Administrative Assistant, advocates, Atlanta, Board Of Education, c, carlton, Connecticut, falcon, florence, Florence Carlton Review, Florence-carlton, Florence-carlton School District, Fulton County, Fulton County School District, Georgia, hook, john, John C. Mcgee, mcgee, plagiarism, review, Robert Avossa, sandy, school, School Board, School Official, school safety, Special School Board, superintendent, Vickie Cornish, view
The recent events in Connecticut have shaken us all, making us realize just how precious a young life is and how we have a great responsibility to protect it. This tragedy is a parent’s and an educator’s worst nightmare.
While parents have always carefully dropped their children off at school or to the bus stop, they may now hesitate, taking one last moment to hug or kiss their child before they send him or her along the way. School employees are now more alert and aware of unusual people and sounds, and law enforcement officers and first responders are extra watchful in protecting those they serve.
Though national headlines have alarmed us, we should be reminded that school violence of this magnitude is very rare. It’s natural to question school safety in the aftermath of such a terrible tragedy, but the reality is our schools are still one of the safest places a child can be, and it’s because of deliberate efforts made by our school system. It’s easy to lose sight of that as we see and hear the sad stories of young children and teachers who were lost too soon.
The fact is Fulton County Schools works continually to improve its safety measures so that students and staff members are afforded the safest learning environments possible
Florence-Carlton Superintendent McGee Apologizes for Act of Plagiarism
FLORENCE – The superintendent of the Florence-Carlton School District has apologized to the school board after he plagiarized a column written by a Georgia school official and published it as his own in the school’s monthly newsletter.
The January edition of the Falcon View newsletter included a front-page column titled “School Safety a Priority,” with the byline “written by John C. McGee.”
McGee is the Florence-Carlton superintendent.
However, the entire column was actually written by Robert Avossa, superintendent of the Fulton County School District near Atlanta, Ga. His column, an emotional response to the Connecticut school shootings, was published on Dec. 26 in Neighbor Newspapers, a suburban Atlanta media outlet.
In the column, Avossa referred to Fulton County Schools several times. However, in the Falcon View column plagiarized by McGee, Florence-Carlton was substituted for Fulton County. Other than that, and the omission of a reference to the specific number of police officers at Fulton County schools, the article was unchanged and copied word for word.
On Jan. 3, an anonymous blogger posted a link to both articles on a website dedicated to Florence school news called Florence Carlton Advocates for Better Education. The blogger suggested plagiarism on the part of McGee, and the link was shared on a public Facebook page called Florence Carlton Review.
McGee subsequently reported what he had done, and the fact that community members were already aware of it, to the school board. During a special school board meeting, he apologized and was told by the board to write a correction in the February edition of Falcon View and also write a letter of apology to Avossa, which he did.
The correction is on page 2 of the February edition. The special board meeting also included a prescheduled annual evaluation of McGee’s job performance.
School board trustee Vickie Cornish said as far as the board is concerned, the incident has been dealt with.
“We have addressed it,” she said. “He self-reported it. He was given two tasks – to write a correction and to apologize to Mr. Avossa. He has done those two things, and he has apologized to the board. As far as we are concerned, it’s over. He made a poor decision, but he gave us a sufficient explanation for what happened.”
McGee, for his part, said he accepts full blame for what happened.
“I do accept full responsibility,” McGee said. “This has been very embarrassing for me, and I shouldn’t have done it.”
McGee, who works with his administrative assistant to lay out the newsletter every month, said he knew that including his name was wrong before the publication went to print, but he was in a rush to get it sent out in time.
“What happened was there was an article written by a superintendent out of Fulton County, Georgia,” McGee explained. “It was very inspirational … words that could easily apply to our district. We published it without credit being given to that superintendent. My main administrative assistant had taken a vacation to attend a wedding over the Christmas break, and we usually have a deadline to get the newsletters out for the first of the month. People want it because of the hot lunch schedule, and we get calls when it doesn’t come out on time.
“Well, when the printed article came back, I picked up the issue. I saw my name was on the article, but I made the decision at that point to send the article out with my name attached, even though I knew full well it was incorrect and wrong. I felt like we needed to get the newsletter out, and the secretary wouldn’t be back. I didn’t want to have the delays. Needless to say, if I could go back in time I would have made a different choice. It was an unfortunate circumstance.”
McGee said he went to the board to report what had happened after the anonymous blogger published the two articles side by side.
“I realized that was a mistake and that was a problem,” he said. “Based on that, I contacted the board, and I told them that there was this issue that existed, people were aware of it. Administrators were aware of it and it had the potential to erupt into a big story. I wanted to address this concern. After I had spoken with the board chair and a couple of other board members, they decided to go have a special board meeting. At this meeting, my evaluation was also discussed, so I knew they would make it part of my evaluation.”
At the special board meeting, the board moved McGee’s evaluation and explanation of the plagiarism into an executive session, which is closed to the public.
“I subsequently explained what happened,” he said. “I told them changes were made to Mr. Avossa’s article, and appropriate credit was not given. They were not happy. They were disappointed with the choice that I made. They told me, ‘You need to take care of this. Correct the mistake you made. Put in an article correction in the next Falcon View, and send a letter to the other superintendent.’ ”
McGee said that he sent a letter to Avossa introducing himself and saying his letter had been reprinted without giving proper credit to him for his words.
“He has not responded back,” McGee said. “I am glad the board has taken this so seriously. I understand that this is wrong. In no way, shape or form am I trying to make light of the situation. He deserved full credit for it. I am fully aware what I did was wrong. I asked that the board not to take this lightly. I should be held accountable, and nobody else.
“There are people in the community with axes to grind with me personally, but that is a whole other story. I will let the board decide what actions to take. In trying to function efficiently, I made a mistake. I shouldn’t have done it, and obviously now it would have been better to have the newsletter be a few weeks late. I tried to correct it in terms of bringing it to their attention. It was fully my responsibility.”
Copies of the January and February 2013 Falcon View newsletter can be viewed athttp://www.florence.k12.mt.us/domain/30.
Reach reporter David Erickson at 363-3300 or firstname.lastname@example.org.