DESOTO (AP) – A newly named North Texas school district superintendent agreed Monday to take a paid leave of absence as trustees re-examine her previous administrative post in the Atlanta school system, which is embroiled in widespread allegations of cheating on standardized tests.

Trustees of the DeSoto Independent School District held a lengthy closed-door meeting that lasted late into the night before Superintendent Kathy Augustine read a statement announcing she was taking the leave of absence effective Tuesday.

“Please know that I understand your need for thoughtful deliberations about my appointment,” Augustine told the trustees after announcing the decision, which she said was reached after “mutual consideration.”

The board voted to select Assistant Superintendent of Student Support Services Levatta Levels as the interim superintendent. After Augustine announced she was taking leave, the trustees took no immediate action on a proposal to terminate her employment.

Georgia investigators found that 178 educators there had cheated on standardized tests used to meet federal benchmarks. Augustine has repeatedly denied having any knowledge of test cheating as Atlanta’s deputy superintendent but acknowledged Monday that some of the educators she once believed in “violated a professional trust.”

“I’ve spent my entire career working to improve student learning, so it broke my heart to read how some educators chose to shortchange children by altering test documents,” she said. “For my part, I recognize we could have done a better job putting tighter controls on test security.”

DeSoto schools hired Augustine in April to the $188,000-a-year job in the district, which has some 9,000 students in the Dallas area.

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