CHHS Principal Unfamiliar with the Definition of Plagiarism

Ruby Sinreich's picture

I was pretty surprised to read in the Independent that the new principal at Chapel Hill High has been copying large passages of text by other people and passing them off as her own memos, letter, and policies. What really shocked me, though was her indignant response:

"I'm not under the impression that I can't use that," [Sulura] Jackson said. "This is not anything that I'm selling. This is not anything that I'm using for personal gain."  

She is presumably being paid for serving as the pricipal, but she's trying to say that if she's not being graded, it shouldn't matter. Is this what we're teaching high schoolers?

And I was also disappointed, but not terribly surprised, to see this incredible response from the school system's rep:

Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools spokesman Jeff Nash referenced the school's transfers when discussing Jackson's case, blaming the public allegations against the new principal on "disgruntled folks over there who don't like change."

"The bigger problem is that we have teachers who would send these things to a reporter to start trouble," Nash said. "They should rather just talk to staff."

It's hard to imagine an education leader having any credibility after being caught copying whole passages from books and passing them off as policy memos as such. I think this is worse than the Keith Cook debacle.

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Surreal response by Principal Jackson

She has given a non response to the charges in this afternoons Indy:

http://www.indyweek.com/triangulator/archives/2013/11/25/chapel-hill-hig... 

Would a student who plagiarized as she has be able to get away with this tripe? "Oh, of course you had the best of intentions...we'll give you that A, instead of expelling you."

 As you say, it's hard to imagine how she walks away with any credibility after this. Unacceptable!

Is it plagiarism if you have a license?

While I admit that I do not know precisely what the Principal is accused of plagiarizing, I don't think that it is fair to accuse one of plagiarizing content taken from a school administrator's "how to" books or books that provide samples of content that the writer implicitly if not explicitly invites the reader to use.  If one buys a book on how to draft a real estate contract for example and a sample contract is provided, it is not plagiarism to use the contract without any attribution.  I for one would prefer the principal not waste time during the day creating original content when the words are right in the book and the author gives the reader a license to use the material.  This is entirely different from passing off another's original content as one's own in a public speech, term paper (which is graded) or article published in a newspaper.  If I am the CEO of a corporation and I give a presentation at a board meeting or staff meeting, is it plagiarism if I use material from a treatise I read on the topic but don't disclose this to my board members or staff?  Maybe in a hypertechnical sense, but not a moral one. From what I heard on WCHL, the allegedly plagiarized content was set out in internal memoranda.  Facts contrary to my understanding could change my opinion but I think the Principal has been unfairly accused.  I frankly do not understand why teachers would go to the newspapers to raise this issue rather than bring it up with the Chapil Hill Carrboro school adminstration.  Their actions suggest that the teachers have some personal animus against this Principal. 

Ruby Sinreich's picture

Copying intellectual property from other authors

For some reason, the INDY put some of the most important information in a "related article" that didn't go in the print version. If you read this you will see that she well way beyond using boilerplate language for memos. She took other people's intellectual work and represented it as her own. Not only was the content not licensed, it wasn't even cited in any way.

For example:

This first memo on finishing strong, dated November 2012 when Jackson was principal at Skyline High in Ann Arbor, Mich., pulls directly from a book by motivational writer Dan Green. Jackson signs the memo as if they are her words and does not offer any citation.

In this August 2013 memo (PDF below) to Chapel Hill High staff, Jackson talks about something she calls the "100/0 principle," a method of relationship building she explains as taking "full responsibility (the 100) for the relationship, expecting nothing (the 0) in return."

August_26_-_30__2013.pdf

The problem is that the idea belongs to workplace consultant Al Ritter.

- http://www.indyweek.com/triangulator/archives/2013/11/21/whats-next-for-chhs-principal-accused-of-plagiarism