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Hall to investigators: Superintendent 'accountable, but not responsible'

8:19 AM, Jul 22, 2011   |    comments
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Video: Beverly Hall's Sworn Statements of Denial

Dr. Beverly Hall racked up more than 125-thousand in legal bills as she defended herself against the cheating scandal that engulfed the district.

ATLANTA -- 11Alive News has obtained seven hours of audio interviews between investigators and former Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Beverly Hall.

The interviews were conducted on May 18, while she was still on the job, for the state's report on massive cheating in APS.

The choice quote of the interview came when investigators asked Dr. Hall who should be held accountable when so many schools in a district are implicated in a cheating scandal like this one.

"The superintendent's accountable, but the superintendent is not responsible," Hall said.

The answer summed up the interview quite well. Hall acknowledged her overall position in the scandal, but admitted nothing that would specifically implicate her despite a large amount of pressing from investigators. She also disputed many of the claims from others who were also interviewed during the investigation.

At one point, investigators presented Hall with the quotes from several APS administrators who said their jobs were to provide Dr. Hall with deniability if the scandal ever got out.

"I have never used that term," said Hall. "I would be worried to use the term because I am not 100 percent sure what that term implies, and as far as I'm concerned, [the officials] know that I take on the very tough issues. Why they would think they have to protect me from something is beyond me?"

And what about the teachers, many of whom said in interviews they felt unfairly pressured to achieve success by any means necessary?

"You can go back and see how many teachers used to write to me, just to thank me for what we've done." Hall said, "I have not had an overwhelming number of teachers to say to me, 'You're terrorizing me, Dr. Hall.'

"They run up to me, in fact, wherever they see me. I'm a marked person at the mall... They come running to tell me what they're doing, what they're not doing... So it all depends on what teacher that you meet here."

Dr. Hall was speaking under oath.

She began by talking about her start in education, in New York.

"I started my career as a teacher, English teacher...." she said.

For more than seven hours, through the intense interrogation led by the Governor's special investigative team that included Former Georgia Attorney General Mike Bowers, Former DeKalb County District Attorney Bob Wilson, and Investigator Richard Hyde, Dr. Hall was a brick wall of denial and pride.

Not one whistleblower told her, she said, about the cheating scandal.

No one dared, responded an investigator.

That's their fault, said Hall.

"I think if you have integrity, you have the responsibility to [come forward and] speak those words, regardless of circumstances."

She's angry, she said, at the cheating she now knows was going on.

But, she said, it wasn't systemwide.

Q: "Do you believe today that there was no district wide cheating?"

Hall: "I believe still that there was no coordinated district-wide, centrally-orchestrated cheating... It is wider than we could have anticipated."

Q: "If there is 30 or 40 or 50 percent cheating in the Atlanta Public School system on the '09 CRCT, who is accountable?"

Hall: "The superintendent is accountable, but the superintendent is not responsible."

Hall blamed the people who did it, insisting she never pressured anyone to do it.

"Because that's not who I am," Hall said. "I respect people, I hold them accountable. I'm very clear. But I never, never terrorize anyone. I don't operate that way... I care passionately about these children. I'm as angry as any of you that they [educators] cheated. I want the people identified... We do not have a tolerance for cheating. I don't hire cheaters, I don't keep cheaters around me... [If] we took for granted that people would do the right thing, then we're guilty. Guilty as charged."

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