Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, Governor Nathan Deal and APS Board Chairman Khaatim Sherrer El after closed door accreditation meeting.
ATLANTA -- Governor Nathan Deal spoke Wednesday afternoon with 11Alive's Jeff Hullinger. Here is part of their conversation:
Hullinger: Education Secretary Arnie Duncan said today Atlanta had a culture of cheating. He was shocked by what he saw. Were you also shocked by this report?
Governor Deal: I was certainly shocked by the magnitude of what the investigation report included. It is something that must be dealt with and must be dealt with in an affirmative fashion as quickly as possible and that's what we intend to do.
Hullinger: Is there any possibility that Dr. Hall did not do the things she is alleged to have done?
Governor Deal: I don't want to draw any conclusions about what somebody did or didn't do or should have known or should not have known. The report is a very damning document in terms of what either was known, was covered up, or what should have been known by anyone under those circumstances.
Hullinger: What should happen to these teachers and administrators? Should they lose their pensions? Lose their careers and lose their ability to work?
Governor Deal: It is certainly unfortunate that so many people have been caught up in this process. Many of them were coerced by superiors. As to what the consequences should be will be played out in two arenas. One is the professional standards commission, which is the licensing agency of the state of Georgia. And the investigators have been asked by my office to prepare the complaints that they think are appropriate to be submitted to the professional standards commission. Then of course there are those activities that may become criminal in nature. And we of course have made the report available to three district attorney's that we think may have some jurisdiction over possible criminal actions. So the fate of the entire investigation will play out over a period of time.
Hullinger: Should these teachers and administrators be given immunity?
Governor Deal: The two primary investigators Mr. Bowers and Mr. Wilson were made assistant district attorneys and in that capacity did have the authority to make judgement calls about immunity being granted in order to obtain testimony as a part of the investigation. I do not know if they did or did not grant immunity. But I know they had the authority to do that had that been necessary to facilitate the gathering of information. Those are judgment calls that the DA has over potential cases.
Hullinger: This is one of the worst crisis to hit the city and the state in many years.
Governor Deal: It is the worst in terms of this issue and that's why I think it's important that we take this seriously. I do believe the new interim superintendent Errol Davis is taking it seriously. It's a very dark day in terms of public education for the city of Atlanta.
Hullinger: Is there anything you would like to say to parents?
Governor Deal: I think the main thing to say to parents is -- this is a tragedy and it is one that should not be excused and one that should not be tolerated and it is certainly one that should not be allowed to be repeated in the future. And I hope the authorities now in a position of responsibility now in the Atlanta public schools will deal with it in an appropriate fashion and they will need the support of parents. I think we need to remember that there were a lot of good teachers not involved in this cheating scandal. Many of them became whistleblowers, many stood up and took the repercussions for having stood up trying to do what was right, many of them lost their jobs as a result of this. Some were transferred. We have good teachers. We have teachers who know what is right and wrong, and we shouldn't lose sight of that.
Hullinger: Also troubling, the message this sends to children.
Governor Deal: That is the most appalling part of all. When you say there has been cheating in the classroom, most people in the past would assume the cheating is being done by students. In this case, it appears the cheating was done by the teachers or the administrations who have responsibility for the test being administered. It sends the wrong message, cheating is okay, which it is not. Secondly, we lose sight of the fact that tests were designed to determine if adequate progress was being made to the educational system. and when the tests that are suppose to give you that answer are themselves flawed because of cheating then what happens students are promoted and may be deprived of remedial help that a true score would have indicated they needed. So it is obvious we have children move through the Atlanta Public school system and their advancement has been based on inaccurate test scores and they are now further up in the educational system and those consequences will be felt as they move through the entire education structure.