Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Accountability for John Deasy

How did Deasy "earn" his doctorate in just four months? That is the question.

Was this just one more Robert Felner sweetheart deal? You scratch my back and I scratch yours? You pay my Center $360,000, and I give you a little something to boost your position and salary?

The News Observer recently ran a piece on comparable Superintendent's salaries nationally. One of those cited was John Deasy whose employment and salary in Prince Georges County are based in some measure on his doctorate.

In Prince George's County (MD) ... Superintendent John Deasy has salary of $273,000. The Washington Post estimates his annual compensation package is

And who does Deasy credit? Why, it's Robert Felner, who apparently only required Deasy to enroll in one course. And Deasy's dissertation is dated seven months before he even enrolled at U of L - strongly suggesting a mail-order-type doctoral program, rather than any scholarly work with CEHD faculty.

How could Deasy get his doctorate so quickly and without taking any classes at U of L? A spokesperson for the university says it's likely he transferred in credits from another university.

What university? U of L won't say but it seems apparent that it's the University of Rhode Island - where Deasy attended for five years and where Robert Felner was Dean at the time.

A commenter on the News Observer blog WakeEd responded by quoting Deasy from the Prince Georges website:

Accountability also means individual accountability for all district employees and students. Accountability implies consequences, both positive and negative, for without consequences there is simply no accountability. We do not intend to measure just to obtain information. We intend to measure to change behavior and reach and exceed our stated goals.

We'll see how Deasy feels about this now that he is the one under the microscope.

When WHAS asked the Prince Georges County Schools spokesperson about the degree, they said it was hanging in his office and questions should be directed to U of L.

But U of L spokesperson John Drees told WHAS that "academic transcripts are private and protected, so he can't allow us to see what academic credit Deasy transferred to U of L." But Drees also told WHAS that transfers of credit are rare but sometimes allowed if it's in "the best interest of the student."

Easy Dissertation
This from C-J:

Deasy's dissertation was approved by a five-member committee that was headed by Felner and included three of his strongest supporters in the College of Education. Two of them, professors Robert Ronau and Joseph Petrosko, defended Felner when the College of Education faculty voted no confidence in him in March 2006.

Ronau, the college's associate dean for research, declined to comment, and another member of the dissertation panel, Cheryl Kolander, associate dean of the department of health and sports sciences, didn't respond to calls and e-mails.

Petrosko, who heads the department of leadership, foundations and human resource education, said that he assumed that Deasy's degree "went through university procedures."

Petrosko and Mahony, who is now dean of education at Kent State University, said neither Felner nor Deasy disclosed that Deasy's school district had a contract with Felner's center, which he ran from the University of Rhode Island.

Mahony said his only role as a dissertation committee member was to evaluate the quality of Deasy's 151-page dissertation, but that as an administrator, he would not allow a faculty member to supervise a doctoral student with whom he had a business relationship.

Fishman, the Center for Academic Integrity director, said that at the least, the relationship should have been disclosed. "This kind of situation might suggest impropriety even if none existed, so the greater degree of transparency, the more likely it would be that things could be kept and seen as above board," she said.

Deasy's dissertation — "An analysis of leadership: investigating superintendent leadership in context within a standards-based, non-optional reform initiative" — was based on interviews with four superintendents in Rhode Island, where he headed a small district from 1996 to 2001.

Deasy dedicated his dissertation paper to Felner, thanking him for his "guidance and encouragement" and adding that "his help goes beyond this work and to the real work of leadership in our public schools."

The contract

The year after Deasy was hired to run the 16-school Santa Monica-Malibu district in 2001, he recommended that his board hire Felner's Rhode Island center to survey administrators, assistant administrators, staff, students and parents to provide schools with data on whether the district's goals were being implemented.

As originally proposed, the contract would have paid a total of $125,000, but it was revised to pay that amount per year for a minimum of three consecutive years, according to records obtained under the California Public Records Act.

The center, which Felner headed until 2006, did most of its surveys in Rhode Island schools, although its Web site says it has worked with schools in more than 20 states.

Deasy, a nationally recognized school-reform advocate, won the Prince Georges County job in 2006 over two candidates with more experience in large, urban districts.

And now..a moment of hubris

The Washington Post said in a story published then that Deasy presented himself as a leader free of ethical taint."Do your LexisNexis," he challenged the Prince Georges County board, referring to the database of news stories. "Not going to find a thing."

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