Following are answers submitted by the Metro Atlanta Chamber in response to questions posed by AJC reporter Bill Torpy to chamber President Sam Williams:
Q: What is your reaction to the allegations contained in the indictment against Dr. Hall and other APS officials? Was the scope of the allegations surprising, given past statements and beliefs that cheating was much more limited?
A: The Blue Ribbon Commission referred more than 100 individuals to APS for further investigation. Business leaders and members of the Chamber were shocked to learn of the depth of the crisis within APS.
Q: Do you accept any responsibility for leading Atlanta business leaders to a position about cheating at APS that has now been discredited?
A: Prior to the investigation, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan visited Atlanta and praised APS, Dr. Hall had been named National Superintendent of the Year, and many APS graduates were achieving tremendous success. Ultimately, the business community was shocked to learn of the depth of the crisis within APS.
Q: The investigative record suggests that you and chamber officials were more concerned about Atlanta’s brand than the integrity of its schools and education of its children. How do you respond?
A: We were concerned about the impact on the children and the integrity of our schools. Our interests are focused on ensuring that we have an educational system that is designed to enhance opportunities for every child that enters the classroom.
Q: The investigative record reveals that Mr. (Gary) Price (chairman of the Blue Ribbon Commission) privately considered the KPMG report (done for the commission) “garbage” and “incoherent.” Both you and Price told investigators that having (Atlanta school board member) Ms. Butler Burks on the BRC was a bad idea, hurting the appearance of the group’s independence. Chamber officials and BRC officials portrayed the report in a positive light to the public. Please explain why the public presentation of the report did not match what was believed privately.
A: Throughout the investigation, the Chamber’s primary concern was the impact on the children and the integrity of our schools. The Blue Ribbon Commission referred more than 100 individuals to APS for further investigation. Business leaders and members of the Chamber were shocked to learn of the depth of the crisis within APS.