SDUSD: No ‘Viable Evidence' Former Serra High Principal Earned PhD

Vincent Mays said he earned his PhD from Stamford Hill University, a school the district’s investigation could not confirm existed as a legitimate institution

There is no "viable evidence" that former Serra High Principal, Vincent Mays, earned a legitimate PhD as he claimed, according to a report from the San Diego Unified School District released Friday.

According to the report from the district’s Quality Assurance Office, “the investigation did not find viable evidence that Mr. Mays earned a legitimate PhD degree as he alleges. While Mr. Mays argued that he has not benefited financially from having a PhD, based on testimony from Mr. (Ralph) Uebel, the degree gave him an advantage over other applicants who did not this credential.”

Ralph Uebel is one of three teachers who first questioned the legitimacy of Mays’ PhD. He and two other Serra High teachers filed a complaint with the district in May. The three were also interviewed as part of the district's investigation.

According to Mays’ resume found online, he claims his Ph.D. is in Administration and Supervision from Stamford Hill University.

NBC 7 Investigates first reported on this story in May. The story found a website for Stamford Hill University that said the school was based in Florida. The Florida Department of Education said that university is not licensed and never has been. A search of the state’s business licensing website found no records, past or present. A search of the U.S. Department of Education website also found no records.

Online there were claims that Stamford Hill University could be based in the United Kingdom. A spokesperson from the U.K’s Higher Education Governance told NBC 7 Investigates, a university with the name Stamford Hill has never existed.

The district came to the same conclusion. According to the report from the district, “the investigation did not find conclusive and verifiable evidence that Stamford Hill University in London has existed as an accredited and academically recognized legitimate institution.”

In its conclusion, the report states, Mays may not have benefited financially from claiming to have the PhD but “based on the testimony from Mr. Uebel, the degree gave him an advantage over other applicants who did not have this credential.”

NBC 7 Investigates reached out to Mays via email but has not immediately heard back. Mays has declined to comment on previous stories reported.

Mays last day as principal at Serra High was Friday. He is moving to a new position at the district’s central office as a "principal on special assignment." He will be focusing on equity with the San Diego district, according to Jennifer Rodriguez, a spokeswoman for SDUSD. 

Neither Rodriguez nor Mays would say whether the new position was a result of the report's findings. Mays was earning a salary of $143,612 as a principal and will make the same in his new position.

“The district often shifts principals to other assignments in order to utilize his/her unique set of skills and expertise in particular areas,” Rodriguez said in an email. “This is the case with Vincent Mays. Many have held the title of principal and principal on assignment. No principal on assignment has worked specifically on areas of equity.”

The district interviewed Mays as part of the investigation. In the report, the investigator notes, at the beginning of the interview “Mr. Mays started sweating profusely and asked if I had any water. When I told him that I did not, he became upset, stood up and stated in an angry tone, ‘This is ridiculous, I can’t believe you don’t have any water…”

During the interview, according to the report, Mays said he learned about Stamford from a brochure he received from a friend. He said the school was a “correspondence school in London,” and that the entire program was completed through mailed correspondence.

“Every quarter they sent me the assignments by mail,” Mays told the district's investigator. “I completed them and send them back by mail. They sent me my grades at the end of each quarter and after 4 years they conferred me with a degree.”

According to the report, he said he did not receive any feedback from the professors and used a P.O. Box for the address. He did not have the exact address or any specific names of contacts he would communicate with because, “it was 16 years ago.”

During the interview Mays said he did not have any record of his work, did not complete a dissertation, but did complete a research paper. When asked if he had a copy of his research, he said, “No, I don’t. Do you keep records from 16 years ago?”

According to the report, during the interview Mays said he used money orders to pay for the school and it cost him “less than $10,000.” He said he paid the money orders to “the school, not a person,” and does not have any information or record from Stamford because he “was going through a personal issues that I don’t wish to talk about, you are lucky that I have a copy of my diploma and transcripts.”

In the interview Mays said he made copies of his diploma and transcripts and “attached the original diploma to a wooden plaque and put lacquer over it” to protect it. “The plaque was damaged by the sun,” he said.

According to the report, a transcript embossed with Stamford Hill’s seal was produced to investigators during the interview.

“Of note,” the investigator comments in the report, “the writing on the seal is not distinguishable.” Later in the report, the investigator notes, “The transcript does not bear a validating seal or authenticating stamp typically found in legitimate transcripts...The diploma produced by Mr. Mays appears to have been altered.”

Click here to read the complete report, including transcript of the interview with Mays.

Mays Bachelor of Arts degree from Seton Hall and Masters of Arts degree from Montclair State University were confirmed by the institutions, according to the report.

The report was forwarded to the executive director of the district’s Human Resources Division on June 20. According to Rodriguez, the district is not taking any further action at this time and the “matter has been closed.”

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