Changes needed before New London supt. search renews

The New London Board of Education reached an obvious and unavoidable conclusion Thursday when it voted 6-0 to rescind its appointment of Terrence P. Carter as the superintendent of schools. The evidence clearly established that Mr. Carter had misrepresented his level of education and plagiarized significant portions of his introductory letter and application.

Good old-fashioned reporting (with the new-fashioned help of the Internet) by the Hartford Courant and The Day did what the professionals hired to screen candidates failed to do. That reporting disclosed inconsistencies in Mr. Carter's record and his dishonesty.

Given the potential for litigation posed by taking away the job Mr. Carter had been told was his, it was understandable that the Board of Education felt it necessary to use a team of lawyers to verify the facts uncovered by the reporters.

"We have concluded the concerns set forth in the media are grounded in fact and are not mere speculation, hearsay, or unfounded information from Internet searches," state the lawyers in their report.

Imagine that.

So what happens next?

Mr. Carter could bring a lawsuit since a person can sue for most anything, but we don't see what legal basis he would have. In any event, the potential for litigation is a minor matter next to the challenge of reviving the superintendent search.

The board should take several steps to restore public confidence in the wake of the Carter debacle.

The next search process needs to be more transparent. While the search committee was well constructed with parents, teachers, administrators and school board members, the public knew little of how the process was going until the naming of Terrence Carter as the board's choice.

Going forward, the search committee should interview finalists in open session. This potentially could discourage some candidates for the post, but not many. The greater good will be increased faith in the process and the potential for more people to detect areas of concern to be probed.

Please, no more muzzling of board members. During the last search, reporters were told, "you have to talk to the board president." That is balderdash. Each board member was elected to serve and should be free to speak about the process of finding a new superintendent.

Hire a new search consultant. The firm hired for the Carter search failed spectacularly.

Finally, we call upon Board President Margaret "Peg" Curtin to resign and allow for a new appointment to the board. We urge her to do so with no animus. Ms. Curtin, who turns 80 next month, has served her city long and loyally in numerous elected and appointed positions.

However, the recent events have badly shaken the public's confidence in her leadership. We strongly disagreed when Ms. Curtin led the charge in not renewing prior Superintendent Nicholas A. Fischer's contract. Dr. Fischer's success in turning city schools in the right direction made him deserving of rehiring.

Seeking continuity and assessing the rest of the field of candidates, we did endorse Ms. Curtin for re-election in 2013. But the near cataclysmic suggestion Ms. Curtin made when the first signs of trouble emerged about Mr. Carter led us to regret our choice. Now it leads us to say it is time for change.

When a reporter asked on July 19 whether the board should delay action and further question Mr. Carter, Ms. Curtin said: "I would prefer to speak after we have a signed contract."

At the time, the board was about to authorize signing a contract with Mr. Carter, despite published reports showing he had misrepresented himself as having a Ph.D., when he did not - and apparently still does not.

Fortunately, as more concerns came forward, the board, including Ms. Curtin, did not ratify the deal. It is not hard to imagine the legal fight it would now face if it had.

The board should move expeditiously but not hastily in renewing a national search. For now, the system is in the experienced hands of interim Superintendent Richard Foye, who temporarily left retirement to fill the gap. Lessons learned, the process must move forward.

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