- The Washington Times - Monday, August 21, 2000

The chief of information technology for Prince George's County, Md., schools did not complete the courses or tests required to be a candidate for a doctoral degree, despite her assertions to the contrary, University of Maryland officials said.
Records show Alberta L. Paul is six credit hours short of the mandatory 48 credit hours of doctoral courses and did not take two required examinations, said Charlie Melichar, director of media relations for University of Maryland Baltimore County.
Ms. Paul makes $106,000 a year as chief information officer for the Prince George's schools. She is on administrative leave with pay, pending an internal investigation of the academic and professional credentials on the resume she submitted before being hired last September by Superintendent Iris T. Metts.
Ms. Paul previously told reporters that she did not do the dissertation required to receive a doctorate but otherwise had "completed" her doctoral work.
University records indicate that assertion is not correct, Mr. Melichar told The Washington Times last week after meeting with three other university officials to go over Ms. Paul's academic record.
Ms. Paul "is not a candidate for the Ph.D.," Mr. Melichar said.
Credits missing from Ms. Paul's graduate school transcript include an upper-level policy seminar, the university spokesman said.
The records also indicate Ms. Paul did not take a core-comprehensive examination or a field-qualifying examination, and did not file a proposal for dissertation research, another official familiar with her file said.
Ms. Paul could not be reached for comment for this article, despite repeated attempts over three days.
However, her lawyer, Barbara B. Hutchinson, said Thursday that Ms. Paul believes she completed her doctoral course work.
"Ms. Paul did not complete her Ph.D.," Ms. Hutchinson told The Times. "She did complete 42 hours of course work. We are still seeking to determine if she had fulfilled all the requirements. She has completed all course work. She did not take the comps or field exams.
"Her [faculty] adviser is talking to the university," Ms. Hutchinson added. "She is doing what she needs to do to address these issues. She is working with the school system and going though the steps with university and school system officials to address this matter."
Ms. Paul's lawyer declined further comment.
The Times first reported Aug. 7 that Ms. Paul's resume contains inaccuracies and discrepancies, including a "PHD/ABD" in instructional technology from the University of Maryland in Catonsville in 1980. The university's College Park campus is the only one that offers a doctorate in instructional technology; records show Ms. Paul never took classes there.
At a news conference that afternoon, Ms. Paul repeated what she had told The Times in an interview several days earlier that the acronym "PHD/ABD" on her resume meant she had completed work toward her Ph.D., "all but dissertation."
"My resume clearly says 'ABD,' " Ms. Paul told reporters. "I never said I had a doctorate, but that I have completed my doctoral work. No one addresses me as 'Dr. Paul.' "
" 'ABD' is a lay person's term and the graduate school won't characterize somebody as such," UMBC's Mr. Melichar told The Times.
Two school board members said they clearly remember Mrs. Metts introducing her longtime friend as "Dr. Paul" at meetings last fall.
The superintendent, who lists Ms. Paul as a reference on her own resume, recruited Ms. Paul from a $65,739-a-year job overseeing learning technology used in Philadelphia public schools.
Ms. Paul was addressed as "Dr. Paul" when she arrived at Prince George's schools last September, one information technology staffer said.
In Philadelphia, subordinates were told to address their boss as "Dr. Paul," said an employee there who asked not to be identified.
The Times initially looked into Ms. Paul's credentials after several of her 80 subordinates told a reporter that she did not appear qualified to head the school system's information technology department.
Ms. Paul was admitted in 1982 to UMBC's doctoral program in policy sciences not instructional technology as her resume states and took doctorate-level courses there from 1981 to 1984, Mr. Melichar said.
The Times also reported Aug. 7 that Ms. Paul's resume lists a master's degree in education administration from Antioch College in Ohio in 1974. But records show she was awarded a master's in teaching, the registrar's office at Antioch said.
Ms. Paul told reporters she received a dual degree. But Antioch records do not indicate she took classes in management or finance, both necessary for the administration degree, the registrar's office said, and show she focused on English, history and child development.
Under pressure from the school board, Mrs. Metts assigned Deputy Superintendent Frank Rishel to investigate Ms. Paul's background as well as to look into a complaint that she called a subordinate a "dumb white man" during a staff meeting last month. Mr. Rishel's report to the school board is due this week.
Mrs. Metts, Mr. Rishel and other administration officials will have no comment until the investigation is completed, school system spokeswoman Robin Breedon said.
On Aug. 10, at Ms. Paul's request, UMBC wrote to the superintendent regarding her record there. The letter states that records show Ms. Paul did not complete required doctoral work, a source familiar with the matter said.
Ms. Paul last week told university and school system officials that she will be able to show she took mandatory exams and got a waiver of other requirements, a university source familiar with the matter said.
The Times originally reported that a staffer in the registrar's office at UMBC said there was no record of Ms. Paul taking doctorate-level courses, only master's-level courses.
That staffer provided incorrect information to The Times, Mr. Melichar said. The university does have documentation of Ms. Paul's doctoral work, the spokesman said, but the records do not support her contention that she completed all required course work.
The transcript also mistakenly identified Ms. Paul's major in fall 1984 as intercultural communications instead of policy sciences, Mr. Melichar said.
Ms. Paul told reporters Aug. 7 that her doctoral work covered two areas of study: policy sciences and instructional technology. But Mr. Melichar said records show her two tracks of study within policy sciences were education and information and instructional systems policy.
Ms. Paul gave reporters copies of a March 1982 letter admitting her to UMBC's doctoral program in policy sciences. She provided copies of her transcript showing she accumulated 42 credits from fall 1981 through fall 1984 four years after the date listed on her resume next to "PHD/ABD."
"As you realize, the Doctor of Philosophy degree is a research degree, and granted only [for] evidence of high attainment in scholarship and the ability to do independent research, not for the mere completion of course and seminar requirements," UMBC Dean for Graduate Studies Joseph F. Mulligan wrote in the letter to Ms. Paul.
"As stated in the Graduate School Catalogue, you must be admitted to candidacy for the Ph.D. within five years after admission to the Graduate School and must complete all degree requirements, including the dissertation and final examination, within four years after admission to candidacy," the letter states. "Your admission to the doctoral program will terminate if these conditions are not met."
It is possible for the university to waive certain doctoral requirements, a UMBC official noted, but there is no record of such a waiver in Ms. Paul's file.
The transcript records Ms. Paul's final grades in 14 courses, including five C's, six B's and three A's.
Five C's normally would not leave a graduate student in "good academic standing," Mr. Melichar said. A student typically would have to repeat those classes because doctoral requirements are rigorous, he said.

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