More APS Cheating Scandal Fallout: Should Heads Roll At The Chamber Of Commerce?

July 21, 2011 9:02 am

by Buzz Brockway · 32 comments

Senator Vincent Fort yesterday called for the resignation of Sam Williams, President of the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce. Fort is not the only one calling for resignations at the Metro Chamber:

“In the event they (Williams and Senior VP Renay Blumenthal) refuse to resign, the Taxpayers Foundation intends to sponsor a professional investigation of the role of the business community in the massive cheating scandal,” John S. Sherman wrote in an e-mail to Atlanta Business Chronicle.

At issue is the report of a Blue Ribbon Panel created by the Metro Chamber to look into the APS cheating allegations. The Fulton County Taxpayers Foundation alledges the Blue Ribbon Panel’s investigation was a “sham.”

It was Sam Williams, President of the Metro Atlanta Chamber, in his February 26, 2010 email, who orchestrated the sham investigation for the purpose of letting “the facts from this investigation guide us in our support of Dr. Hall.” It was Renay Blumenthal, Executive V.P., Metro Atlanta Chamber, who urged that the Blue Ribbon cover-up report be “finessed to pass Governor Perdue’s
approval.” It was John Rice who defended Beverly Hall after the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement announced the massive cheating. The firm selected by the Metro Atlanta Chamber to investigate the massive cheating, Caveon, issued a report that the State Investigation described as “flawed and which understated the potential for cheating.”

Indeed the Blue Ribbon Panel’s report found “no direct evidence of cheating.”

But the deeper investigation, by an independent commission using a national firm that specializes in rooting out cheating, found no evidence of “any district-wide or centrally coordinated effort to manipulate” test scores, and no direct evidence of cheating.

As we know, the report didn’t pass Governor Perdue’s approval, another investigation was launched uncovering the scope of the cheating.

Should heads roll at the Metro Atlanta Chamber?

Calypso July 21, 2011 at 10:07 am

Nail everyone involved, from the school system; the school board; the Chamber; all the scum. Nail their asses to a wall.

Bill30097 July 21, 2011 at 10:12 am

yes and they all belong in jail. This will hurt Atlanta for years

Calypso July 21, 2011 at 10:22 am

I think this is a first. I agree with Bill30097!

Buzz Brockway July 21, 2011 at 10:24 am

I’m happy to bring you guys together. I’m a uniter not a divider.

Ambernappe July 21, 2011 at 10:35 am

The response is united, Buzz. In addition to the suggestion of jailtime, I believe that some professional licenses should be stripped. I have read every page of the report and believe that everyone involved is guilty of a form of child abuse – has anyone really considerd how each of those chil, uh, students must feel.

saltycracker July 21, 2011 at 11:00 am

Chamber mention in Downey’s 2/19/11 AJC column
Has APS gone from resenting cheating probe to subverting it?

excerpts –

“First, the AJC reported a troubling conference call with principals in which Deputy Superintendent Kathy Augustine encouraged them to push parents and students to take sides in an escalating school board divide inspired by the allegations of cheating on the CRCT by some APS schools.”

“If the board didn’t fall in line, Augustine warned, “I will say to you honestly that the chamber and others around the city are talking about erasing board members.”

“The “calling in of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation is what, nothing short of horrific, ” Augustine said in the call. “It is extremely denigrating, it is extremely disrespectful, it is . . . it is just . . . it is just bizarre.”

Ken in Eastman July 21, 2011 at 10:53 am

+1

saltycracker July 21, 2011 at 10:30 am

Interesting increasing cultural shift in too many of our legislators, educational leaders or business leaders is that honor, fair play and ethical conduct are deemed character weaknesses in achieving personal goals. Their shield is “I know my rights”.

What the masses & media want to know is “where is Casey Anthony ?”

GOPundit July 21, 2011 at 12:27 pm

Kudos Buzz, you found one of the few times Senator Fort makes sense.

Archon July 21, 2011 at 12:37 pm

the scariest thing I agree with Senator Fort

dsean July 21, 2011 at 12:54 pm

Can someone outline the Chamber of Commerce’s involvement?

They’re a private organization, right? I’ve never really understood why they’re involved or how they’re caught up in this. I realize that they backed Hall, but that seems like it should harm their credibility, not their liberty. I’m totally open to being persuaded on this issue, but I can’t find a good overview of why I should be outraged at them…

gagenx July 21, 2011 at 1:39 pm

Agree, dsean. The chamber should have never agreed to an investigation into the cheating in APS in the first place. Not their place.

Ambernappe July 21, 2011 at 5:28 pm

Good thing about the “Blue Ribbon” commission – it did arrive at the attention of Governor Perdue who delegated it to an investigation which learned a large portion of the truth.

And the most important of our citizens who have an interest in good schools are the students, who above all, have a right to an education which prepares them to function in society

elfiii July 22, 2011 at 1:57 pm

@gagenx July 21, 2011 at 1:39 pm
Agree, dsean. The chamber should have never agreed to an investigation into the cheating in APS in the first place. Not their place.

X 3.

Ed July 21, 2011 at 3:54 pm

The Chamber (any one, really) has an interest in having good schools, it attracts workers, jobs etc and was heavily involved with APS.

APS relied HEAVILY (probably far too heavily) on the business community for fundraising.

That’s the short answer. You can tell the relationships that developed, ACC had strong says in APS, so on and so on.

The calls for the ACC head to be jailed are stupid and should be ignored.

Calypso July 21, 2011 at 3:59 pm

“The calls for the ACC head to be jailed are stupid and should be ignored.”

I trust the Chamber will be investigated as to their complicity in this mess and if anyone there, along with anyone in the school system, is found guilty of a crime worthy of prison, then I hope that’s where they go.

Your comment, Ed, is stupid and should be ignored.

Ed July 21, 2011 at 5:40 pm

You called for them to go to jail because an entirely separate organization they have no legal authority over is accused of breaking the law.

Calypso July 21, 2011 at 6:48 pm

And if anyone in the Chamber was complicit, and aided and abetted the alleged law-breaking (providing there is a law against such behavior) they should go to prison as well. I’m not implying that anyone in the Chamber actually erased test answers of course, I’m referring to potential cover-ups and misrepresentation in their report.

Gonzo ATL Guy July 21, 2011 at 8:42 pm

Jail – yes, over the top.
Heads to roll – very appropriate, should happen quickly.

For those who don’t get it, here’s the issue: APS is charged with teaching students. Each and every student should be given a fair chance. Students who need extra help should be identified and given attention that can help each student achieve.

Those who were paid and charged to provide that education could earn bonuses, but only if the students appeared to reach certain targets on tests, which was supposed to evidence achievement, both student and teacher achievement. Instead, the adults lied, stole the monetary rewards, and left those children who were not being served unidentified. Those children were now set on a course for failure in life, rather than being given the needed extra instruction.

The Chamber, having this information, was more concerned with APS’s reputation and was willing to throw the impacted children under the bus. The Chamber, through Raney, with Sam’s approval, made a disgusting choice to figuratively throw those children’s future under the bus rather than do the right thing, and help correct the situation. Rather than immediately taking steps to protect the children, they were suggesting a coverup. They should be ashamed. Not arrested, charged and jailed, but deeply ashamed.

As with most things, it’s the coverup, not the original actions, that lets you know what people are really made of. At this point, Sam and Raney should not be the face Atlanta presents to the national and world business community. Why would any potential business partners ever think either of these people would ever tell the truth? Anyone wanting to do business in Atlanta will be thinking, “Am I being finessed or getting accurate information?”

They’ve disgraced the organization, business community and citizens of Atlanta, and need to step aside or be replace. Everyone makes mistakes, but they have crossed a line by not admitting what they did was a mistake. They need to think about the Chamber, the citizens and business community, as well as the children involved, and stop selfishly defending themselves and their jobs.

dsean July 22, 2011 at 11:26 am

Ok, so the Chamber sat on the information? Or did were they actively involved in a cover up? [Assuming we know the answer to those questions].

My impression of the accusation against the Chamber, without knowing all of the details, is that the Chamber continued to be a cheerleader after they knew or should have known that APS was encouraging cheating.

If that’s an accurate statement of the allegations against the Chamber, then I fail to see why I should be outraged. The Chamber’s job, and really it’s sole reason for existence, is to be a cheerleader for the City of Atlanta in order to encourage businesses to relocate here. If they’re saying “move along, nothing to see here,” then that’s what they’re supposed to be doing. It’s not their place to investigate the charges because they have no authority to do anything with their findings.

So really, I guess my position is “So what?” So the Chamber is run by schmucks? They’re salesmen. No offense to anyone in sales, but their very job is to massage the image of their product (City of Atlanta), not to be dispassionate arbiters of truth.

Again, my mind isn’t set on an outcome here, but my sense is that the outcry about the Chamber of Commerce is just a way of distracting from the criminality of APS.

Gonzo ATL Guy July 23, 2011 at 2:32 am

Once they realized a crime was committed and that there were children who needed help, those schmucks chose to do the wrong thing. While there jobs may be to massage the city’s business rep, there is a point where the children’s future should have become more important. Their disgusting choice makes them unfit to represent Atlanta. They’ve become a distraction and a detriment to attracting business here.

Gonzo ATL Guy July 23, 2011 at 2:47 am

Had these people witnessed a murder and chosen the protect the killer, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. Had these people watched an elderly woman robbed at gunpoint and protected the robber, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. On the other extreme, had these people watched someone jaywalk and not called the police, we wouldn’t be having this discussion, as nobody would care.

Where is the line?

Had Blumenthal and Williams had there way, there would have never been a second investigation, the whole thing would have been swept under the rug and the impacted children would never receive the instruction necessary, leaving them headed down a path of failure. Even with the help, some may fail, but to callously write them off the way the Chamber seemed to think was acceptable falls on the wrong side of the acceptable line. That was the choice these people made. That choice was wrong. That choice was an embarrassment to them, the Chamber, the business community and the area citizens. It’s now a distraction. They’ve damaged the organization.

What makes the Chamber and the region look better at this point? Defending the actions of these two individuals, or admitting the Chamber’s mistake, apologizing, cleaning house and moving forward?

How long can the Chamber be run by a couple of people who cannot talk to the press about anything because the first question asked will be about their involvement in the scandal? Can Chamber heads really hide from the press? And don’t you think businesses thinking of moving to Atlanta may want the answers, too? So are these people now no longer going even be able to talk to those businesses? How can PR jobs be done by people who are hiding?

Ed July 21, 2011 at 3:55 pm

Vincent Fort was outraged? OUTRAGED? I don’t believe you.

NorthGAGOP July 21, 2011 at 4:09 pm

This might be the only time I agree with Senator Fort.

Harry July 21, 2011 at 4:13 pm

Lately I find myself more in agreement with Senator Fort than the so-called business interests.

rense July 21, 2011 at 4:14 pm

NO NO NO NO NO! Absolutely not!

This is just Vincent Fort attempting to redirect blame from the failed politicians to the business community. I hate to play the race/ideology card here, but that is a typical tactic of black leadership. They have always been hostile to the business community (let us never forget that the civil rights movement/black leadership has always been essentially radical/socialist/Marxist … look at W.E.B. Du Bois, the NAACP, SNCC, SCLC, Martin Luther King, Jr.) and their patented response to every failed leadership regime or program is always some conspiracy on the part of the (white) capitalist power structure. To this day, these folks claim that so many urban centers failed under their leadership because the businesses (and the tax base that they so badly wanted their hands on) departed for the suburbs. Folks like Fort hate the people who create wealth and jobs while demanding that they (re)distribute the wealth and jobs to their constituents!

Fort and his fellow travelers always did dislike Beverly Hall because she sought the support and advice from the business community to begin with. That’s the irony … to them, Hall was “too conservative”, “too pro-business” and they wanted someone who would push for more radical policies like Oakland, Detroit, New York City, Washington D.C. etc. have tried (and failed) in the past. For instance, many of these folks were furious that Hall consented to high stakes testing instead of continuing to battle for things like social promotion and more social welfare money and jobs programs funneled through public schools (which is basically what people like Fort see the public schools for anyway).

This is just Fort’s grandstanding, wanting everyone to believe that this is some white capitalist conspiracy against Atlanta, and not REALLY a failure of his ideology and his community of “leaders.” He is really saying “this is what you (a black leader) gets for trusting and trying to work with the (white) business community!” Now I am not saying that the Chamber of Commerce is totally blameless. But never forget: the Chamber of Commerce WANTED APS to succeed because IT IS GOOD FOR BUSINESS. (Fort believes that the Chamber of Commerce wants public education to fail so that businesses will have an endless supply of low wage labor. Seriously. That is actually what people like Fort believe, because Fort is fundamentally opposed to capitalism.)

This is a failure of Atlanta’s black leadership, from the mayor’s office to the school board to the superintendent to the principals to the black media (the black radio stations and newspapers that exist in abundance in this city), the black colleges etc. and we SHOULD NOT allow the civil rights crowd to redirect that failure to the business community, because that would be the first big step in Atlanta becoming another Detroit, East Saint Louis, Washington D.C., etc.

All right. I am done sounding like a Dixiecrat Strom Thurmond/Jesse Helms/Lynn Westmoreland supporter. But it had to be said.

Harry July 21, 2011 at 4:31 pm

The business interests are about maintaining the cash flow for as long as possible while rearranging the deck chairs.

Dave Bearse July 23, 2011 at 5:02 pm

“the Chamber of Commerce WANTED APS to succeed because IT IS GOOD FOR BUSINESS’, but when it came right down to it, they were fully willing to settle for the patina of success.

jm July 21, 2011 at 10:04 pm

But it had to be said.

Um, no, it didn’t.

These are failures of individuals…powerful individuals…and powerless individuals.

But if you read the report, and I have, there are examples of teachers who said no. And at least one principal who resigned over the issue. And thousands of teachers and principals who were never suspects, who never caved to the culture of fear and dishonesty. This culture started from the top and it flowed downward…but we are finding that while the shell of this case has been cracked wide open, there are cracked eggs all over the country – including that of Washington DC’s Michelle Rhee – who isn’t black. You won’t find a lot of the smaller districts across this state and this country making the national papers – poor, white districts in Appalachia, remote districts in Alaska, rural farming districts in the plains – but anywhere that an administrator asks a teacher to do the the impossible, you’ll find teachers who stand up and say no, and you’ll find teachers who grab an eraser and do the impossible – like getting kids who can barely read to pass a test. As long as we rely on these types of tests to measure teachers, schools, principals and districts – instead of student ability – people will go to great lengths to save their own asses.

22bons July 22, 2011 at 10:46 am

Let’s broaden the scope: The Georgia Chamber of Commerce is in bed with the Georgia School Board Association doing the same sort of things on a much wider scale via their “Partnership for Excellence in Education.” At the end of the day what they care about is making our schools LOOK good, while fending off systematic reform that would transfer power from bureaucrats to parents.

MrTeaParty July 23, 2011 at 5:51 pm

22bons…I think you have it right. The Georgia Chamber of Commerce is in bed with a lot of power groups. The GA Chamber and the Metro Chamber are just unaccountable bastions of power. They will do anything for the money…much like a slut.

Dave Bearse July 23, 2011 at 4:52 pm

It’s fule for T-SPLOST opponents that the bunch running the campaign for the T-SPLOST is the bunch did such a bang up supporting APS.

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