ATLANTA --- A high-ranking Atlanta Public Schools official who was reassigned amid allegations she'd instructed principals not to cooperate with a cheating probe and to tell state investigators to "go to hell" says she's being made a scapegoat.
Tamara Cotman was reassigned last week from a job supervising more than 20 schools. She told WSB-TV in an interview that aired Friday that she was "heartbroken" at being removed from the job she's held since 2004.
Cotman took issue with an anonymous letter that was sent to the school district in December. The letter says Cotman urged a group of principals not to cooperate with a criminal investigation of cheating on standardized tests. It also said she distributed papers headed "Go to hell" in a meeting of principals and told them to write why they thought state investigators should be condemned.
"The sad thing is, there are a lot of people who were in that room who can corroborate what did and didn't happen," she said in the interview. "What's in that anonymous letter is not accurate."
Cotman, 40, had not made a public statement on the allegations since they were reported by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in mid-February.
"I think the school system has been totally disingenuous with Ms. Cotman," her lawyer, George Lawson, told the television station. "I think that they have run for the woods."
School district spokesman Keith Bromery said in an e-mail Saturday that he can't comment on an unresolved personnel investigation.
Cotman said in the television interview that she did pass out blank sheets of paper with the heading "go to hell" at the Nov. 17 meeting with principals, but says she didn't say anything negative about state investigators. She defended her actions.
"I would still recommend the strategy to principals," she said. "I'd had conversations with principals and teachers where they were beginning to harbor a lot of resentment about the way that they were being treated, allegedly."
The Journal-Constitution reported on Feb. 13 that the school district was investigating Cotman's actions but hadn't told state investigators.
The state investigators said such internal inquiries were tantamount to obstruction and witness intimidation. A judge ordered district officials to stop their internal probe.
The school district reassigned Cotman Feb. 14, after she demoted a principal whom the district had questioned about the episode, the Journal-Constitution reports. The principal has been reinstated.
Cotman's lawyer told the newspaper his client did nothing wrong at the meeting, didn't try to obstruct the state investigation and did not retaliate against the demoted principal.