APS Executive Directors Sharon Davis Williams, Michael Pitts and Tamara Cotman are all suing Atlanta Public Schools for “violat[ing] state employment laws and breach[ing] job contracts” when they released the findings of the state cheating investigation that has rocked the city. In the lawsuit, they claim that not only have their reputations been ruined, but their chances of finding gainful employment have been compromised, reports the Atlanta Journal Constitution.
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The investigation portrays the three as key players in Atlanta’s cheating scheme. Davis Williams is accused of instructing educators to cover up cheating and punishing a whistle-blower. Pitts allegedly knew about cheating at Parks Middle and discouraged teachers from making complaints against the principal. Cotman is accused of telling principals to send “go to hell” memos to state investigators.
Soon after the report’s release, the district took steps to fire the three educators, issuing “charge letters” that detailed the reasons they were being fired. Tribunal hearings were scheduled so the educators could contest the decision, in accordance with the state’s job protection laws.
The district twice rescheduled those hearings, and APS has not yet allowed the educators a chance to defend themselves in front of a tribunal, according to the lawsuit. This is a violation of their due process rights, according to the suit.
When the investigation concluded, 44 schools and 180 educators were implicated in the cheating scandal. Cotman, Pitts and Davis Williams, who all earn 6-figure salaries, are suing APS for $6 million for damaging their reputations.
“What a train wreck,” Barbara Payne, executive director of the Fulton County Taxpayers Foundation. “These three could have been involved in the cheating scandal, and now they have the opportunity to sue APS for something that sounds valid. It’s like a burglar who breaks into your house, injures himself and he can sue you for damages.”