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Former Columbus Superintendent Gene Harris Avoids Jail Time

The highest ranking public official convicted in the Columbus Schools data rigging scandal will not do any jail time. Former Columbus City Schools superintendent Gene Harris was found guilty Wednesday of dereliction of duty. Harris' 37 year career as an educator ended with a suspended jail term, revocation of her teacher and superintendent licenses, mandatory community service, and a fine. She did not plead guilty - but instead plead no - contest - which means she does not dispute prosecutors evidence against her. "I would never knowingly nor intentionally do anything that would bring harm to children, the leadership and staff or the reputation of the Columbus City School District. I truly regret that there were actions that led to today's proceedings," says Harris. Judge James Green found Harris guilty of misdemeanor dereliction of duty. He suspended any jail time provided Harris meets court conditions. "No same or similar offenses, there'll be 100 hours of community service that she's going to have to perform. There will be a fine and court costs imposed. The fine will be in the amount of $750," says Judge Green. Harris served as Columbus schools' top administrator for more than a decade, during a time that a state audit found thousands of altered student grades and attendance records. Students were improperly withdrawn so their poor test scores would not count against school performance. In court, Harris said she took action when she learned of the data changes in 2012. "I tried to involve the appropriate agencies to assist when concerns were raised," says Harris Harris declined comment outside the courtroom. Her attorney, Yvette McGee-Brown, said Harris was singled out for prosecution. "You know, it's interesting to me that there have been issues of student data across the state. In Cleveland, and Toledo, and Lakeland, and she's the only superintendent to be held criminally accountable," says McGee-Brown. Prosecutor Ron O'Brien says he brought charges because Harris should have done more to stop the tampering. "Which was essentially as the CEO of the schools not taking a more active step in trying to address these things," says O'Brien. Harris is the third Columbus school administrator to be criminally charged based on audit findings. Two of the three have avoided jail time.