- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 10, 2000

Prince George's County (Md.) schools Superintendent Iris T. Metts has assigned a deputy to oversee an investigation into the professional and academic credentials of the school system's information technology chief, sources said.

Alberta L. Paul, whose formal title is chief information officer, has been under scrutiny since Monday, when The Washington Times first reported apparent discrepancies and inaccuracies on her resume.

Mrs. Metts assigned Deputy Superintendent Frank Rishel to investigate Ms. Paul's credentials as well as to look into reports that Ms. Paul made a racially insensitive remark about a subordinate during a staff meeting. The probe is expected to take two weeks.

Some school, county and state officials weren't satisfied with Tuesday night's closed-door decision by the school board to conduct an "in-house" investigation.

"It should be … independent," District 1 board member Angie Como said. "Dr. Metts could be put in charge, but an independent inquiry is the only way to ensure this process has credibility."

Other officials questioned leaving the investigation to Mrs. Metts and her staff, in light of the superintendent's long-standing relationship with Ms. Paul.

"[Mrs. Metts] has known this woman as a colleague and friend for two decades," one state official said privately. "How can any investigation by 'a friend' stand up as credible, even with the best of intentions?"

Mrs. Metts recruited Ms. Paul in September to become the school system's top information technology officer. The position entails managing the administration's computer systems, such as payroll and human resources, as well as computer software and hardware used in the schools.

Mrs. Metts, whom the school board hired as superintendent three months earlier, listed Ms. Paul on her own resume as a reference. Since the two met two decades ago in Richmond when Mrs. Metts was a principal there, they have worked together on at least two other occasions, their resumes show.

It is not clear whether Mr. Rishel, in investigating Ms. Paul's description of her credentials, will determine the nature of the pair's relationship, whether Mrs. Metts had any reason to doubt portions of the resume and whether she considered other candidates for the job.

The school board will meet with Mrs. Metts tonight in another closed emergency session. The superintendent, through a spokesman, had no comment yesterday except to confirm the investigation.

Ms. Paul's annual salary is $106,000.

The first line on her resume under the heading "Educational Profile" reads: "1980 University of Maryland Catonsville PHD/ABD Instructional Technology."

University of Maryland officials told The Times that the instructional technology program never has been offered at the Catonsville campus, which is known as the University of Maryland Baltimore County. A staffer in the registrar's office said there was no record of Ms. Paul doing doctorate-level work there.

Ms. Paul called a news conference Monday to respond to The Times' report, telling reporters that the acronym ABD stands for "all but dissertation."

She also provided transcripts of what she said was doctorate-level work undertaken at the University of Maryland Baltimore County. Although the date next to the listing of the doctorate on her resume is 1980, the transcripts indicate she took classes from 1981 to 1984. In addition, the program of study was policy sciences, not instructional technology.

Ms. Paul's resume also states that she earned a master's degree in education administration in 1974 from Antioch College in Ohio. However, officials there told The Times that her master's degree is in teaching. Ms. Paul told reporters Monday that she received a dual degree.

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