FORMER superintendent of the Atlanta Public Schools in Georgia Dr Beverly Hall, who has been indicted in one of America's largest cheating scandals, is Jamaican by birth.
Hall, who was charged with racketeering, making false statements, theft by taking and false swearing, attended St Hilda's High and St Andrew High for Girls before immigrating to the US in the 1970s.
The award-winning educator, along with 34 other administrators, principals and teachers, was named in a 65-count indictment on Friday that alleges a broad conspiracy to cheat, conceal cheating or retaliate against whistle-blowers in an effort to bolster student test scores and, as a result, receive bonuses for improved student performance. They have until today to surrender to authorities.
The indictment said "test answer sheets were altered, fabricated and falsely certified".
Hall was named National Superintendent of the Year by the American Association of School Administrators in 2009, the same year prosecutors contend widespread cheating took place. She received a $78,000 bonus that year for improving the school system's test scores, prosecutors said.
"The money she received, we are alleging, was ill-gotten, and it was theft," Reuters quoted Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard saying at a news conference Friday.
She and others could face up to 45 years in prison if convicted, Howard said.
A State investigation of test results in 2009 found cheating in 44 of the 56 Atlanta public schools examined. The cheating was prompted primarily by pressure to meet targets in a data-driven environment, according to a investigation conducted by Georgia Governor Nathan Deal's office. It allegedly included teachers erasing incorrect answers on State standardised tests.
The 2011 State report concluded that there was a "major failure of leadership throughout Atlanta Public Schools with regard to the ethical administration" of the 2009 standardised exams known as the Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests.
The tests were the key measure the State used to determine whether it met the federal No Child Left Behind Law. Schools with good test scores get extra federal dollars to spend in the classroom or on teacher bonuses.
Amid the investigation, Hall stepped down, after nearly 12 years as superintendent of the Atlanta Public Schools. Her successor, Erroll Davis, said on Friday the school system now has extensive training and other safeguards to prevent cheating.
In an interview with a local newspaper four years ago, Dr Hall expressed disappointment with the decline of the island's education system and expressed a willingness to help her country of birth improve the quality of education offered.
Hall earned her Doctor of Education degree from Fordham University, her master's from the City University of New York and an undregraduate degree from Brooklyn College.
She has served State District superintendent of the Newark Public Schools, deputy chancellor for instruction at the New York City Public Schools, superintendent of Community School District 27 in Queens, New York, and principal of Junior High School 113 and Public School 282 in Brooklyn, New York.