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New London - The consultant hired to lead the search for a new superintendent of schools said last week that her firm will continue its search if the Board of Education does not hire Terrence P. Carter, its embattled first choice.
"We are not happy if the board is not happy and we will continue to support their search until they hire a candidate," Sharon Cox of McPherson and Jacobson wrote in an email Friday. "No additional fees would be charged, the only additional costs would relate to expenses incurred such as advertising, travel, etc."
The Board of Education on Feb. 28 entered into a contract to pay the Nebraska-based firm $8,000 up front and $8,000 plus additional expenses at the conclusion of the search.
The firm billed the board on June 26 for the second $8,000 plus $7,364.26 for expenses, including airfare, lodging, meals and car rental.
Earlier this week, members of the superintendent search committee said they were not satisfied with the job McPherson and Jacobson did in screening Carter, whom the Board of Education on June 12 unanimously selected as the city's next superintendent.
"I think that McPherson and Jacobson, the search firm that was hired, did a poor job in that they didn't find out this information," Richard Baez, president of the New London Education Association and a search committee member, said Wednesday. "They did a disservice to the search committee, to the Board of Education and to New London in that had they done their job properly, all of this would have been vetted out earlier and we wouldn't have been put in this position."
After Carter was appointed by the board and welcomed by the community at a reception at Ocean Beach Park, news reports revealed that he had misrepresented himself - or allowed others to misrepresent him - as having a Ph.D. for more than five years before he completed his doctorate. In addition, Carter has twice filed for bankruptcy in the last 15 years.
The firm "probably could have done a little better," Board of Education President Margaret Mary Curtin said Wednesday.
"If the information was there, I would have expected it" to come out during the vetting process, she said.
Cox could not be reached Saturday afternoon to comment specifically on her firm's screening of Carter. But in an email late last week, she described the typical search process.
In addition to running criminal and financial background checks for the last seven years, Cox said, consultants screen each candidate by reviewing their background and interviewing people who have worked with or employed the candidate.
"These are not just the references provided," Cox said. "We cold call people and promise that while the information provided will be shared, we will not divulge the names of folks with whom we spoke without their permission."
Before it interviews a candidate, the search committee receives each candidate's completed application, resume, list of references and a summary of the consultant's screening. In addition to a completed application, Cox said, McPherson and Jacobson requires that the candidate submit transcripts and professional certifications to show evidence of qualification for the position.
Though the consultant reviews the candidate's transcripts and certifications, those "are not routinely shared with the selection committee," Cox said.
The results of the criminal and financial background checks are shared with the search committee after the finalists are chosen, she said.
The Board of Education's contract with McPherson and Jacobson also included a one-year warranty, Cox said.
"Our contract also stipulates that if the board completes the five phases of the search and the person hired leaves the position for any reason during the guarantee period, we will redo the search for expenses only," she said.
The school board was scheduled to meet Monday to vote on a contract, but then delayed that meeting until Thursday. On Thursday, members voted unanimously to launch an independent investigation into Carter's academic record and financial background, and to defer any action on a contract until the inquiry is complete. That probe is expected to take about 30 days.