Atlanta, GA — Judge Jerry Baxter of Fulton County Superior Court has completed the sentencing of 10 former educators from Atlanta Public Schools, and three of them will serve at least seven years in prison. They were convicted on conspiring to help students cheat on state standardized tests.
Michael Pitts, the former regional director in the city’s school system, however, was sentenced to five years on a charge of influencing a witness. Meanwhile, Donald Bullock, the former testing coordinator, took a plea deal and was sentenced to five years probation. He will serve just six months in jail on weekends, will give 1,500 hours of community service, and pay a $5,000 fine.
Two others that were convicted, former testing coordinator Donald Bullock and former teacher Pamela Cleveland, decided to take a plea deal that prosecutors had offered. Cleveland became the only one of the former educators to elude jail time.
“We thought they were fairly harsh, the sentences,” said Tim Callahan, spokesman for the Professional Association of Georgia Educators, which also represents teachers. “But certainly a wrong had been done, and needed to be exposed, and people needed to pay the price.”
Even James Wolfinger, an associate professor of history and education at DePaul University, said it was remarkable to him that cheating had led to racketeering charges, a device typically used against gangsters and drug dealers. He also agrees that the charges were “excessive”.
Orrin Hudson, founder of Be Someone, a non-profit organization that helps at-risk youth in Atlanta, says he’s outraged at the harsh sentencing, but says he welcomes those convicted educators to volunteer at his organization to serve their 2,000 hours of community service.