“When you punish teachers for speaking out, you will destroy their desire to educate. If you destroy a teachers' desire to educate, you are guilty of destroying a child's dreams.” -Naomi Williams
Left jobless, homeless, and a loss of 16 years investment into her retirement, the last seven years combined have produced less than $20,000 of total earned income for Naomi. That's an average of less than $3000 per year since being wrongfully terminated. Naomi's choice to speak out exemplifies a true degree of courage and integrity. My heart was broken as I read this headline:
“Atlanta School System Harmed Children and the Whistleblower" - whistlewatch.org
"Naomi Williams, the teacher who exposed the CRCT test cheating scandal is in need of public support. She was fired from her job in April 2009 and has not been able to find work. The public should be outraged that Ms. Williams continues to suffer whistleblower retaliation when this woman put her duty as a government employee and commitment to children before her own personal gain.” WSB TV Channel 2 interview:
When asked by her lead teacher to compromise her integrity by erasing a child's wrong answers on the CRCT and replace them with the right ones, Naomi refused; knowing this would project a false sense of this child's academic achievement and lead to failure. The principal did nothing to the teacher who confessed to cheating but instead fired Naomi.
CRCT investigative report Dobbs Elementary School http://kirkwood.11alive.com/news/schools/crct-investigation-report-dobbs-elementary-school/70120
Outcome of Naomi's wrongful termination: The Georgia Department of Labor Claims Examiner Determination regarding Naomi Williams: “Your employer HAS NOT provided sufficient burden of proof to show you were at fault in your termination. The facts show that YOU DID NOT FAIL to follow employer's rules, orders or instructions.” Notice given to employer Atlanta Public Schools.
Naomi's career and life has been shattered by retaliation “for choosing to do the right thing” by the children she served. Quickly approaching the age of retirement, coupled with some medical limitations, I'm concerned about Naomi's ability to care for herself. Still recovering from a fire that claimed everything they owned, there are many barriers keeping Naomi from reinventing a life for herself. First of all, No one would hire her, not even Walmart! Knowing that the courts had trapped Naomi from legally pursuing reinstatement or restitution against them, the APS district blatantly refuses any compensation or release of her sons' diploma, despite her pleas. The district paid one million dollars a month to those educators whom investigators found to have been involved in the cheating, convicted and sentenced to jail. Out of retaliation, the district pulled Naomi's son out of line of his graduation baccalaureate ceremony, not allowing him to participate. To this day, 2016, the district continues to hold his diploma hostage dispite her pleas or the governor signing a bill releasing diplomas of those students who could not meet high school requirements. Governor signs bill releasing diplomas
By comparison, (but not in a vain or arrogant fashion): those students who failed to meet graduation requirements have their diplomas as a trophy (though ill-gotten). Naomi's sons' achievements are vast, yet there's nothing to show for reaching that "milestone" that all get to celebrate. This has created a void which continues to replicate the pain and hardship associated with high school: there needs to be closure! Although inflicted with many hardships created by the district, some of his academic achievements include; *Commencement Speaker 2011, *Dean's List, *Phi Theta Kappa, *President B2B (Thy Brothers Keeper campaign), *University System of Georgia: African American Male Initiative, *Certificate of Academic Excellence, *100 Black Men Outstanding Leadership Award, *All-USA Academic Team, *Who's Who Am Colleges/Univ., *PR Chairman University Lofts, *Motivational Speaker, *NW Crescent Leadership Alliance, *GHAME Leadership Award, *NODA Conference, *93rd Annual American Assoc. Community Colleges, *CertificateTutor/Mentor while in homeless shelter, *Summer Field Study, Physical Geology- Wyoming ( Yellowstone Nat'l Parks.), *GHC SPIRIT Award, *Speech competitions, *Reporter, APS Today. *Video promoter for district.
In her statement to employees, the superintendent urged their cooperation with investigators: "If you know about lying and cheating, and you are “AFRAID” (of blowing the whistle), I really have to question your character. You’re covering up (for) the liars and cheaters... When you cover it up, you are as much liable as the person who is doing it, in my humble opinion…. How can I even have some sympathy for people who have no courage when children are being hurt, and the system is being hurt?” -(Atlanta Superintendent Beverly Hall 2010 interview.) In May 2014, a Special Needs Teacher sent a video to the media showing abuse of students, only after failed attempts of assistance from administrators. She stated that she had to resign in lieu of eventually becoming a whistleblower, because “no one would hire a whistleblower.” (Naomi, just as this teacher, appealed for help from administrators and OIR, but to no avail. But at the advice of OIR's Policy and superintendents' urgings, she trusted them but was targeted, falsified documents filed against her and terminated!)
Hoping that standing up and speaking truth would prevent those students affected from falling into a lifestyle of turmoil and dismay, Naomi fell into that very delimma herself. Forced to hunt for food in trees and sleep in her car provided it was not raining (due to massive leaks inside her car, Naomi still found it within her heart to volunteer to feed hungry children and provide them instruction in order to keep with her passion of being of service to them .
Designed to protect employees who report waste, fraud and abuse, the districts' Office of Internal Resolution gave Naomi the same reassurance as the superintendent. Accordingly, The Code of Ethics & Whistleblowing at Atlanta Public Schools: “If a potential ethical violation arises, notify your immediate supervisor, the Office of Internal Compliance or the ethics officer in the Law Department, you will not suffer any punishment if you make a report in good faith.”
Left “abandoned and unprotected” by both the districts' Policy on Ethics/Whistleblowing as well as the Superintendents' urging to blow the whistle when young children were being hurt, the sound of this travesty was heard all across America: “The Atlanta Public Schools Cheating Scandal.” Prosecutors alleged that each conspired to either cheat, conceal the cheating or retaliate against whistleblowers. The former superintendent was accused of leading the conspiracy.
Upon speaking with her principal about what she witnessed and was asked of her, she looked at Naomi with such disbelief. Not in disbelief of what she had to say, but in disbelief that she had broken “a culture of silence.” Blocked from tranferring out to another school, Naomi had to endure that "culture of harassment, fear and retaliation." The fear created so much mental anguish and extreme mental anxiety, that it made it impossible for Naomi to represent herself in the administrative appeals process.
When attempted to file suit against the district, the judge allowed Naomi's attorney to withdraw, while stating to her, “You will never win this case!” Feeling that his statement prejudiced her case, Naomi filed a motion for his recusal. He did recuse himself, however, another judge strangely dismissed her case (with prejudice), denying her the opportunity to file again although the grand jury as well as the trial itself have produced numerous evidence and credence to Naomi's accounts.
Betrayed and abandoned by the district and the court of law, Naomi's predicament caught the attention of a Georgia representative who believed that sufficient job protection is not provided to employees once they blow the whistle on corruption. So he worked to modify HB 26, the rights of Whistleblowers.
With no place to go, all of Naomi's son's school breaks were spent in the dorm. Their rituals of celebrating birthdays and holidays no longer existed. And when that much needed spring break came around, he had to remain behind in the dorm. After graduation and still no place to call home, they celebrated and tailgated from the trunk of Naomi's car. To avoid humiliation, just a handful of her sons' longtime friends were allowed to participate. Amid the silence, there was not a dry eye in the bunch.
Investigators uncovered systemic cheating involving 178 educators; over 80 confessed then retired or resigned (as this lead teacher had done). The grand jury indicted 35, including the superintendent, of racketeering. Twenty one confessed, entered guilty pleas and turned witnesses for the state. The remaing 12 went to trial. Eleven of the twelve defendants were found guilty and sentenced to jail. The lone educator escaping the sentence was acquitted even though she confessed to the cheating and admits "she filled in answers to questions that students left blank on their CRCT. She further admitted that when students selected more than one answer on the CRCT, she would erase the wrong answer!" (At trial, a taped recording of this lead teacher surfaced that had not been entered into discovery, leading to talks of a mistrial.) The superintendent lost her battle with breast cancer and died on March 2, 2015.
Prior to termination, Naomi filed a complaint with Professional Standards Commission and a grievance with the district. She also interviewed with a TV network and met with local newspaper reporters. However, she was still not allowed whistleblower status.
Those employees who lost their jobs and livelihoods for their roles in bringing justice to these children, by right, should have been hired back and compensated for the loss of their careers and livelihood, not retaliated against! OIR and The Code of Ethics/Whistleblowing Policy was a mere avenue by which falsified documents were created that led to bogus investigations and wrongful termination. The superintendents' top aids would later confess to their actions of retaliation against the whistleblowers who refused to compromise their integrity.
Please show your support! Purchase Naomi's book PURPOSE NOT COMPROMISED- Passing the Biggest Test of My Life With “Courage and Integrity”
The findings are alarming and will set your heart ablaze! Scheduled for release -Fall 2016
"Despite being challenged in moving forward in the field of education, I feel that I've had a positive impact on the students I've encountered; and that brings life for me “full circle”. Speaking out would cost me dearly; no job, homeless and character assassination; I lost everything that money could buy but found God’s mighty orchestration for my life; a value far richer than anything that the senses can behold! For those who are called unto His purpose; He will make provisions for them along the way!" Naomi Williams
When children are taught at a very young age that “ETHICS DO MATTER,” then they grow up as adults knowing the meaning of integrity!
“Protect The Public Schools Whistleblowers."
It's hard for them to protect their institutions when neither their school districts nor the legal system shield them from retaliation." - Otherwords.org
Connect with Naomi:
- Mr. Albert Scott
- Christy Kemp