Published August 28. 2014 5:53PM Updated August 29. 2014 1:20PM
New London — Seventy-seven days after unanimously selecting Terrence P. Carter as the city’s next superintendent of schools, the Board of Education on Thursday night voted unanimously to rescind its appointment and to not ratify Carter’s contract.
The board’s vote came after an hour-long closed-door meeting during which it received the findings of an investigation by its attorneys that concluded that Carter misused the title of “Dr.” before he completed his doctoral studies, plagiarized sections of his job application and did not disclose that he had filed for bankruptcy in 1999.
“The investigation answered many questions for us, and now we can move forward,” board Vice President Elizabeth Garcia-Gonzalez said after Thursday’s meeting. “I’m glad this is over and that we can move forward. We learned a lesson.”
The board voted 6-0 to rescind its offer to Carter, with board member Aracelis Vazquez Haye absent when the vote was cast because she was unexpectedly called away.
Board President Margaret Mary Curtin was home due to a health issue but participated by telephone.
Other board members declined to comment after the meeting.
Carter was not present at the meeting.
Last month, just days before the board was to sign Carter’s contract, media reports revealed that he had misrepresented himself — or allowed others to misrepresent him — as having a doctorate for more than five years before he completed his doctoral studies.
The Day reported that Carter has a history of defaulting on financial obligations and filed for personal bankruptcy in California in 1999 and again in Illinois in 2012, claiming more than $700,000 in liabilities.
Later, The Day reported that at least 10 paragraphs of Carter’s application for the superintendent job in New London, and large portions of his cover letter, contained material apparently copied from other sources without attribution.
“We have concluded that the concerns set forth in the media are grounded in fact, and are not mere speculation, hearsay, or unfounded information from Internet searches,” the board’s attorneys Saranne Murray and Anthony Shannon wrote in a 20-page summary of their probe.
The board commissioned Murray and Shannon’s investigation last month after meeting with Carter in closed session for more than an hour to question him about the information revealed in the newspapers.
“Although Mr. Carter did not represent on his application for employment to the New London Board of Education that he previously earned a doctorate, all credible evidence suggests that he has in the past (prior to completing the requirements for his doctorate from Lesley University) referred to himself and/or allowed himself to be referred to as ‘Dr.’ or ‘Ph.D.,’” the attorneys wrote.
Carter also told the attorneys that while working in the corporate world, he occasionally referred to himself as a doctor and that others called him doctor for his volunteer and religious work, according to the report.
“It seems Mr. Carter considered himself a doctor prior to satisfying the degree requirements at Lesley University,” the attorneys wrote.
When asked about reports in The Day that at least 10 paragraphs of Carter’s application for the superintendent job in New London, and large portions of his cover letter, contained material apparently copied from other sources without attribution, Carter “admitted copying language from those sources,” according to the report.
“Based on our review of Mr. Carter’s application and our review of documents containing language identical to Mr. Carter’s application, the evidence leads inescapably to the conclusion that these documents were sources for Mr. Carter’s application,” the attorneys wrote.
According to the report, Carter defended his actions by distinguishing between scholarly works that require proper citations and documents such as job applications and cover letters.
“Mr. Carter stated his belief that job applications and cover letters do not require citations or ‘giving credit,’” the report says. “In addition, Mr. Carter stated that he never claimed the language or ideas he discussed were his original ideas, but merely that he had successfully relied on and implemented the concepts in his positions in Chicago.”
Carter also claimed to have based his cover letter and application on a book called “Resume Writing for Educational Leaders,” though the board’s attorneys found no record of the book’s existence.
“All of the evidence shows that Mr. Carter used large portions of language from a number of sources in his submissions ... without permission from the authors and without any citations,” the attorneys wrote. “This gives the impression to the reader that Mr. Carter is describing his own ideas and accomplishments, rather than those of others. Particularly in an educational environment, this would be considered ‘plagiarism.’”
Carter’s attorney, Bill McCoy, said the board’s investigation lacked substance and, because the board’s own attorneys conducted it, was not independent.
“It reaches a conclusion that was probably presupposed and does not have the substance to back it up,” McCoy said.
When asked if Carter plans to take legal action against the Board of Education, McCoy said that the decision to do so would be made exclusively by Carter.
“I’ll have to confer with my client and decide,” McCoy said. “But clearly he has not been treated with what I would consider fairness in this process.”
McCoy, who was present when the board’s lawyers interviewed Carter, also said that the report did not include the full scope of the discussion and that certain information was left out of it.
After initially denying that he had filed for bankruptcy in 1999, Carter apparently told the board’s attorneys that he was reminded of the filing by his tax accountant.
“It is difficult to believe that he failed to recall this earlier bankruptcy filing,” the attorneys wrote.
After the board meeting, state-appointed Special Master Steven J. Adamowski said he was “happy to see this chapter closed.”
Carter was unanimously appointed by the Board of Education after a six-month nationwide search led by the Nebraska-based firm McPherson and Jacobson.
Carter, who had been working at a Chicago nonprofit that operates as an arm of Chicago Public Schools to conduct school turnarounds, was the unanimous selection of the 12-person search committee, which included all seven board members, community leaders and the heads of the teachers’ and administrators’ unions.
Carter also interviewed with Adamowski and state Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor, who offered his “enthusiastic concurrence” with the board’s selection, according to Adamowski.
Carter was feted by the community at a catered banquet at Ocean Beach Park in early July, moved to New London and was slated to take the helm of the district on Aug. 1.
Soon thereafter, as media reports continued to uncover more about Carter’s background, the state Department of Education asked Carter to withdraw himself from consideration for the New London job. He declined to do so and maintained that he was forthright in his resume and interview with the board.
The state also froze Carter’s application to become a certified superintendent, pending the results of the board’s investigation.
And earlier this week, Lesley University in Cambridge, Mass., did not bestow a doctoral degree in educational studies on Carter as expected, despite assurances in June from the university that Carter had completed the requirements for the degree and successfully defended his dissertation.
Carter had declined to remove his name from consideration and has not spoken publicly since the board launched its investigation.
In the coming weeks, Adamowski said Thursday, the Board of Education will discuss how it wants to proceed in finding a new superintendent. Interim Superintendent Richard Foye is under contract through the end of October.