Dr. Bair – to some degree
Bridges High School principal Lyn Bair has wanted a Ph.D. since she was 16.She has a bachelor’s degree in art history from Brigham Young University, and a master’s degree, also in art history, from the University of Colorado. And she also has two other degrees – a master’s in psychology and a doctorate in education.But the latter two degrees came from California Coast University, an unaccredited online school based in Santa Ana, Calif., which offers “off-campus accelerated degree programs for mid-career adults.” With all those degrees, Bair still wanted a Ph.D. from an accredited college or university.”Do I wish CCU was accredited? Yes,” Bair said, sitting in her office at Re-1’s Roaring Fork Career Center. “Does my doctorate leave me with a empty taste in my mouth? Yes. You don’t see ‘Dr. Bair’ on a bunch of my stuff. Yes, I have a doctorate from a college, but my goal hasn’t been met.”Education versus professional developmentBair was assistant principal at Carbondale Middle School last year before being named principal at Bridges High School, a districtwide alternative high school with 82 students this year.When Bair took the principal position at Bridges, the press release from the school district, which appeared in the Post Independent, listed all of Bair’s degrees, both from accredited and unaccredited schools without distinguishing the difference between. Bair said she only lists her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from BYU and CU, respectively, under the heading “Education,” and her two CCU degrees under the heading “Professional Development.” Re-1 superintendent Fred Wall said whether Bair received her advanced degrees from an unaccredited or accredited school made no difference in offering her the principal’s job at Bridges or the amount of money Bair makes. Wall said teachers’ salaries are adjusted if they obtain advanced degrees from accredited universities or colleges, but administrators’ salaries aren’t.Wall said he has seen the course work Bair com—pleted at CCU and was impressed. He said he has always appreciated Bair’s passion for education. Why an unaccredited school?Bair said she was teaching at Basalt High School and at Colorado Mountain College when fellow teacher Roger Duroux and Re-1 administrator Judy Haptonstall encouraged her to move beyond the classroom into possibly guidance counseling or school administration.”I was so impressed with the highly intellectual discussions Lyn was having with high school kids,” Haptonstall said. “It was clear she set high standards for herself and for her students, which prompted me to tell her I wished she could share that with more people, perhaps on an administrative level.”So, in 1996, Bair started looking at ways to fill in the gaps in her education. She attended workshops and conferences and started looking into graduate schools. Bair commuted from Basalt to Boulder when she got her master’s degree at C.U., and knew she didn’t want to do that again.”At that time, I had two small kids, and a spouse,” she said. ” I had other family commitments, so I needed to find a different way.” Bair looked into the University of Phoenix, one of the more well-known accredited online university programs, but decided against it, since students need to travel to the Arizona campus periodically. Bair said she visited C.C.U. in Santa Ana to check out the operations. She said it was an attractive alternative since Bair said she could complete her degrees online, at a third of the cost of the University of Phoenix. “They have an office,” she said. “They don’t have a campus, but they do have their own building.” While Bair worked on her two degrees, she was required to complete course work and correspond with professors working within C.C.U.’s system. She also authored a 170-page dissertation titled “Toward the Development of an Effective Secondary School Model Focused on Student Achievement” for “partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of doctor of education.” “She learned a lot,” said Haptonstall, “but the state of Colorado doesn’t recognize degrees from non-accredited schools.”What’s the difference?C.C.U. clearly isn’t a diploma mill – that is, a business that sells personalized bogus diplomas and transcripts without the buyer completing any course work at all. But by not being accredited, Bair said it’s difficult for an online school like C.C.U. to check the quality of the programs it offers. C.C.U faces difficulty improving programs since there are no benchmarks in place that are consistent with other colleges and universities.In contrast, when a higher education institution is accredited, teachers are constantly being trained, student data is reviewed and faculty is always in the process of setting goals. Without accreditation, none of that is required.Bair said she’s dubious about recommending others getting degrees from C.C.U., or from other unaccredited colleges and universities.”For me, I got a quality education because of the effort I put into it,” she said. “I’m passionate about learning. Getting those degrees helped me be a better person, and helped me know myself more than before I went in. I’m better able to connect with kids, and I’m able to answer some questions I couldn’t answer before. But I don’t know if I would recommend it.” Contact Carrie Click: 945-8515, ext. firstname.lastname@example.org
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