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.