Former APS insider gets tough on business leaders

8:24 AM, Jul 26, 2011   |    comments
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Former school board member and Atlanta City Council Member Aaron Watson talks about the Atlanta Public Schools cheating scandal.

ATLANTA -- Former Atlanta Public Schools Board Member Aaron Watson, who now serves on the Atlanta City Council, had tough words for the business community in analyzing what led to the public schools cheating scandal.

COMPLETE COVERAGE: CRCT Cheating Investigation

"There were a number of members of the business community who accepted what Beverly said without any accountability," Watson said during an interview with 11Alive News.

Watson served eight years on the board, starting in 1993. He was chairman of the board for five years.

Watson was on the board that hired former superintendent Dr. Beverly Hall in 1999. She came in with great fanfare.

"Did you see any early signs of trouble with Dr. Hall?" asked 11Alive's Jennifer Leslie.

"No. I did not see early signs," Watson said. "But after I left the board, the balance went awry. Board members were inhibited or impaired from playing the accountability role the public expects them to play."  

"Do you think the business community deserves some of the blame?" Leslie asked.

"Absolutely," he said. "The business community was allowed to take responsibility. It was the school board that was pushed out of its responsibility. And those members of the business community who were part of that know who they are. They need to do some soul-searching and self-reflection."

"Is that the chamber?" Leslie asked.

"It doesn't bear a name as simple as that," Watson said. "There were a lot of factors at play."

Watson said business leaders did not know what the lack of accountability would lead to. "No one had a crystal ball about that," he said.

A state investigative report released on July 5 showed widespread cheating on the 2009 CRCTs by 44 schools in APS.

Watson said the state law that changed the charter in 2003 took too much power away from the board, putting it right in the hands of the superintendent.

He said he believes more checks and balances need to be put back in place now.

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