Atlanta cheating scandal update

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is keeping score of the Atlanta Public Schools’ disciplinary process. Call it a cheat sheet:

Where they stand now

About 89 educators of 178 suspected of cheating remain on the Atlanta Public Schools district’s payroll, including teachers and administrators. They can make their case to keep their jobs before an APS tribunal. Once the hearings are held and terminations are recommended, the matter goes to the school board for approval. If the board upholds the decision, the employee is terminated immediately.

Where the cases stand

1 — Number of educators whose recommended firing was not upheld by a tribunal.
9 — Number of educators whose recommended firing has been upheld by a tribunal.
50 — Number of letters sent to educators outlining charges and the school district’s intent to terminate.
78 — Number of educators notified that their contracts will not be renewed; some will have the option of a hearing.

Atlanta cheating scandal: Accused teacher prevails in tribunal

Accused Atlanta public schoolteacher Angela Williamson has won her case before a tribunal and now waits to see whether the school board will reinstate her. The former Dobbs Elementary School teacher had been accused by state investigators of coaxing her students to change their answers. She said her actions were in line with school system policy and were meant merely to keep the kids on task and focused.

The Atlanta Journal Constitution has more on the case.


Another icky story about the DeKalb County School System

This could put DeKalb County Schools another $50 million in the hole. And just think what this has done for teacher morale over the past couple of years.

It’s difficult  to see the school system winning this case on its merits. I don’t think its lawyer’s claim passes the straight-face test. 

Here’s the deal: In 1979, the DeKalb County School System opted out of Social Security, electing instead to fund a teacher retirement plan.  In 2009, the system quit funding it—without bothering to give teachers due notice.

A lawsuit was filed by teacher Elaine Gold (who taught my kids at Evansdale Elementary) and psychologist Amy Shaye. Only two plaintiffs? Well, they’re seeking to make it a class action lawsuit. A DeKalb Superior Court judge has ruled against the system’s claim of immunity from the suit, and that issue is now before the Georgia Court of Appeals.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports:

The district also contends there was no contractual obligation to pay into the supplemental retirement fund, but the plaintiffs claim that the policy to do so was tantamount to a contract. The school board decided in 1979 to opt out of Social Security and instead pay into the annuity plan. The board adopted a policy that said the system would notify employees two years prior to canceling payments, which it did not do when it stopped paying in July 2009.

One of the three judges, Stephen Louis A. Dillard, had some observations Wednesday about the shift from Social Security.

“When you opt out of a federal program, I would think there are certain requirements that you have to meet,” Dillard said at one point in the hearing. Later, he said, “I just don’t see how that’s an alternative to Social Security if you’re not funding it.”

Thomas Bundy, a Washington, D.C., attorney representing the DeKalb school system, said payments into the annuity are not mandatory because it’s just one element of the supplemental retirement plan. Life insurance and long-term disability benefits are also included. He said the two-year provision applied to the entire package.

Read more.

Synthetic pot linked to teen’s death in Georgia

Update: The Georgia State Board of Pharmacy has approved an emergency rule banning synthetic pot.  Read more.

Sixteen-year-old Chase Burnett of Fayette County smoked the stuff and drowned in his parents’ hot tub, according to Georgia’s chief medical examiner.  It’s also being investigated in another death. The stuff is legal, despite the state General Assembly’s attempt to outlaw it–all it took was a little chemistry to beat “Chase’s Law.” Officials say it can be as strong as heroin and that kids don’t know what they’re messing with when they use it.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports: 

The substance, typically known by the brand names K-2 and Spice, can be purchased for as little as $5 at convenience stores and head shops.

Chase’s Law, legislation in Burnett’s name that Gov. Nathan Deal signed into law in April, briefly prohibited the sale of synthetic pot, but distributors have since found a way around the legislation.

“They essentially altered the basic [chemical] structure and started all over again,” said state Sen. Buddy Carter, R-Pooler, who authored the bill outlawing its sale.

Legally, there’s nothing state officials can do until the General Assembly reconvenes next January. But they hope news of Burnett’s death will at least cause prospective users to think twice.

“Deaths are rare, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t occurring,” Sperry said, adding the GBI wasn’t able to screen for the substance until recently. “Many labs in the the country haven’t been able to look for it. And you can’t find it if you don’t know what you’re looking for.”

Because little is still known about the effects of the drug, it’s impossible to conclude how much Burnett smoked and what amounts are potentially deadly, Sperry said.

“It’s obviously very, very potent,” he said, comparing its effects to heroin. Classifying it as pot or marijuana understates its danger, Sperry stated, saying, “I’ve never in my 30 years seen anyone die from smoking marijuana.”

Read more.

Mom busted for cheering too loudly at daughter’s HS graduation reports:

A South Carolina mother says she was humiliated when she was arrested during her daughter’s high school graduation last weekend in Florence, S.C., for cheering too loudly.

But police say Shannon Cooper’s shouting was nothing short of disorderly conduct.

“I am still living in shock,” Cooper told “It all seems like a bad dream, a nightmare of what was to be one of the happiest days of our lives. I cheered for my baby and I got the cuffs.”

Read more.


“Awesome book!” Chain Gang gets 5-star treatment at Smashwords

The average rating for Chain Gang Elementary at is 4.3 out of 5.0 stars (July 2012). Liza Butler has posted this 5-star review on the site:
I do not think I will ever join a PTO after reading this novel! The politics involved, the backstabbing, the affairs, the arrests and the children caught in the middle. Oh, did I forget the mild racism?I bet this type of thing goes on almost all the PTOs at schools where it is the pinnacle of excellence in comparison to other schools in its district.Sometimes you have to move away… Awesome book! Would recommend.”

See her review at SmashwordsAnd while you’re there, you can buy the e-book for only $6.99.  You can but the paperback at your local bookstore,, or Barnes and Noble online.