney’s office.
“They knew there was a report,” Dukes said. “It’s called obfuscation. They were dancing around the facts. Someone actually destroyed the report. I don’t know who, but somebody destroyed it.”
APS spokesman Stephen Alford acknowledged that the grand jury process for former APS employees who were implicated in the cheating scandal began Wednesday.
“This is a legal matter between the individuals implicated and the Fulton County district attorney’s office, and we will allow the legal process to take its course,” Alford said. “Our focus is on providing a quality education to all of our students and supporting the 6,000 employees who come to work each day and make sound decisions about educating our students.”
Our investigative reporters broke the story about cheating in Atlanta Public Schools in 2008, and we’ve continued digging ever since. Our commitment to bringing you complete coverage continues with today’s report.