2011-07-15 / Top Stories

Ex-Rockaway Supe In Atlanta Hot Water

By Howard Schwach

Dr. Beverly Hall, who just resigned as the head of the Atlanta (Georgia) schools, was once the superintendent of Rockaway’s schools. Dr. Beverly Hall, who just resigned as the head of the Atlanta (Georgia) schools, was once the superintendent of Rockaway’s schools. Beverly Hall has always been a controversial figure, particularly in Rockaway during the mid-1990s, when she and her sponsor, James Sanders Jr., sought to make Hall the Superintendent of Community School Board 27, which includes all of the schools on the Rockaway peninsula.

Hall was controversial because there had never been a black woman as superintendent before and because of the tactics that were used by Sanders and many black ministers to insure that Hall would get the top spot in the district.

The voting became so contentious that at one meeting of the Community School Board, Hall’s husband threatened a Wave reporter who was covering the meeting and who had written a number of articles on the race for superintendent.

Now, nearly 20 years later, Sanders is our City Councilman and Hall is embroiled in controversy once more, having just resigned under a cloud as the Superintendent of the Atlanta (Georgia) school system, where state leaders have just found that she is guilty of covering up a massive cheating scandal on the part of the district’s teachers.

A state investigation released on July 5 showed rampant, systematic cheating on test scores in Atlanta’s long-troubled public schools, ending two years of increasing skepticism over remarkable improvements touted by school leaders, including Hall.

The results of the investigation showed that the cheating occurred at 44 schools and involved at least 178 teachers and principals, almost half of whom have confessed, the governor said.

A culture of fear, intimidation and retaliation existed in the district, which led to a conspiracy of silence, the Governor said in a prepared statement.

“There will be consequences,” he added.

The findings of the investigation, which was conducted by a former state attorney general and a former county district attorney, will be delivered to district attorneys in three counties where cheating most likely took place.

The cheating, Atlanta’s mayor said, showed a complete failure of leadership that hurt thousands of children who might have been promoted to the next grade without meeting basic academic standards.

At the center of the cheating scandal is former Superintendent Beverly L. Hall, who was named the 2009 National Superintendent of the Year and has been considered one of the nation’s best at running large, urban districts.

Hall, who announced in November that she would be leaving the job at the end of June, left Tuesday for a Hawaiian vacation.

Hall is a veteran administrator of the New York and Newark public schools. She took over the Atlanta district in 1999 and enjoyed broad support.

Under her administration, Atlanta schools had shown marked improvement in several areas.

Still, the investigation shows that cheating on the state-mandated Criterion-Referenced Competency Test began as early as 2001, and that “clear and significant” warnings were raised as early as December 2005.

Dr. Hall’s administration punished whistle-blowers, hid or manipulated information and illegally altered documents related to the tests, the investigation found.

The superintendent and her administration “emphasized test results and public praise to the exclusion of integrity and ethics,” the investigators wrote.

In 2008, The Atlanta Journal- Constitution began aggressive reporting that questioned the statistical probability of some test scores and eventually led to a separate state investigation of 2009 tests that showed an unusually high number of erasures.

Just how badly students were affected by the altered scores is difficult to determine; however, some 12,000 students whose tests might have been tampered with have attended remedial classes after school and on weekends.

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