Principals say they were punished when they exposed APS test problems

8:05 PM, Aug 30, 2013   |    comments
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Tamara Cotman is a former APS regional director, on trial for intimidating a witness in the cheating scandal.

ATLANTA -- Tamara Cotman isn't accused of cheating in the scandal that engulfed the Atlanta public school system nearly three years ago.

But school principals who worked under Cotman say the district supervisor wasn't interested when they tried to report testing irregularities. Patricia Wells says students from her school told her about cheating - and she tried to report it to Cotman.

"I discussed with Ms. Cotman that cheating was going on," Wells told jurors. But she said Cotman didn't ask to talk to students or pursue the allegation any further.

Instead, Wells says Cotman and assistant superintendent Kathy Augustine responded by demoting her.

"It was like I had a choice. I could be terminated or reassigned," Wells said.

Cotman has pleaded not guilty to a charge of influencing a witness. She was one of 34 people indicted in the cheating scandal.

Brenda Clements was an interim principal at Stanton Elementary. She says she told Cotman the district dragged its feet giving her the materials necessary to prepare for a standardized test, and she missed a deadline to administer the test.

"They weren't gonna show any progress in two weeks if they haven't had the full cycle of lessons," Clements said. But Clements says Cottman responded by ordering her to give the tests immediately. Then three months after she'd started as principal, Cotman "called me in and stated she was releasing me from interim principal," Clements said.
"I asked her, whats the reason? She said it's my prerogative."

Clements says Cotman reassigned her on a Friday afternoon, and refused to allow the principal to say goodbye to the teachers and students at Stanton.

Testimony resumes Tuesday, when prosecutors are expected to rest their case.

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