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The Significance of the Atlanta Schools Cheating Scandal for Bibb County

April 18, 2015 Edition 9, Education, Government and Politics, News 2 Comments


By Dave Oedel

When eight Atlanta public school administrators and teachers on April 14, 2015 were sentenced to stiff jail sentences ranging from one to seven years, the contrast with Bibb County’s own public schools scandal involving former Bibb school superintendent Romain Dallemand was notable. Dallemand and his cronies have not yet been charged despite millions of dollars apparently being wasted on useless electronics and an outrageous real estate deal involving the Promise Center.

The suggestion of shadiness or outright self-dealing in the Macon case seems palpable, and is widely rumored, yet no prosecution has been mounted. Mauldin & Jenkins, the accounting firm that audited the system under Dallemand’s short period of leadership, found more than $50 million in irregular expenses under Dallemand during his two years as superintendent.

In the Atlanta test cheating case, longtime Atlanta district attorney Paul L. Howard, Jr., charged aggressively under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations act. After a six-month trial and eight days of jury deliberations, Fulton County Superior Court Judge Jerry W. Baxter sentenced stiffly, moreso than in other cases involving cheating scandals on school tests under the No Child Left Behind Act.

Some called the tough sentencing of teachers and administrators in Atlanta unprecedented. Most agreed that it got everyone’s attention to see and hear the handcuffs snapped onto the wrists of teachers and administrators whose crimes amounted to engaging in the inflation of student test scores to satisfy superiors, gain bonuses, secure honors, and avoid reprimands. At a news conference on April 17, 2015, teachers and administrators sentenced to prison time vowed an appeal. However, most defendants in the case apologized, and accepted lesser penalties under plea agreements.

Racial dimensions of the Atlanta case were whispered about, especially after the sentencing. Although Atlanta’s district attorney Howard is a longtime African American official, Judge Baxter is white, and all the eight defendants who were sentenced on April 14 are African American. Most of the affected students are African American.

In Macon, suspicion appears widespread that the white district attorney, David Cooke, and the white U.S. attorney, Michael Moore, both Democrats, are finding it awkward to mount aggressive prosecutions against an African American former superintendent and/or his cronies. Both prosecutors seem reluctant to take on an official who was supported by prominent members of the black community, including elected officials of the school board who are themselves African American.

Cooke will himself either need to run for reelection or seek higher office as a nominee of the Democratic party, and will then be relying on African American votes to succeed in either event. Although Moore is an Obama presidential appointee, the U.S. attorney position is often viewed as a stepping stone to an elective or appointed office, and any race that Moore might run or positions to which he might be appointed would presumably benefit from solid relationships in and endorsements from the black community.

Nonetheless, if prominent convictions can be secured in a mere test-cheating scandal in Atlanta, it seems even more likely that convictions could be secured in the Macon context where more than $50 million dollars in irregular expenses over a period of only two years were catalogued. Race considerations aside, the interests of students and taxpayers should be paramount.

Given the Atlanta convictions, if prosecutions are not mounted in Bibb County involving the misspent $50 million, further elective prospects of the local prosecutors would seem to be compromised. Recent developments in Atlanta tend to suggest that the local prosecutors here in Bibb will now look a little more carefully at just where all that money ended up.


Currently there are "2 comments" on this Article:

  1. Darren Latch says:

    David, a very good article, with only one exception. Dallemand is not an “African-American” as some of the local journalist narratives attempted to promote on racial grounds – he was and is “Haitian-American”. The Macon-Bibb community have been failed by the inaction of Michael Moore as U.S. Attorney and the crime spree involving misuse of public monies continues unabated. Why wouldn’t it – there’s no penalty in Macon for misuse of money meant for children’s education and it appears that it’s a very easy target for those which would seek to abuse it. Thank you for your continuing work and research into this despicable chapter in Macon-Bibb’s recent history.

    • Dave Oedel says:

      Thanks for your reply, Darren Latch, and for you keeping a focus on this issue yourself. Interesting point on the ethnic/racial identity of Dallemand. You are quite right that Dallemand came from Haiti and then ran back there when he first left the Bibb job, ducking calls and legal service of process, and generally giving the impression of being on the lam. Many Haitian Americans apparently prefer to be termed Haitian Americans as opposed to African Americans, as this public radio piece indicates: http://www.wbur.org/2010/05/12/invisible-communities-iv The logic of that explanation, though, is that Haitians resist the African American label because they think that it tarnishes them with negative stereotypes associated with African Americans. If that is the measure, and if the African American stereotype and designation gets the Haitian a better position in a defensive posture as a long-oppressed minority, then it remains possible that Dallemand himself might prefer to be grouped as an African American. Who is to decide that question of identity? That itself is a good question. For what it’s worth, Dallemand himself hasn’t returned my attempts to communicate with him so that he could give his opinion on a number of very knotty matters. More to come on some interesting wrinkles in this whole situation next week in the Macon Monitor.

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