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?
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 [email protected]