Our Untrustworthy Public Schools, Part I: The Administrator

wolf_in_sheeps_clothing

How could this happen in a trustworthy institution?

It couldn’t.

The Washington Post reported this week that Robin Anthony Toogood II resigned as  principal of Jennie Dean Elementary School, a job he had held since 2009. He also surrendered his Virginia teaching and administrative license. Toogood, who had worked as a teacher and administrator in Washington D.C. area public schools since 2000, had not only falsely claimed to have  a doctorate in education, he also never received an undergraduate bachelor’s degree.

Manassas City officials never checked Toogood’s credentails when he was hired as principal five years ago. The fake degrees were only discovered because he applied to be an elementary school principal in neighboring Prince William County, where to his evident surprise, a proper background check followed. It revealed Toogood’s resume to be Toogood to be true.* He had falsified transcripts from the University of Maryland Baltimore County, Trinity Washington University in the District and Regent University in Virginia. The County alerted Manassas schools, which confronted Toogood. He did not deny the findings and resigned.

He is also apparently a pastor. Manassas City discovered that Toogood also claimed to have earned a doctorate from Andover Theological Seminary and had not.

The Post reports that Toogood had previously been a teacher in D.C. public schools and held administrative positions at several D.C. public charter schools. D.C. public school officials confirmed to the Post that Toogood had taught there from 2000 to 2005, after which he was an administrator at Friendship Collegiate Academy from 2006 to 2007 , and principal of the Center City charter school from 2008 to 2009.  The D.C. Public Charter School Board’s spokesperson told the Post “that the schools conduct their own background checks with board guidance.”

Nice job, guys.

A statement from the Manassas school system said administrators will be taking action to improve its hiring process:

“As a result of this incident, the MCPS human resource department will no longer rely solely on the Virginia Department of Education to validate transcripts for licensing purpose. Additionally, MCPS . . . has begun the process of verifying the transcripts of all licensed employees who have provided transcripts as part of their employment process.”

Let’s see: the District of Columbia public schools, multiple charter schools, Manassas public schools, and the Virginia Department of Education all failed their due diligence obligations to make certain that a con artist and fraud wasn’t overseeing the education of thousands of local children. We have to ask…

  • How many other teachers and administrators do you think have slipped by? 
  • Do you think it is likely that the Northern Virginia, and D.C. area schools are uniquely sloppy about checking educator credentials?
  • How many other fake educators are contributing to the education system’s dysfunction around the country?
  • Do you think fake educators bother to check the credentials of other fake educators, or dare to install procedures capable of unmasking their own deception?

There is also scant reason to believe that these schools, or others, are capable of learning from experience (and think about the implications of that). In 2009, the Manassas school system hired Kevin Ricks, a serial child molester, despite his having committed a crime shortly before arriving in the city. He had previously taught and tutored students in Virgina and Maryland; nobody had checked him out sufficiently to find his long record of sexually abusing children. Ricks was arrested in 2010 in the hallway of Osbourn High School in Manassas and charged with taking indecent liberties with a former student. He is in prison, but that frightening  incident was still not enough to inspire the school to make sure it wasn’t placing their students in the hands of criminals.

I know I’ve asked this question before, but how can a field that conducts itself this way continue to pose as a profession?

* How could I resist?

_______________________

Sources: Washington Post, Pimp Preacher

 

 

 

 

27 thoughts on “Our Untrustworthy Public Schools, Part I: The Administrator

  1. Before diving too deeply into this, the first thing that occurs to me:

    Acknowledging that his conduct was dishonest and fraudulent, let me ask:

    Was he an effective administrator? Did he run things well?

    If so, perhaps the education cartel could recognize that it is over credentialed and that it doesn’t need quite the expensive and extensive preparation it has made itself out to need…

      • Perhaps I should rephrase my complaint. Certainly there should be credentialing to prove no frauds have the position. Maybe it is the manner in which we earn credentials in this case. Perhaps if Toogood had been well suited to the job but his resume didn’t match the assumed requirements, then the assumed requirements, not only may weed out perfectly good candidates, but may also fail to weed out actual colossal fools.

  2. I was somewhat involved in a similar case. A person was fired because they refused to do their job in a safe manner. During the termination process, it was discovered that they had faked part of their credentials (they weren’t required, but they were part of the reason they were hired over the other candidates). The reason it wasn’t discovered was that they had convinced their references to lie about that for them, references who were known and trusted by the interview committee. After being fired, they immediately started a business that required a state professional license to operate (one that I strongly suspect they didn’t have). That closed suddenly after a few months and this person then got a job working for a local school district as a teacher (despite any teaching credentials). It was only after they were interviewed for the regional TV news did the truth come out. This person was chosen as a subject of the interview because of their wildly unorthodox and unconventional teaching techniques (because they had no real idea how to teach).

    Why was this person able to bounce from job to job although lacking in qualifications? This person was very likable. They were good looking. Many people have only a minimal competency anymore, so any decently intelligent person can reach the ‘acceptable’ level at many different professions. If you can convince well-known and respected references to lie for you, employers tend not to scrutinize anything else. Narcissists are very good at controlling and manipulating people, its what they do. Is it any surprise when you find out they have controlled and manipulated people?

    Skeptical, questioning people (aka ‘troublemakers’, ‘whistlblowers’, etc) are not normally looked upon favorably in organizations, so such people don’t get placed in positions of authority. They aren’t put in charge of search committees.

    • “Skeptical, questioning people (aka ‘troublemakers’, ‘whistlblowers’, etc) are not normally looked upon favorably in organizations, so such people don’t get placed in positions of authority. They aren’t put in charge of search committees.”

      An excellent point. My husband was involved in a situation over 30 years ago at an army hospital. A civilian doctor was charming and everyone thought it was great to have him. Except my husband who worked his way up the chain of command complaining about his lack of skills and unsafe procedures. He was continually met with, oh you’re just a nurse, he’s a _doctor_. Unfortunately it took a catastrophic event to bring out that the man wasn’t actually a doctor. He had never produced his formal documentation, just copies. The faux doc ended up in prison and all the formal complaints my husband filed magically disappeared and he was evaluated as “not a true team member.”

    • And the average psychopath is average to above average in intelligence, charming and socially adept. In short, someone you’d love to have for a friend…until he stole all your money, raped your daughter and ruined your credit.

  3. The most disturbing aspect of this all is the relative ease by which child predators can slip into the school systems. Schools are a Happy Hunting Ground for perverts. They will apply their lunatic cunning to the fullest when they sense such an opportunity. They also know that, in many cases, they will not be prosecuted if caught in “irregularities”, but will be quietly transferred elsewhere or released with good references to impose themselves in another school system- just so the schools can avoid bad publicity. They have everything to gain and little to lose. Only the children lose. And they lose BIG.

  4. These cases and criticism are valid and indicate real issues that have just as long or longer repercussions as the furor over policing. But I’m also afraid the take away is becoming to abandon public schooling, which I very much disagree with. If you’re upset about an undegreed teacher doing a poor job, what about a parent who’s home schooling who doesn’t have to have a HS degree? All the love in the world can’t provide different viewpoints and breadth of knowledge. Private schools just plain cost too much for too many families and often have their own agendas on technology and politics. Close down public schools like I hear people say and that says that ?third?half not getting even slapdash education is okay for the country. If having no degree is unacceptable for a school employee, why is it fine for others? (note i’m not condoning the liars, I’m saying that all teachers should have some kind of training/certification of some kind, It should be consistent for all students)

    Maybe this slwodown could be a blessing in disguise. Many are looking for work and there is greater competition for jobs. Set those standards higher for hiring and experience, checking references is required. Make the penalties for lying in application/resume bigger. Resume padding and lies are too often encouraged by agencies so much that it’s not a level competition. So much that this dope probably convinced himself this was the only way to get a good job, because ‘everybody does it.’ One office I worked in, the hiring manager cooked the resume of a friend and coached her, but she was technically illiterate for the position. The people who can do the checking MUST do it, or they are as guilty. Bounce the frauds out, there’s a lot of people who are credentialed or could be in the process, but honestly so. Reward the honest, not the frauds, even if a famous person.

    • If public schooling cannot be performed well and competently, how does it make sense not to abandon it? This is, essentially, why teachers don’t improve and the schools can’t be held accountable. Their attitude is “you’re stuck with us.” If schools become state organs of indoctrination in ideologies, if the children are abused, if predators lurk in too many corners, aren’t you stating your loyalty to a idealized model that don’t exist any more? How is that reasonable?

      There is little question in my mind that my son would be better off today had we been able to trust the public schools, but we could not. He thrived in a private school…that nearly broke us after two years. We took the only responsible alternative left—home schooling. He’ll be OK. I wish he could have enjoyed, as I did, a traditional, public school experience. But increasingly, that experience doesn’t exist.

      • But Jack! Aha! The answer, of course, is that public schools fail because there isn’t enough central oversight! If only it were under national control instead of decentralized control!

        We just haven’t tried enough government yet!

        • That and funding. We can’t possibly expect our schools to succeed with such poor funding! With 2011 averaging $12,000 per student per year, that’s… wow. that’s actually a lot of money, just from the states alone. Ok, new plan. Abolish the public schools, and give the parents 12,000 per year to educate their kids.

            • And as he stated “average” that probably means the average spent in D.C. is MUCH higher than $12,000, implying that if handed back to the parents, D.C. parents would have available MUCH more than $12,000 per kid to spend on tutors.

              Tutors, by the way, who we would assume would be motivated by the free market to the BEST possible teachers out there… market forces alone would increase the outcome/$ ratio far in excess of what the public option produces now.

        • Tex, I support public schools even though I pay for private school. It is NOT about central oversight. It is about funding. If I could make decent $ as a teacher, I would be one. We are paying shitty salaries to the people who have the most important occupations in our country. Pay them decent wages and you will get better teachers.

          • Teachers actually do make decent pay in some areas areas. Not great, but generally on the upper half of incomes in their local area. For instance, in Billings montana a starting salary for 9 months work is 36k, which is well above the median non-family income of 24k. Working in a school district, most teachers don’t actually spend much time outside those 9 months on work, and when they do they receive additional pay for it. The max pay is 71k per year.

      • Parents do not have the money for private school or the ability to homeschool. I’m not sure that those who say they don’t have the ability to homeschool have looked at all the options but I’m really not an expert in that area so I don’t know what is out there. I really don’t see how a parent can keep sending a kid to any school however once a parent finds out that the school environment due to teachers, administration, other students or whatever the case may be is having a damaging psychological effect on the student. Then again, I don’t understand a lot of things parents do to their kids.

  5. There was a case here in New Zealand in 2002 where a John Davy was sentenced to 8 months in prison for fraud for lying on his resume. Maybe more prison sentences for this type of fraud would help dissuade the disreputable from such actions.

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