Newton, MA, student paper exposes former Superintendent of CCSD for borrowing parts of speech
Tuesday, August 4, 2014
by Christine Yeres
In a special July 23 edition of their student newspaper, two Newton South high school students broke a story that their schools superintendent, David Fleishman, had delivered a graduation speech on June 9 that was “marred with unoriginality.” In his four-minute speech to graduates, Fleishman, CCSD superintendent until July 2010, had borrowed repeatedly from Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick’s 11-minute speech the month before at Boston University’s commencement.
Class of 2014 graduates Jordan Cohen-Kaplan, who happened to hear the Boston U speech, and Kylie Walters, identified in their byline as “Business and Production Manager, Editor-in-Chief of Volume 30,” published their story, according to Newton’s “Wicked Local,” three weeks after pointing out the similarities in the two speeches to Fleishman, who at first told them he had heard Gov. Patrick’s speech on the radio.
In their article, “Roar questions originality of Superintendent Fleishman’s commencement speech,” Cohen-Kaplan and Walters noted that the school’s English department head judged that “if school policy on cheating and plagiarism were applied to the scenario, the Superintendent would have received a zero for his work.”
“We feel this is a test,” wrote Cohen-Kaplan and Walters. “Albeit sooner than we expected, this is the first test of our diplomas. If after 13 years in the Newton Public Schools we do not have the integrity to speak up about what we believe to be wrong, we will have failed.”
“And so we present the quotations to the public,” Cohen-Kaplan and Walters explained in their piece, “because we believe, regardless of how grateful we are to the Newton Public Schools,that it is the right thing to do.”
Fleishman, whose salary as head of the district’s 11,000-student schools is $250,000, was fined $5,000 by Newton’s school board. According to a July 24 story in the Boston Globe, Fleishman “declined to say whether the similarities between the passages constituted plagiarism, but acknowledged his responsibility for the episode, and said he accepted the School Committee’s punishment.”
The matching parts of the speeches, from “Roar questions originality of Superintendent’s commencement speech,” The Lion’s Roar, July 23, 2014:
Patrick: “However, given the level of personal engagement that good citizenship demands, I have been wondering whether this kind of citizenship is in jeopardy.”
Fleishman: “However, I worry that this level of face-to-face conversation, which is necessary for good citizenship, is in jeopardy.”
Patrick: “Modern society is awash in information and grappling with how to make the most of social media. It is a force in casual communication, in business marketing, in celebrity. It transformed politics…”
Fleishman: Modern society is overflowing with information and this will only magnify as social media evolves. It is significant in casual communication, entertainment, business, and politics.
Patrick: “Social media, as we have seen, can start a revolution. But can it bring peace?”
Fleishman: “We saw social media lead to revolutions in the Middle East, but did it bring peace?”
Patrick: “Real human connection, the nuance of empathy and understanding, is often more gradual and elongated than Twitter.”
Fleishman: “Lastly, personal connection, the nuance of empathy and understanding, is often more incremental and complex than Twitter.”
Patrick: “Sometime today, put your tablet or smartphone aside, look your Mom and Dad in the eye and tell them you love them.”
Fleishman: “One way to begin tonight is to briefly put down your phone and personally thank the many people who have supported you along the way.”
David Fleishman 2014 Commencement Speech at Newton South (four minutes in length, from 1 hour 38 minutes to 1 hour 42 minutes):
Deval Patrick 2014 Commencement Speech at Boston U (11 minutes):
Related: Superintendent David Fleishman, finalist for top job at Newton, MA schools, NCNOW.org, 2/19/10