District 15 board to address second plagiarism allegation

What happens to a school board member when she shares a famous story about a starfish-saving boy, but does not say who originally penned the story?

District 15 School Board Chairperson Amy Kelly is accused of plagiarism because of this September 2011 Courier column. Column courtesy of The Courier.

District 15 School Board Chairperson Amy Kelly is accused of plagiarism because of this September 2011 Courier column. Column courtesy of The Courier.

In September 2011, St. Francis School Chairperson Amy Kelly, who was voted in as the school board chairperson Jan. 13 and was the chairperson in 2011, wrote a column for the school district’s monthly newsletter, The Courier, that included “The Starfish Story.”

But Kelly did not say who wrote the story, which according to a web search is Loren Eiseley.

“I was surprised when I got the call” that Board Clerk Suzanne Erkel was calling a special board meeting Jan. 10 to discuss that I had committed plagiarism, said Kelly.

“I don’t believe using a famous story, like ‘The Starfish,’ is plagiarism,” she said.

The special meeting was canceled by Human Resources Director David Lindberg as all board members were not given written notification of the meeting and the reason as set by school board policy.

School board members would have had to have received the written notice by Jan. 7, but not all of them had received the notice, Lindberg said.

Using a plagiarism checking website, it was determined that Kelly’s column was 67 percent plagiarized, according to Boardmember Marsha Van Denburgh.

And Kelly’s plagiarism should be treated the same as former Boardmember Matt Rustad, she said.

Rustad was voted off the school board Dec. 10, 2012 after submitting a September 2012 Courier column that was a nearly an exact copy of a blog entry published by Vernon Smith, technology director of Socorro Consolidated School in New Mexico, in 2010 on the Iste Community Ning website.

Rustad was also removed for the lies he told after the plagiarism was caught, said Lindberg.

“I don’t know how many times I have heard ‘The Starfish Story’ as an analogy,” said Boardmember David Anderson.

It is like sharing a parable or an ancient Greek myth, he said.

He remembers both the welcome back presentation to the teachers that Kelly mentioned in the 2011 column and the column and in no way does Kelly claim the story was her own, Anderson said.

There is an difference in how it was presented, he said.

The board voted 3-2, with Kelly abstaining and Boardmember Janet Glover and Anderson voting no, to place the issue on the Jan. 28 board agenda for discussion.

Tammy Sakry is at tammy.sakry@ecm-inc.com

  • Bob

    She needs to be removed or this is going to be even more fun with the lawsuits flying…

  • Ryan

    Another great example of why our society is going to hell because self serving people get elected to public service. We’re talking about a school board here and somehow we get to plaigarism and lawsuits. We’re about done as a society.

  • Joe

    She was adamant that Rudstad gave no credit to his article, and now she did the same thing and then denies she did not commit plagiarism. She gave no credit to the original author.

  • Amazed

    Maybe an intelligence and literary test should be administered in St. Francis to weed out those unfamiliar with literature for positions involving education.

  • Angry

    I have gotten to the point where I usually lie about where my kids go to school to avoid the inevitable smirks and wisecracks. Between some of the district mismanagement and tomfoolery over the years, this is sadly just par for the course, a never-ending parade of embarrassment for the district. And it makes me angry that we can’t simply have a better functioning district and school board like some others around us. Is that too much to ask? Thank God the district has good teachers who care about their work, or I would have shipped my kids elsewhere years ago.

    But it shouldn’t have to be like this.

    I should get a bowl of popcorn for some of these board meetings- it’s like watching Days of Our Lives: ISD 15 Edition. How about this- do what you were elected to do, and leave the drama out. You embarrass yourselves and the people of this district with this boorish and petty behavior, and for that you should all be ashamed.

    One thing is for certain: you will all be made to account for this when election time comes again, one way or another. I hope you make the best of it, because until then, the rest of us are stuck with you hoping that you all come to your senses and get back to doing some meaningful work on the people’s behalf.

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