NEW LONDON — The New London Board of Education voted unanimously Thursday to postpone a decision on whether to go forward with the hiring of Terrence P. Carter as superintendent after meeting with the embattled educator behind closed doors.
The vote came hours after the state Department of Education asked Carter to withdraw from consideration following a week of damaging disclosures in The Courant that he used the titles of Ph.D. and Dr. for at least five years without holding an accredited degree.
Following a two-hour executive session and after hearing from about a dozen residents, the board voted to conduct its own investigation into questions raised about Carter's academic credentials.
Board President Peg Curtin said her first choice would have been to have Carter withdraw. But other board members said they wanted more information, saying media reports were not enough.
"Just because it's on the Internet and in the newspaper doesn't mean it's true," said Rob Funk. "I can say we are very interested in what is best and that is what we're trying to do.
Member Scott Garbini said the board did not want to make a decision about "a man's integrity off a newspaper article or three."
Mirna Martinez, another school board member, said revelations about Carter's background convinced her the board could not approve his contract Thursday.
"Too much has come out to simply dismiss it at this point. I cannot simply go on his word. I would like a formal investigation," she said. Martinez also said she believed Carter was receiving "more scrutiny because he is a black man."
About a dozen members of the public addressed the board, most speaking against the hiring of Carter.
"I think you should just reject the candidate outright. Don't prolong the agony … there are surely good people," said David Hayes.
Eric Parnes questioned why the firm that the board hired to research Carter did not turn up questions about his background.
"Why did it take someone from the Hartford Courant to vet the whole situation?" he asked the board.
Some members of the public referred to recent revelations that Carter filed for bankruptcy protection twice within the past 15 years.
"We cannot have a candidate who comes in here with the intent of deception," said Connie Fields. "We want to give him a budget as big as ours? He can't even handle his own finances. I don't want him to touch any part of my money."
Earlier, Carter came out of the executive session after just more than an hour. He told reporters before entering the executive session that he did nothing wrong. "I stand by my resume," he said. Carter was accompanied by a lawyer and a public relations specialist. He left after meeting with the board.
"All I can say is that ... I'm not stepping down ... [and remain] interested in the job," Carter said as he got into a blue Ford Escape SUV with Illinois plates. Then he pulled out of the school parking lot.
Carter, a 49-year-old Chicago educator, was hired to take over the city's troubled school system on Aug. 1. However, no contract has been approved.
The state holds more sway in this local hiring decision than it typically does with municipalities. The low performance of the New London schools brought about the decision by the state education department, more than a year ago, to install a special master. Steven Adamowski, the former Hartford schools superintendent, oversees the schools.
New London board members asked state education Commissioner Stefan Pryor to interview Carter last month after it voted to select him following a national search.
The request for him to withdraw came the day after The Courant reported that a national research organization said Carter submitted a biography in 2011 that indicated he had received a Ph.D. from Stanford University, an assertion that contradicts what the embattled educator has said.