Terrence P. Carter

Terrence P. Carter (New London Schools / July 18, 2014)

The New London school board Monday postponed a vote to approve a contract for Terrence P. Carter as its new schools superintendent after The Courant disclosed that Carter has been calling himself "doctor" and "Ph.D." for more than five years on the basis of what he's described as a degree from an "unaccredited" university.

Board members "expressed some concerns to me," said Margaret Mary "Peg" Curtin, president of the Board of Education. "I think we had a number of questions…that didn't seem to be answered."

She said board members plan to meet in a closed-door session with Carter on Thursday at 6:30 p.m. in the Science & Technology Magnet High School in New London "to get some answers."

After that, she said, the board will meet in a public session, scheduled for 7:30 p.m., to consider approving a contract.

The board originally had been scheduled to vote Monday night to approve a contract for Carter, the highly touted Chicago education administrator scheduled to take over the troubled school district on Aug. 1.

But The Courant disclosed Friday evening on its website, courant.com, and in Saturday's paper that Carter, who is scheduled to receive a Ph.D. on Aug. 25 from Lesley University in Cambridge, Mass., repeatedly had called himself "doctor," or identified himself as a Ph.D., since before 2010.

Examples included Chicago school phone and employee lists, as well as: a 2008 listing of "Terrence Carter, Ph.D." on an attendance list for a symposium; "Dr. Terrence Carter" on IRS documents filed from 2010 to 2012; "Terrence P. Carter, Ph.D." in his review of 2012 book on "Common Core" educational standards; and "Dr. Terrence Carter" on a school grant application in 2013.

Those documents don't indicate where that doctorate was obtained. Carter said they're not references to his anticipated doctorate from Lesley. Instead, he says, his use of the titles "Dr." and "Ph.D." in past years was based on a doctorate that he obtained in 1996 from what he called an "unaccredited university."

When asked about the unaccredited degree early last week in a phone interview, Carter first said that he had earned a doctorate in theology from Hamersfield University in London. He said that the doctorate would have enabled him to "practice in the ministry," even though he never did that.

A number of London educational institutions' representatives told The Courant they'd never heard of a Hamersfield University. 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.

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.

An Internet search turned up a site headed "Lexington University," which advertises for people to obtain their degrees at prices of up to several hundred dollars. It was unclear if that website is connected with the transcript sent by Carter — and he declined to answer more questions.

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.

State Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor met with Carter after he was selected by the New London school board last month and concurred with the board's decision. Before the Courant's revelation of Carter's use of the title "Dr." and "Ph.D" based on an unaccredited degree, Pryor said he was impressed with Carter's "experience regarding school turnaround."

But Sunday, Pryor made it clear that he has decided not to involve himself in the decision now before the New London board. Pryor said, "We respect the process that local leaders on the New London Board of Education determine in order to enable their full consideration of all information regarding their final candidate for Superintendent."

Steven Adamowski, who is overseeing the troubled New London district as the state's "special master" said in a statement that it is "unfortunate that this information could not be raised or addressed earlier in the process. With that said, the subject matter has been raised at this point and we are confident that the board will consider all factors when making their further decisions."

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 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.

On Monday afternoon, after Curtin, the school board president, told The Courant that the vote on Carter's contract would be postponed until Thursday, a spokeswoman for the local school system put out a formal statement saying: "In order to provide Board of Education members with the opportunity to fully clarify and consider recent statements and assertions concerning Terrence Carter, tonight's Special Meeting has been canceled."