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,, 2/19/10


We encourage civil, civic discourse. All comments are reviewed before publication to assure that this standard is met.

Saying in the headline that this dude was caught “borrowing parts of speech,” makes it seem as if he picked up a noun here, a verb there, an adjective over there. No, this bum plagiarized plain and simple. Sanchez in Ossining did the same thing and got away with it. A lesson here to school boards and voters about the applying void in our state’s school administrations.

By bob on 08/05/2014 at 12:16 pm

At least we are rid of him.  It was no secret that he was a terrible superintendent and yet the school board consistently stood behind him.  Sound familiar ?  I really hope that in the next school board election we get better candidates and that we get rid if these yo yos.

By tax payer on 08/05/2014 at 12:20 pm

@tax payer,

You are right. Too many school boards kowtow to the administrations they themselves put in place. Then the administrations feather their own nests, giving stipends to administrators and getting rid of competent teachers, for example. This is par for the course in much of the county, and it hurts the kids and raises taxes to unbearable levels. Hard to get independent and smart candidates though.

By bob on 08/05/2014 at 5:01 pm

Great to see these 2 young men speaking truth to power.  Horace Greeley would have been proud. 

Horace Greeley High School used to have a student newspaper.  What happened to it ?
When did it end and why ?  Could it be that the powers that be who run the high school are worried at what might be covered or uncovered ?

There was a student who spoke up a few years ago.  What ever came of his concerns ?

By What happened to our high school’s paper ? on 08/05/2014 at 9:36 pm

Speaking of plagiarism, copying an entire page of a student newspaper including the formatting (lines between quotes), even with attribution is a perfect example of this blog playing loose with the rules of journalism.

By Horace Greeley on 08/06/2014 at 1:31 am

C’mon Horace,

It’s not plagiarism or a violation of the any rules of journalism to quote with attribution.

By bob on 08/06/2014 at 8:58 am

@ Horace,

Surely you jest.  What a crock.  Another attempt to criticize the editor ?  Not gonna work.

By Puleeze on 08/06/2014 at 11:54 am

Look up the definition of plagiarism. The writer of this article merely showed the actual headline of the student newspaper, which is fair use. There was no intent to deceive or present the work of another person as her own.

David Fleischman and Andrew Selesnick left the HS in much worse condition than they found it. Both got promoted which is just the Peter principle in full effect. It’s good to see Fleischman be held accountable for cheating.

We do need a BOE that stands up to the superintendent. Lyn McKay has also done significant harm to the HS. Pray that Andrew Selesnick doesn’t have eyes for her job.

By Saying it’s a crock is right — Fleischman cheated on 08/07/2014 at 12:35 am

I jest not.  There is not an original piece of work in the article.  If one of the student newspaper writers “wrote” an article that was simply attributing every sentence, every quote, every idea to someone else, at best they would need to be re-educated on how to write or at worst accused of a copyright violation.  From wikipedia: “Copyright infringement occurs when content is used in a way that violates a copyright holder’s exclusive right. Giving credit does not mean the infringement has not occurred, so be careful not to quote so much of a non-free source that you violate the non-free content guideline.”

The editor thinks that attributing an article makes it ok to copy it apparently in disregard to copyright law and to best practices and good journalism.  Your attempt to defend that is “not gonna work”

By Horace Greeley on 08/07/2014 at 9:12 am

@tax payer,

I’m not sure at all what you mean when you say ‘sound familiar’.  Is yours some form of commentary on the current school administration or the board?  Why would you refer to either as yo yo’s?  You say this in a way that makes it seem like it should be obvious to the reader, but nothing could be further from the truth.  FYI, there are some that think that both are doing a very good job and that we are very fortunate.

By I Don’t Understand on 08/07/2014 at 2:17 pm

Not only is “tax payer” perfectly clear, he/she is also absolutely right.

By bob on 08/08/2014 at 7:27 am

I Don’t Understand,

You sure don’t.  Yes, a resounding no on both the school administration and the school board.  The top heavy administration padded and ruled by Lyn McKay with her sweet placid voice and iron fist does not serve the community. She was a poor choice.

I realize that the school board lives in their own self created bubble and that is why they think they are doing a fine job,  try listening to the last school board meeting where they
pat each other on the back and laugh about how they came through this last year.
It was a prime example of circling the wagons to protect their own.

Are you familiar with their letter of support for Jay Shapiro’s wife Jill Shapiro for town administrator and how they bad mouthed town tax paying resident Robin Murphy for speaking truth to power.  It was disgraceful for the school board to stand behind and condone what Jeffrey Mester wrote. Period.

FYI, many parents and students are not the happy campers you think they are. And when their children are graduated they say, no thanks and good riddance to the Chappaqua School System.  That is the towns dirty little secret.

By tax payer on 08/08/2014 at 9:15 am

@Saying its a crock: Look up the definition of copyright infringement and look at the article.  It was not merely a remention of the headline.  It copied, literally copied, everything including the formatting after writing “The matching parts of the speech are…”  Maybe you think it is okay to reprint an article from the NYTimes as long as you say where it is from, but you are the exception. I would be both embarrassed and legally uncomfortable putting my byline on this article.

On one point we do agree.  Fleishman is guilty of plagiarism.

By Horace Greeley on 08/08/2014 at 10:44 am

@tax payer,
Bloated administration is right, including one or two PR people! And look at the the phony “study” of the need for 2 middle schools. We need 2 middle schools only so we can have 2 sets of administrators. The school board, the administration, and many of the parents who reside in that bubble have failed to notice the deteriorating reputation of the CCSD. Parents and voters need to wake up.
I disagree with you about the campaign against Jill Shapiro. That was a shameful attempt at pay-back orchestrated by the New Castle Democrats, who duped some residents.

By bob on 08/08/2014 at 1:15 pm


Are you a 1st amendment lawyer? No. I didn’t think so. What was done here is fair use.

Fleishman is the plagiarist and should be fired not fined.

By bob on 08/08/2014 at 1:19 pm

I think that you should be embarrassed by your petty vindictiveness.  Do you really believe that this student newspaper would bring charges against the editor ?  I think that they would be happy to have this news spread and consider it fair use.
You are no Horace Greeley.  That is for sure.

By Puleeze on 08/08/2014 at 2:58 pm


Sometimes we agree sometimes we do not.  My contention is that there should have been an open search for the town administrators position.  Jill Shapiro might have been chosen.  This was a deal made by Greenstein and the Shapiro’s .  That was wrong.
The school board had no call to write the letter of support that they did. That was not only wrong but it was unethical.  I do not know why any fair minded person would feel otherwise.

Sometimes I get the sense that your dislike of the Democrats gets in the way of your good sense.

By tax payer on 08/08/2014 at 4:36 pm

Hey “Horace,”

So misappropriating someone’s identity is just fine with you??

Not only are these attacks on the editor tiresome, but they distract from the real news here. Kudos to these Newton South graduates for their courage in publishing the story and documenting their charges in such a thorough way. And thank you, Christine, for bringing it to us.

I would hope that our School Board’s response to such a blatant case of plagiarism would be more than a week’s pay. What kind of message does this send to students?







By What’s the message here? on 08/08/2014 at 5:12 pm

@bob Fair use does not apply in this case.  There are several reasons. One, this is a for profit publication.  Even if it does not make a profit, using someone else’s work for your financial gain is not fair use, it is copyright infringement. See LA TImes v FreeRepublic. Two, whether or not the copied work was previously published is crucial to the analysis. If it was previously published, the author has the right to control the circumstances of where it is then used.  In this case it was previously published.  Three, the information copied verbatim is not being used for research or educational purposes.  It is being used for commercial purposes.  Four, the amount copied is a substantial part of the article including the formatting. 

Don’t always assume what someone is trained in or does for living.

@Puleeze: Now that your argument is proven incorrect you resort to ad hominem attacks.  Puleeze indeed.

By Horace Greeley on 08/08/2014 at 6:32 pm


No matter what you do for a living, your arguments are specious, and you have absolutely no conception at all about what fair use is and how it is applied.

Your goal is to simply change the subject away from the awful hiring practices of the school board and the cheating this administrator did. On that front you are succeeding.

By bob on 08/09/2014 at 8:08 am

@tax payer,

I would only point out that there was no open search for the previous town administrator and nobody said boo. But if you have evidence of a secret deal, you should make it public.

I don’t dislike democrats per se, of course. Democrats are fine people. But when members of a party form a cabal we are in trouble. This town’s one-party rule for so long has done much damage. Conifer being only one of the latest manifestations.

By bob on 08/09/2014 at 8:16 am

How interesting yet sad to think of our well paid professional as too lazy to do their own work. I wonder how many other tasks this individual gave little effort at producing a job well done. This is a measure of the mans work ethic and character. It must have taken a good amount of time to sit and change around the words in the original speech. It must have crossed his mind at some point that he sat in judgement of students who plagiarized work and metered out punishment. He is clearly comfortable with rules that apply to others that don’t apply to him. This is a good example for students to review and discuss in class. Perhaps a segment on professionalism to add to a curriculum is needed.

By Add this to the curriculum. on 08/09/2014 at 8:36 am

” horace”

I repeat, petty vindictiveness.  Your spade is a dirty shovel.

By Puleeze on 08/09/2014 at 1:11 pm

@Horace … If only the actual Horace were around to show you the way.  Your understanding of plagiarism is terribly misguided and, thus, your attack on the Editor is completely unfounded.  She bends over backwards at every turn to give proper attribution for all work done by the Newton students—with her words, quotation marks, and links.  As an academic, this issue is of particular concern to me and I’ll rail against plagiarism whenever the issue rears its ugly head.  However, in this case there’s not a scintilla of evidence supporting your argument.  Further, I’m certain that the students would be thrilled that their expose not only got such play here but that it was presented in the manner it was.

By Reality Check on 08/10/2014 at 11:01 am


Your response confirms my suspicion.

All positions should be filled after an open search.  As always you blame the Dems but not the Repubs. 

Jill’s contract is proof enough of the back room deal. 

By tax payer on 08/10/2014 at 9:01 pm

@tax payer,
Where were you all those years when there was no open search? Hiding? There is nothing amiss with Shapiro’s contract. If you have evidence, bring charges.
Republicans?  There are none serving.

By bob on 08/10/2014 at 9:18 pm

bob’s scruples match greenies……transparency when convenient .

By bobaloo on 08/11/2014 at 8:13 pm

It appears that this superintendent was not required to admit to having plagiarized the CT governor’s speech. His “crime” was not an absent-minded copying of a single motif that he may have heard on the radio while driving. In lieu of a perp walk, full allocution was in order.  This smacks of companies that are allowed to pay fines with no admission of wrong doing.

Although teenagers should not necessarily be held accountable for their transgressions in the exact same way as adults, what will Newton teachers tell a student and his/her parents when they offer to simply pay a fine for having submitted another person’s work as their own? Or claim, like the 2007 New England Patriot’s head coach Bill Belachick, that they “misinterpreted the rules”?

By HS teacher on 08/12/2014 at 4:34 am

Ah, the eyes and ears of the Town Democrat committee are back at work, hilariously claiming knowledge of scruples!

By bob on 08/12/2014 at 7:11 am

There goes bob again with his well documented paranoia !!

By there he goes again !! on 08/12/2014 at 11:39 am

Well-founded paranoia, you mean. Watch the board meeting tonight after the public hearing and see how the taxpayers were bilked by the previous administration. Or read the agenda packet in which you will find what is well documented.

By bob on 08/12/2014 at 5:00 pm

My take is not your take but then I am not paranoid about the New Castle Democrats nor do I have a vendetta against them.  After reading what you suggested I see more evidence of your malady and with that I leave you to your unending griping.

By there he goes again !! on 08/13/2014 at 1:33 pm

Avoiding any substance and failing to face up to the dishonesty only proves my point.

By bob on 08/13/2014 at 9:00 pm

bob….. you have no point except your own biased point.

By biased bob on 08/15/2014 at 10:23 am

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