Terrence P. Carter, the highly touted Chicago education administrator hired to start Aug. 1 as the superintendent of New London's troubled school system, recently completed requirements for a doctorate that he's scheduled to receive next month.
"Soon I will be able to be called 'Doctor,'" he said he recalls telling job interviewers.
But a Courant review of records available in the public domain shows that Carter had called himself "doctor," or identified himself as a Ph.D., for more than five years prior to his recent completion of requirements for a doctorate.
The titles show up next to his name more than a dozen times, including a 2008 listing of "Terrence Carter, Ph.D." on an attendance list for a symposium. He's called "Dr. Terrence Carter" on IRS documents filed from 2010 to 2012. He used "Ph.D." when he reviewed a 2012 book on "Common Core" educational standards.
Those documents don't indicate where that doctorate was obtained. Carter said they're not references to his anticipated doctorate from Lesley University in Massachusetts. Instead, he says, he obtained a doctorate in 1996 from an unaccredited school, Lexington University.
When asked about the degree Tuesday, Carter first told The Courant that he had earned a doctorate in theology from Hamersfield University in London. In a phone interview, he said that the doctorate would enable him to "practice in the ministry."
On Thursday, when pressed further on the Hamersfield degree, Carter sent The Courant a printed transcript from Lexington University. The transcript listed no campus address or Internet website for online studies.
A Web search turned up a site headed "Lexington University," which advertises for people to get their degrees at prices of up to several hundred dollars. It's unclear if that website is connected with the transcript sent by Carter — and he declined to answer more questions.
"I have nothing further to say on this matter," he wrote late Thursday in response to a follow-up email.
Carter said in his email that Lexington University was "formerly known as Hamersfield University back in the 90s when I attended." He had said Tuesday that he had to be in London for several weeks annually during the three years he was pursuing his doctoral studies at Hamersfield.
The Lexington University transcript said that Carter, now 49, received an A in each of 45 graduate courses on the way to a Ph.D.
The transcript says that the degree was in Human Resource Management and Organizational Learning, not theology. Many of the course listings related to human resources, organizational leadership and management — and at the time Carter was employed in corporate human resources.
None of the course listings appeared related to theology.
Carter's situation arises a month after a key figure in Connecticut's school "turnaround" movement, Michael Sharpe, resigned on June 21 as CEO of the Hartford charter school management group FUSE. His exit followed his admission that he had falsely claimed to have a doctorate.
State and local education officials say that they have verified Carter's claim to have completed the requirements for the Aug. 25 award of a Ph.D. in educational studies from Lesley University.
But they never checked into Carter's use of the title "doctor" and "Ph.D." in past years, because they say that it didn't turn up in the national search that a consultant did to fill the New London job.
The recruiting consultant, Nebraska-based McPherson & Jacobson LLC, said in March that it would be "conducting extensive background checks on the candidates." One of the firm's team members said that she did several Google searches on Carter, but failed to turn up even one of the numerous "Dr." and "Ph.D." references that The Courant found.
Carter, whose contract in New London will be voted on by the school board Monday, said he didn't believe that it was misleading to have called himself a "doctor."
He said that he never told anyone during those years that his doctorate was in education. He also said that in his interviews and resume for the New London job, he never claimed a doctorate but said only that he was on the verge of obtaining one from Lesley.
He said it was the same in his contacts with McPherson & Jacobson LLC.
However, the McPherson & Jacobson team member who did the interviewing and screening of Carter, Dr. Marjorie Wallace, said Wednesday that she would have asked questions if she had found Internet references in which Carter called himself "Dr." and "Ph.D.," or was referred to as such.
"I would ask him about it," Wallace said in a phone interview. "I would ask him if it was a mistake by him or the person who wrote it, or someone who was trying to [promote] their book to make it look better."
But, she said, "I Googled him several times and I never saw that." Also, she said, in all his application materials and interviews, Carter said he was expecting to complete his doctorate imminently, but didn't yet have it.
Mark Waxenberg, executive director of the Connecticut Education Association, the union representing New London public school teachers, expressed concern about the importance of a thorough "vetting process" when selecting a superintendent. He also questioned Carter's omission from his resume of the unaccredited degree that had been the basis for his use of the title "Dr." prior to now.
"The point is that when you are doing a resume, it should be all-inclusive," Waxenberg said. "You don't exclude things from a resume. You include things in a resume based on your previous work experience and your educational background. ... If a resume is not fully disclosing what his or her educational background is," it's as much of a concern as having misleading statements on a resume. "If he has a doctorate in religious studies, it should be on there."
The Courant's Web searches turned up a number of references to Carter as a "Dr." or "Ph.D.," although it's not always clear whether he used the titles or someone else put the title next to his name. Here are examples:
•Carter's capsule review from 2012 of the book, "Pathways to the Common Core." His review was one of about a dozen that the publisher featured in a promotional list of endorsements "from educators like you." Carter's signature of "Terrence P. Carter, Ph.D." fit in with a list of reviewers that was sprinkled with "Dr.," "Ph.D." and "Ed.D."
•A second review of the same book — again signed "Terrence P. Carter, Ph.D." — that appears on the Amazon.com website along with the first review.
•A 2009-10 telephone list of Chicago school principals, showing "Dr. Terrence Carter" as principal of the Clara Barton elementary school in Chicago, the assignment that he was given in an impoverished neighborhood after previously working in a series of corporate human resources positions. He was principal there from 2005 to 2010.
•An attendance list for a 2008 symposium in Illinois on the "No Child Left Behind" law listing him as "Terrence Carter, Ph.D." and principal of the Barton school.
•Three listings of "Dr. Terrence Carter" in 2010, 2011 and 2012 as a member of the board of directors of the Henry Booth House, a nonprofit agency in Greater Chicago that provides early childhood education, health and social services. Carter's name appeared on the agency's Form 990 federal income tax returns in each of those years.
•A listing of testimony at an April 2013 Chicago Board of Education public hearing by "Dr. Terrence Carter" as "Director of Curriculum & Instruction" at the Academy for Urban School Leadership, which has handled often-controversial "turnaround" projects at low-performing schools in the Chicago system. He left that job to go to New London.
•A July 20, 2012 posting on the Academy for Urban School Leadership's Facebook page, showing two summer interns "pictured here with Director of Curriculum & Instruction, Dr. Terrence Carter."
•A 2009 contract between the Chicago Public Schools and the Reading and Writing Project Network LLC listing "Dr. Terrence P. Carter" as the school system's project manager, along with his phone number at the Barton school.
•A mention of Carter earning "a doctorate" in a draft of a 2008 case report about school turnaround efforts in Chicago. The article, still posted on the Internet, was by New Leaders for New Schools, a national school reform group. It profiled Carter as the Barton school principal, and said that before starting his education career, he had "experienced a meteoric rise in the corporate world."
The article also said that Carter "earned a doctorate in organizational behavior and leadership from a program jointly run by Stanford and Oxford Universities" — a program that a Stanford spokeswoman said she had never heard of.
Carter said he never told the researcher that he had a degree from Stanford, and that he had never attended the school. He said he didn't know how that information could have gotten into the article.
The article has a footnote saying that it was based on a researcher's daylong visit to Barton in 2007, and that school leaders, "including the principal, later reviewed the narrative for accuracy." Carter said that all he ever reviewed were some statistics associated with the study.
"That article wasn't even finished when I saw it," he said. "I don't know anything about what was in there about a degree." The author of the article could not be reached.
The idea of a doctorate from Stanford surfaced again in a biography of Carter that was printed in anticipation of a June 2-3, 2011 education conference in Rosedale, Ill., where Carter was on the speakers' roster. He said this week that he didn't attend the conference because of a death in the family. He was listed as "Terrence Carter, Ph.D." on the list of "Presenter Biographies" for the program by the National Comprehensive Center for Teacher Quality.
The bio said that in addition to holding master's degrees in public health and social work from the University of California at Berkeley — which is accurate — Carter also "holds a Ph.D. in organizational leadership from Stanford University."
Carter said that the information didn't come from him, adding that he had not even responded personally to the group at the time. Carter said that someone could have pulled some of the earlier inaccurate details off the Internet. Some information overlaps between the 2008 and 2011 items, but some does not.
An old staff list from the Barton school, obtained Thursday by The Courant, also lists "doctorate" on the line with Carter's name. In an adjacent space where other staff members listed the universities where they obtained their degrees, it says only "Outside U.S.A." for Carter, and does not mention Hamersfield or Lexington.
The Hamersfield degree also wasn't mentioned on the resume that Carter submitted for the New London job.
"I didn't put it down because I found out … most educational institutions don't accept unaccredited degrees," he said Tuesday.
The problems of the New London schools have been so serious that state education officials have appointed Steven Adamowski, former Hartford schools chief, as a "special master" to oversee the district.
Adamowski and state education Commissioner Stefan Pryor met with Carter after he was unanimously selected by the New London school board last month.
"The role of the commissioner in the process was to concur with the selection committee's choice before an official offer was made to the chosen candidate," said Pryor's spokeswoman, Kelly Donnelly.
She also said, "It appears that throughout the selection process, Terrence Carter was forthright regarding the status of his doctorate."
Pryor said recently of Carter: "I'm impressed with his experience regarding school turnaround and I'm impressed by the way in which he has already begun building relationships in New London. He's approached the interview process at the local level very effectively."
Meanwhile, the president of New London's board of education, Margaret Mary "Peg" Curtin, said Friday that she didn't know anything about Carter's longtime use of the titles "Dr." and "Ph.D." She said he had never called himself "Dr." when he was applying for the New London job.
Asked her reaction to what The Courant planned to report in this story, she asked if the newspaper could prove its findings and declined to comment on whether it gave her any concerns.
Curtin and the rest of the school board are scheduled to vote Monday on approval of a contract for Carter during a special session at 6:30 p.m. in the lecture hall of the Science & Technology Magnet High School at 490 Jefferson Ave. Curtin would not disclose the proposed salary.Copyright © 2015, CT Now