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No Criminal Charges in Gateway Theft Case

Susan Notes: Of course I am relieved that I no longer have to keep an eye out for the Georgia police. And I am very happy that Frankey Jones and numerous parents will no longer be bullied.

The case taught me that I have many friends. Our lawyer fees were high (Now who made the law that husband and wife can't be represented by the same lawyer?) but daily, my mail box was stuffed with contributions from people I've never met. It wasn't just the money; the good wishes held up my spirits more than I can describe.

A public thank you to all you good people.

LAWRENCEVILLE — After four years, numerous accusations and a costly investigation, one of Gwinnett’s most high-profile whodunits has finally come to a close.

The case of the stolen Gateway test began in April 2000 when pilfered exams were mailed to local television stations and newspapers. Critics of the Gateway, including parents and educators, thought the $8.2 million exam was too expensive and that a single test should not determine if a student failed a grade.

Gwinnett County Public Schools Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks vowed the thief would be brought to justice and a criminal investigation was launched using school resource officers.
This spring, the statute of limitations expired, forcing the investigation to close. That also means the school system can no longer press criminal charges, said District Attorney Danny Porter.

Porter said once a perpetrator is identified, law enforcement has four years to charge them with a crime.

But Porter never received an investigation from the school system, even though records show Frankey Jones, a former assistant principal at Brookwood Elementary, copied the test. She resigned in November 2000 and admitted to “compromising the integrity” of the exam.
Documents obtained by the Gwinnett Daily Post indicate the school system went to great lengths to find who stole the Gateway test.
School investigators subpoenaed phone records, interviewed parents and teachers, conducted lie detector tests, examined hand-writing samples and visited Vermont, from where copies of the test were postmarked.

All total, the four-year investigation cost Gwinnett schools about $8,500, according to the school system.

Numerous law enforcement agencies were involved, including the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, the Vermont State Police and the United States Postal Inspection Service.
But in the end, the school system decided not to pursue criminal charges, said Berney Kirkland, spokeswoman for Gwinnett Schools.
Kirkland said the school system was satisfied with Jones’ November resignation and did not want to seek further action.

“We didn’t want to spend any more time and effort, so we decided to move on,” she said.
Kirkland confirmed that in the winter of 2003, the school system considered going public with the results of the investigation and turning its findings over to the district attorney’s office.

“We knew we needed to bring it to a close and we were looking at it--in late January,” she said. “It simply was not a priority for us at that time and so we decided to let it go.”
As for the time and money that were spent on the test?

“We feel very comfortable we took the appropriate steps,” Kirkland said. “It was the property of the Gwinnett County taxpayers and we had an obligation to get to the bottom of it.”

As for Frankey Jones, she works as an administrator for a church-based preschool in Snellville.

In November of 2002, she received a letter from the school system requesting $750,000 or face a lawsuit, said her lawyer, Raymon Burns.
Jones refused to pay and has not received any other letters from the system, he said, including an explanation of the $750,000 figure.
Through her attorney, Jones issued the following response to the close of the investigation:

“I am glad to hear that the school board has decided not to pursue the case any further. I sincerely hope that it may now direct its time and resources toward more constructive objectives.

“It appears that I will still need to face the Professional Standards Commission to defend my teaching credentials. My hope is that (commission) members will realize that my intent was not to harm any student, but rather, it was to protect the rights of children against the indefensible practice of high-stakes testing.”

— Jaime Sarrio
Gwinett Daily Post


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