School superintendent: "I will not tolerate cheating"

School Superintendent Dr. Joshua Murfree said he will not tolerate cheating at morning news conference. / Mike Manzoni

Declaring that the Dougherty County School System's investigation was both "reliable," and "valid," School Superintendent Dr. Joshua W. Murfree Jr. reiterated that he would not tolerate cheating at a morning news conference where he did not release any new information about the state's probe into allegations of cheating on the Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests.

Murfree, who read a brief prepared statement at the school system's headquarters on Pine Avenue, refused to answer any questions.

"I've visited each school involved in the investigation," Murfree said, adding that he has "encouraged the staff to tell me if they have participated in any unethical or illegal behavior pertaining to the CRCT."

"If they say that they have been cheating, and we find names that we would end their employment immediately," Murfree said.

The state's lead investigator, Richard Hyde, warned that if Murfree continues to be uncooperative he might face jail. Murfree said he has never spoken to Richard Hyde, and denies being uncooperative

R.D. Harter, the school system's public information officer, said that state investigators will be back the second week of August, but he did not know the details of their visit or how long they plan to stay.

"This is a distraction to our people; we do have children to attend to â" 16,000 kids who are preparing to come back to school August 1," Harter said.

"I believe we employ the finest teachers and leaders that can be found," Murfree said. "We look forward to getting these questions of character behind us as we work to maintain our focus on the education of the children and youth of this community."

"We will be interviewing a number of teachers and administrators and we'll be trying to discern in there was tampering with the 09 CRCTs, and if so to what degree," said Mike Bowers, part of the three-member investigative team, in a phone interview. "If someone has information of cheating or tampering with the '09 CRCT we will accept anonymous communication."

Bowers said a team of investigators and lawyers will visit the schools starting in mid-August. He said they hope to conclude that part of their probe sometime in September.

A statewide audit in 2009 found an unusually high number of eraser marks on tests. The CRCT tests are annual tests used to measure academic performance.

The statement from DCSS Superintendent Dr. Joshua W. Murfree Jr.: