Pioneer Perspicacity(I was looking for P words--and I had to look perspicacity up, but it's a good choice because essentially it means you are sharing your perspective!)
It turns out that nowadays, when I go out on a Saturday night, people come up to me and ask me about the latest school news--news which, in fact, I hadn't even heard. . . what happens to you when you go out on a Saturday night?
Friday afternoon, Pioneer parents got a short letter from the school district:
Dear Pioneer Families,I have notified the Pioneer community today that Ms. Cindy Leaman has agreed to serve as Principal of Ann Arbor's A2 Virtual+ Academy beginning.
Ms. Tamber Woodworth will serve as Principal for the remainder of the school year. Ms. Woodworth has agreed to return to Pioneer where she served previously as both a class principal and principal prior to her retirement.
I know we will all work together to support our students at Pioneer.Thank you,Jeanice SwiftSuperintendentI hadn't heard about it because I'm not a Pioneer parent.
But of course I was interested!
1. You might recall that filling the position of Pioneer principal was the subject of much controversy last fall, when Pat Green didn't fill the position for quite a while, and wouldn't talk about when she would fill it either. Not only did the interim principal have a long-term sub filling his classes, but the cloak of secrecy made parents mad, especially regarding the timing of filling the position. A little bit of communication regarding timing would have gone a long way! In any case, 51 weeks ago (just under a year) Cindy Leaman was moved from Clague Middle School to fill the Pioneer position.
2. Since it's been just under a year, of course there speculation about this latest move. Talking to Pioneer students and parents, their opinion of Cindy Leaman has ranged from "she's fine" to "she's fine unless you engage with her in any way" to "she's like Dolores Umbridge." (I know--harsh, right? Principals get the brunt of people's opinions, and often it's not in a good way.)
3. Tamber Woodworth will be the interim principal. She has served as interim principal in the past at both Pioneer and Ann Arbor Open, and I think she was a permanent principal at Tappan as well. At Ann Arbor Open and at Pioneer, she seemed to not try to make too many changes while she was there as an interim. That worked well at Ann Arbor Open. She is being brought out of retirement for this position! (And I think there are some restrictions in state law on working for the district you retired from, so she's probably a contractor.)
4. I'm not going to speculate about whether, for Cindy Leaman, the move to running the new Virtual Academy is an upgrade or a downgrade. But as far as communication goes, it's my opinion this whole thing was mishandled. First of all, in general I think that principal moves at any of the schools are significant enough that they should be shared--by the district--with the entire listening audience (probably through AAPS News), in addition to the letter home to Pioneer families.
In particular, in this case, the Virtual Academy is a brand new entity for the district, and so I think this position is actually adding a principal position to the district. And people don't understand what the Virtual Academy is. (My understanding is that Michigan law now states that students anywhere can take online courses anywhere in the state, and if the district doesn't offer online classes then students will go elsewhere and take their money with them--but that may be oversimplified.)
My point is--please--
Share information about principals with the entire district.
Share more, rather than less. Educate parents, and they will feel more comfortable, and less panicky, about changes. Who is Tamber Woodworth? Why was Cindy Leaman chosen to run the Virtual Academy (does she, for instance, have a background in technology)? What is the Virtual Academy?
Past Principal's Possible PlagiarismMeanwhile, last week, on Facebook, I got another piece of news: that Sulura Jackson, the former principal at Skyline, was accused of plagiarism in her new district! [By the way, in the illustration the Indy Week chose to use, there is a picture of Skyline's first graduation, and my daughter is the one on the left.]
At the Indy Week, in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, Billy Ball writes,
What they [teachers] found is startling: Multiple documents obtained by the INDY that show Jackson—before and after her arrival at Chapel Hill High—lifted entire passages and letters from books, online articles and teaching resource guides. She used those passages without citation in staff memos, letters to students and even recommendation letters for colleagues, frequently passing them off as her words.
. . . In some cases, Jackson, who won a Michigan secondary school association's award for top high school principal of 2010–2011, used uncited text pulled from various sources. In others, she seems to use entire letters, such as an online welcoming letter for students posted by an Arizona principal. Sometimes she seems to have attempted to disguise the copied text by changing a single word while retaining the overall form and structure. Other times, entire passages were printed unchanged.
|Sulura Jackson at Skyline graduation. Photo from the|
Ann Arbor Public Schools website.
He wrote me that in the second Skyline newsletter,
When I read the first paragraph of Sulura's letter it was clear to me that she hadn't written it. It took under a minute on Google to find that it was from a tourism press release (I think it was from "pure Michigan" or whatever it was called back in 2008).Here are the first few lines of the paragraph:
When autumn arrives in Michigan, the state slowly explodes into a frenzy of color; the entire state is in its annual blaze of glory. There is no better place to see the dynamic colors of a trillion trees aflame than along Michigan highways, country roads and coastlines.
And here is a similar passage, attributed to Michigan.org, the state's web site:
So as you see, it's not exactly the same--but it's close.
It's when 19 million acres of woods slowly explode in a frenzy of color. It's when an entire state is in its annual blaze of glory. It's when autumn arrives in Michigan. And there's no better place to see the dynamic colors of a trillion trees aflame than along our highways, country roads and coastlines. So let's head out to the forests. And let's prepare to be amazed. On the fall color tours of Pure Michigan.
My question is, "Is this plagiarism?"
My friend said to me, "That's not plagiarism! How many ways can you write a cover letter or a condolence letter? The real issue is probably that the teachers don't like her!" Which could be true--there were certainly plenty of teachers who didn't like her at Skyline.
As for the suggestion that Jackson cite sources: It would be really weird to cite sources in a letter that goes into a school newsletter.
On the other hand--if Jackson got hired in North Carolina based in part on her capacity to communicate in writing, and she didn't actually write the stuff, then there is certainly some misrepresentation there. If a student turned this in, would it be considered plagiarism?
I would have to say, though, that in the Indy Week article, the thing that bothers me the most is the thing that always bothered me when she was Skyline principal. Jackson never was willing to admit to being wrong, even when she changed or modified something because she was wrong. So, too, in the Indy Week article she says,
Reached by the INDY Monday, Jackson acknowledged she will use form letters, books and articles to inform her writings, but she denied any wrongdoing."I'm not under the impression that I can't use that," Jackson said. "This is not anything that I'm selling. This is not anything that I'm using for personal gain."
So what do you think? Is it plagiarism?
Consider subscribing to Ann Arbor Schools Musings by Email!