How many teachers or administrators purchased their degrees on-line in your district? The below story appeared in the Daily Southtown newspaper.
Dr. Phony Ph.D.
By Kati Phillips
Special ed director had fake degrees
The director of one of the state's worst elementary school special education programs purchased her Ph.D. for about $250 from an Internet diploma mill specializing in metaphysical theology.
This is one of three apparently fake credentials on Judith Blakely's resume, the Daily Southtown has learned.
Blakely, who earns $75,000 a year as director of student services at Calumet Park School District 132, claims to be a 2000 graduate of the business ethics doctorate program at the American College of Metaphysical Theology, according to a copy of her resume obtained by the Southtown.
The suburban Minneapolis, Minn., outfit advertises a Ph.D. for a fee of $249 on its Web site, up from the $199 deal it offered when Blakely purchased hers.
The school has no campus, awards credit for "life experiences," and boasts most students graduate in 60 days.
Getting a Ph.D., according to the school's Web site, could mean increased salary, enhanced prestige and heightened credibility for recipients.
"Psychologically, the title 'Doctor' and the word 'healing' have a natural affinity in one's mind," it reads.
The Daily Southtown performed a background check on Blakely - turning up this fake degree and other false information - after reviewing state reports that outlined compliance problems within the Calumet Park School District 132 special education program, many of which predated her hire in 2003.
The Illinois State Board of Education is threatening to "nonrecognize" the district and withhold as much as $6.7 million this year and next if the issues are not corrected.
Blakely oversees $500,000 in grant money and the 1,300-student district's special education, bilingual and tutoring programs.
The ISBE has found that grant expenditures were not tracked, teachers were not certified in special education, and speech therapy and social work services were not provided to students.
When reached at the telephone number listed for her education consulting firm Thursday, Blakely declined to comment on the problems with the District 132 special education program on the advice of her lawyer, whom she declined to name.
Attempts to reach American College of Metaphysical Theology to verify Blakely's doctorate were unsuccessful.
A 1-800 number listed on the Web site rang to a woman who said she knew nothing about the college. The college did not respond to an e-mail request for verification.
Calumet Park School District 132 Supt. Doris Hope-Jackson, hired in 2004, was not surprised to hear Blakely had misrepresented her background.
Hope-Jackson said she had recommended the school board send Blakely for additional special education training because of ongoing problems in the program.
"I told (board president) Mr. Connor, I'm concerned. Things she should know, she doesn't know," Jackson said. "He said to let it go."
The phony Ph.D. is not the only fake degree on Blakely's resume, and Blakely did not respond to requests for information about the errors on her resume.
The Daily Southtown provided Blakely's maiden and married names, a partial Social Security number and partial birth date to other institutions she listed on her resume.
Two other degrees appear to be falsified.
Blakely claims she earned a "Master Online Teacher Certification" from the University of Illinois at Chicago, in 2003.
The title puzzled spokesman Bill Burton, who said that program did not exist. He checked variations of the title with university officials.
The university does not offer a master teaching certificate online nor does it offer a degree in online teaching, he said. And there was no record of a Judith Blakely Riggins attending the school in 2003 either, he said.
In addition, Blakely's resume lists two doctors of education degrees from Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. - one in higher education in 1998 and one in school leadership in 1993.
But spokesman Gariot Louima said Blakely received just one doctor of education degree in education leadership and that was in 1995.
Some educational experience listed on Blakely's resume checks out.
She did receive a master's degree from Governors State University in 2002. A spokesman for the Illinois State Board of Education confirmed Blakely holds elementary and early childhood certificates and both superintendent and general administrator endorsements. She also has approvals for learning behavior specialist and building administrator for special education, he said.
A Chicago State University spokeswoman did not return a call last week to confirm Blakely received a master's degree there in 1985 and a bachelor's degree in 1980, as stated on her resume.
Prior to being hired as the director of student services at District 132, she was a well-regarded head teacher at Worthridge School, which is part of the Eisenhower Cooperative.
She is an adjunct professor at City Colleges of Chicago and DeVry University and is the executive director of the Best Practices in Education Consulting Firm in Homewood.
BPE LLC was approved in 2003 by the state to provide continuing education and professional development units to teachers, a state spokesman said.
On Supt. Hope-Jackson's recommendation, the District 132 school board on a recent 4 to 3 vote did not renew Blakely's contract for next year.
Blakely has not returned to work at the district since the state issued an 11-page non-compliance report in March. She has missed more than 90 days of work due to vacation and illness.
To view the rest of the story go in the Daily Southtown click here.