Guest Column
By John Rice
Chairman, Atlanta Education Fund

It is disappointing and reprehensible that some have chosen to assail the efforts of the Blue Ribbon Commission in investigating allegations of cheating in Atlanta Public Schools. In this regard, I will speak not as a member of the Commission, but as the Chairman of the Atlanta Education Fund and a leader in a company that is making a substantial investment in public education in Atlanta.

It is fine to question specific recommendations by the BRC, or whether every cheater has been identified – – the BRC never claimed it found every person who may have cheated. It is outrageous to imply that the work was not as thorough as possible under the circumstances, or accuse the BRC of not wanting all facts to come out.

Nothing could be further from the truth, and any other suggestion is an affront to the 15 volunteers who had plenty of other things they could have been spending time on. Assuming that we will never get fair reporting in the local media, I would just ask you to remember a few basic points every time you are exposed to biased reporting:

  1. The BRC hired two firms with national reputations to perform the investigation, and encouraged them to go wherever the facts and common sense dictated they should to get answers. The state had advance knowledge of these selections and supported them. There was never an attempt to guide their work in an inappropriate way.
  2. The timeframe, and lack of legal authority to subpoena records or administer polygraphs were two limitations we had no control over. Moreover, the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement inexplicably put significant restrictions on the data they were willing to share with Caveon (data that Caveon believes would have been very helpful to the work of the BRC).
  3. Approximately 300 interviews were conducted, and 50,000 emails reviewed. Maybe “not thorough enough”, as some have suggested, but pretty thorough.
  4. The BRC report was adopted by a diverse group of community leaders and public school advocates who sought to let the facts guide every decision, and were in no way influenced by anything other than what would be in the best interests of the students of APS.

It is too bad that there was apparently cheating in some APS schools, and that fact alone has called into question the efforts of APS leadership and the many, many APS educators who teach children every day with 100% integrity. It is also too bad that amid the mindless swirl of allegations that the BRC was somehow compromised, we have lost the essence of the point that this is, and always will be, about the students. The BRC did the best job possible under the circumstances, and we owe its chairman, Gary Price, an incredible debt of gratitude for the countless hours he personally invested in the effort.

I live in a business world where criticism is a given and have pretty thick skin, so most of what I have heard in the last month does not bother me personally. However, questioning the integrity of the BRC goes beyond the bounds of reason and good judgment, and is just plain wrong. The BRC, and APS and its leadership, deserve better treatment. We can only hope that the critics are ready to step up for the next “volunteer” opportunity.

John G. Rice is Vice Chairman of GE and President & CEO of GE Technology Infrastructure. This business segment includes Aviation, Healthcare, and Transportation.