|Ga. Cheating Suspects to Surrender|
|DAVID MEYERS (@davidfmeyers )||Apr 1, 2013, 3:23 PM|
The first suspects in a cheating scandal that has sent a jolt through the Atlanta Public School system are getting ready to turn themselves in, and former Superintendent Beverly Hall is expected to be among them, the Fulton County District Attorney's Office told ABC News.
The Fulton County district attorney expects most, if not all, of the 35 school officials charged in the scandal to surrender to authorities by a mandated Tuesday deadline.
As for Hall, officials plan to prosecute her to the full extent of the law.
"What we're saying is, is that without her, this conspiracy could not have taken place, particularly in the degree that it took place," Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard told reporters last Friday at a news conference.
Hall, along with other high-level administrators, teachers, principals and nearly three dozen other school officials, are accused of covering up a scandal in which teachers would help tens of thousands of students cheat on standardized testing to achieve higher scores.
"I think the financial terms were a motivation all across the board," said Howard.
The higher scores would result in more federal dollars for the 58 schools allegedly involved and bonuses for some of the suspects.
However, the cheating resulted in test scores that that were just too good to be true, authorities said.
"Those results were caused by cheating," Howard said. "And the money that [Hall] received, we are alleging that money was ill-gotten."
The 65-count indictment stems from a 2011 state investigation that found Hall, who was named the 2009 National Superintendent of the Year by the Schools Superintendents Association, oversaw a corrupt system that encouraged cheating, covered up wrongdoing and silenced those who spoke out against it.
"We've got many examples of people who made complaints and, once those complaints were lodged, they were terminated," said Howard.
Richard Deane, an attorney for Hall, did not return calls from ABC News. However, in a statement sent to the New York Times, Deane said Hall has denied the charges and he expected his client to be vindicated.
"We note that as far as has been disclosed, despite the thousands of interviews that were reportedly done by the governor's investigators and others, not a single person reported that Dr. Hall participated in or directed them to cheat on the C.R.C.T. [Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests]," Deane told the Times.
Hall has been charged with five crimes, including one that falls under Georgia's Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act. She faces as many as 40 years in prison, if convicted.
When Hall does turn herself in, Howard hopes to keep her in jail and foresees bond being set high.
"This is their recommendation: $7.5 million for Dr. Hall," Howard said at Friday's news conference.
Atlanta's public school system does not want parents to think this is a reflection of the learning institutions that will shape their children's future.
In a statement released to ABC News, APS Executive Director of Communications Stephen Alford said, "Our focus is on providing a quality education to our students and supporting the 6,000 employees who come to work each day and make sound decisions about educating our students."