The D.C. school system and the University of Massachussetts are forgining ahead with plans for a controversial 20-week master's degree program for D.C. teachers despite the school board's decision to end the program if school administrators cannot adequately explain how the program will be financed and the degrees awarded.
The hastily devised program, officially known as the Professional Development Institute, was started by Rhody McCoy, a special assistant to acting Superintendent James T. Guines, an was billed as a program for teachers "who wish to become principals and assistant principals." It was to be financed by $60,000 that had accrued over the last few years in a school system "food services" fund, Guines said.
Some school board members complained that school officials decided to finance the teacher program at a time when budget constraints had forced the board to lay off or cut the salaries of hundreds of teachers. It was later revealed that the University of Massachusetts, which had agreed to offer two graduate courses for the teachers through the institute and is negotiating with McCoy to establish a full masterhs degree program here, is not licensed to offer any courses in the District of Columbia.
The school board said Wednesday night it would end the program if the questons about the program are not resolved by April 27.
Classes supposedly leading to a master's degree have been conducted for the last few weeks at Logan Elementary School on Capitol Hill, even though the university is not yet licensed here and there is no formal agreement between the school system and Massachussetts to grant the degree.
Board members have complained over the last month that McCoy, who earned his doctorate at Massachusetts, had enrolled the teachers and started the program when it was not yet clear precisely what degrees would be offered and what would be required of the teachers to earn them.
Robert Maloy, the university's director of continuing education, said yesterday that Massachusetts would apply for a license to offer graduate credit courses in D.C. when the final details of the school system's degree program are worked out. Maloy said the university had merely conducted a preregistration for the teachers for two graduate courses in urban education, but that no tuition has been collected. He said the university plans to charge a $330 tuition fee for each course and that none of the tuition would go the institute itself.
Jerome Sheldon, a physical education teacher enrolled in the institute, said many of the teachers who are participating in the program had unanswered questions similar to those raised by board members about how the degrees are to be awarded. "Nobody should be foolish enough to think that we [teachers] were going to pay money without getting any answers," Sheldon said.
The school board's action on Wednesday night will prevent the teachers credit union from deducting any tuition fees from the teachers' checks and will prevent the school system from spending any of its funds on the program until the board members' concerns are resolved. The school board makes the final decisions on how school funds are spent.