DeKalb board chair: ‘You can’t prohibit a student from plagiarizing and then permit some staff person to do it.’

If DeKalb County Schools paid a consultant $10,000 for a report that seems overly broad and overly academic, the district was irresponsible with taxpayer funds. But if DeKalb keeps an employee on staff who copied other people’s material for that report, then it’s communicating to students that cheating can be overlooked.

Ralph Taylor was hired by DeKalb to produce an analysis of its alternative education program in 2011, then offered a job as an associate superintendent in DeKalb shortly after finishing it, according to the AJC.

Following a tip, AJC reporter Ty Tagami discovered that Taylor copied more than a third of his report from publications accessible via the Internet.

DeKalb school chief Cheryl Atkinson offered an odd rationale to the AJC for retaining Taylor in his $117,461-a-year associate superintendent  job. “The infraction pertains to his work as a consultant, not as an employee,” she said through a spokesman.

Tagami interviewed one of the authors of material lifted by Taylor.

Taylor’s 15-page document — the school district calls it an “audit” — has been posted on the district website for months. It includes six pages with similar — in many passages, identical — prose to that in a report from the Urban Institute in Washington, D.C., and a paper from William Drakeford, an assistant professor at Bowie State University in Maryland.

“I’m just astonished that somebody would do something like that,” Drakeford said when told of the similarities to a 2004 paper he wrote about race and school discipline. He said he was paid nothing for his work. When told how much Taylor got, Drakeford whistled softly.

“Wow,” he said. “This person’s in trouble.”

It’s not clear that Atkinson agrees that Taylor is in trouble. (The pair go back a long time, having worked together in Charlotte.)

Through a spokesman Wednesday, Taylor told the AJC that he’d made an “inexcusable mistake” in not attributing portions of his report and promised to return his fee.  “I am not a plagiarist, and plagiarism was not my intent,” he said.

Given the extent of copied material, Taylor will have a hard time deflecting the plagiarism allegation.

I will give the last word to DeKalb board Chair Eugene Walker:  “You can’t prohibit a student from plagiarizing and then permit some staff person to do it.”

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

72 comments Add your comment

Wondering Allowed

January 17th, 2013
3:55 am

Enough of this nonsense. It’s time for Atkinson to go. She is flailing. She is concerned with central office administrators to the point it doesn’t seem she has any inkling the school district has students. There seems to be a snake under every rock when it comes to her integrity, abilities, honesty and associates. How much more of her failure should DeKalb endure?

Wondering Allowed

January 17th, 2013
4:04 am

To elaborate…Atkinson’s attitude is that she is smart enough to fool us. She seems to be getting caught so much that it should occur to her that she isn’t that bright. She was told to cut administrative staff, she lied, said she did, and got caught. Her buddy gets caught stealing intellectual property, and she thinks she is smart enough to issue a statement that would fool us. Her actions are bad enough, but her attitude is what is really bad. She failed running her last district, but she thinks she can fool us into thinking she did a great job but parsing words about vague individual successes.

She is not a bright, capable person who can take on challenges. She is someone who thinks she can fool people. I wouldn’t trust her to babysit a pet rock, let alone turn around a school district, nor should she be in a position where students look up to her as how an adult or professional should behave.

catlady

January 17th, 2013
5:03 am

Yes, he did plagiarize. Yes, he should be dismissed. Yes, so should Atkinson. Otherwise, it is business as usual. And yes, the state should go beyond replacing the board and should take over and break up the district.

drew (former teacher)

January 17th, 2013
6:04 am

While “Dr” Taylor’s actions are obviously inexcusable and reason for termination, Ms. Atkinson’s role, and subsequent response to this fraud, is even more egregious. Do these people have no shame? Makes one wonder how many other paid “consultants” have bellied up to the trough with this kind of crap. Embarrassing.

crankee-yankee

January 17th, 2013
6:10 am

I have my students do a unit where they must create a report. I speak of plagiarism, what it is & how to avoid it yet every class seems to have a kid or two who either don’t get it or think they can slip something by me. I call them on it, do not accept the report but allow them to resubmit it on the premise it is part of the learning experience.

Taylor is not a teenager in a learning situation. Whether is was his intent or not, it was plagiarism, period. His quote is classic middle school excuse making (I didn’t mean to do it). He doesn’t deserve to make twice my salary and I am embarrassed he calls himself an educator, something I have been for over thirty years.

A ray of hope is Walker’s comment, lets see if there is any follow through on Atkinson’s part, I’m not holding my breath.

redweather

January 17th, 2013
6:11 am

And lets not give Eugene Walker much if any credit for stating the obvious. This is just an opportunity for him to deflect attention away from the miserable job he has been doing for years. They all need to be sent packing. What a disgusting bunch of people.

Georgia

January 17th, 2013
6:15 am

It’s completely understandable why Taylor copied off of someone else’s paper. The text he stole word for word was totally wonderful. Hell, I wish I had stolen it. Then I could be the overpaid genius. I have a few extemporaneous words I’d like to say off the top of my head on Mr. Taylor’s behalf. “Judge not, and ye shall not be judged. Do unto others what you would have them do unto you. To err is human, to forgive is divine…..” (copyright, trademark, patent, cat’s paw, rabbits foot, etc. etc. infinity). There, that’ll be ten G’s please.

What a copycat fool, eh?

crankee-yankee

January 17th, 2013
6:19 am

Taylor should resign. Barring that, Atkinson should dismiss him. Barring that, the board should dismiss her.

That is how a properly functioning board/administration should respond. Any wagers nothing like that will happen?

mountain man

January 17th, 2013
6:35 am

Atkinson (and Taylor) need to be fired immediately. Maybe Dekalb will get a new BOE and the first thing they do is fire these clowns. Dekalb has become the poster child for “dysfunctional”.

mountain man

January 17th, 2013
6:37 am

But don’t forget, Taylor was hired under the “friends and family” policy.

Mountain Man

January 17th, 2013
7:24 am

So the Superintendent of schools is going to allow a personal friend she hired as an employee to get away with behavior that would be a serious discipline issue with the students in her system? This is the ultimate in “setting a bad example”. She is not fit for a leadership position. She should be terminated immediately. If the Board of Education does not terminate her immediately, then they should be replaced immediately.

bootney farnsworth

January 17th, 2013
7:28 am

agent

January 17th, 2013
7:48 am

Dekalb knew about Atkinson’s past before they hired her and yet they went ahead with it. They are getting what they deserve.

Private Citizen

January 17th, 2013
7:58 am

The last time I encountered a plagiarist, I told them the reason they plagiarised is because they didn’t know how to write.

Private Citizen

January 17th, 2013
8:00 am

Perhaps it is a timely time for people in Dekalb to be displaying their character, making it apparent. Psst. today is D-Day.

Wondering Allowed

January 17th, 2013
8:00 am

I work for a publicly traded company in a position where I regularly prepare materials for public and non-public dissemination. Plagiarism is a fireable offense. Nobody would care if it were intentional or unintentional. We also take steps to check and recheck materials to be sure there is no plagiarism.

Taylor’s actions only reinforce that the school district is full of overpaid, under qualified, unintelligent incompetents who couldn’t last a day in the private sector. It used to be these people would work for government because it was the only job they could get, but they were paid a lower salary because of this. Somehow, these government leaches have found a way to make the government agencies pay top dollar for this incompetence.

BTW, it’s scarier that he claims he didn’t mean to plagiarize but accidentally plagiarized. If he was man enough to admit a mistake, we would know he learned a lesson. At best, claiming it was accidental tells us he is likely to do it again, as he is so clueless that he doesn’t realize when he’s stealing and that’s not likely to change. At worst, it makes him look like someone who lies when confronted with evidence of wrongdoing, instead of a man who tells the truth. I don’t get how claiming it is was an accident doesn’t make it worse.

Dunwoody Mom

January 17th, 2013
8:13 am

Does anyone see a scenario in which Dr. Atkinson survives as Super? If this current BOE is retained, can they work with someone who “threw them under bus”? If a new BOE is selected, shouldn’t they clean house?

Grob Hahn

January 17th, 2013
8:23 am

Weird to see this kind of “Good-Ole-Boy” system in place in Dekalb. It must be a leftover effect from all those years of white control. Thankfully all those nasty old racist whites are gone and the schools are run by benevolent black folks who clearly care more about the education of black students than any white ever did. What an amazing time we live in now. All this modern thinking!
Grobbbbbbbbbb

Dunwoodian

January 17th, 2013
8:30 am

Did the District Administration ever act as a result of this “audit”? Did the schools change the way they provide alternative education? Plagiarism or not, what was the use of this contract? Simply a way to stuff 10k into the pocket of a friend from NC?

agent

January 17th, 2013
8:36 am

There was a time in the mid to late 90’s when I was in college that Dekalb was a very nice place to live and go to school. For example, Stone Mountain was a nice place and we used to go jogging there every evening without any worry about being mugged. Fast forward to today, Dekalb has gone to the crapper, to put it mildly.

Concerned DeKalb Mom

January 17th, 2013
8:47 am

As I recall, it was a 6-3 vote to hire Dr. Atkinson, so let’s be clear…the entire board DID NOT support her hire. I perceive those 6 votes as tenuous at best at this point (yes, I know 2 of them are gone now)…

What are the financial penalties for DCSD should they choose to terminate her contract?

sneak peak into education

January 17th, 2013
9:00 am

He needs to go and Atkinson, if she has any integrity, would insist that he does. This is intolerable.

xxx

January 17th, 2013
9:01 am

Taylor is a thief and a liar. I now question his abilities, his degrees, and his resume. What sort of university would bestow a Phd on an obvious fraud? Probably from an online diploma mill. I also question Atkinson’s abilities and motives. Anyone truly concerned about education, image or reputation wouldn’t hesitate to remove anyone found to jeopardize the credibility if the district. Both need to go immediately for the greater good.

Metro Coach

January 17th, 2013
9:02 am

Fire them all and make DeKalb a charter system. Same thing should be done to APS. Sorry Maureen for using the dreaded “c” word you hate so much, but its obvious something big needs to be done to failing systems like APS and DeKalb.

What's Best for Kids?

January 17th, 2013
9:15 am

The copying does pertain to his work…as an employee.
Was he being paid extra as a consultant on top of his employee salary?
I don’t get it.
Both of them need to go since they are such good pals.

Another Voice

January 17th, 2013
9:17 am

Appallling how low DCSS has sunk. Under Jim Cherry, it was the gold standard in the state – the reason my parents moved into DeKalb County and sent four children through school here.

And people wonder why I send my son to private school. I don’t. Far too many failures by DCSS Board and Administration in their roles. They don’t seem to care about what their job IS, just what they can get from themselves and their families and friends. It makes me wonder how we can get the pendulum to swing back to a student-centered school system that works, because this version is far too dysfunctional.

Dr. John Trotter

January 17th, 2013
9:21 am

I and others have stated here many times that we had a teacher about to testify about systematic cheating and the grievance was shut down cold. The Crawford Lewis administration didn’t like my reaction (what was I supposed to say, “Oh, thank you very much”?) and proceeded to issue a ridiculous “ban” of me. Ha! I have been ‘banned” before and it didn’t work; it didn’t work here either. (By the way, the Atkinson Administration officially “unbanned” me, from what I understand.) We proceeded to picket three days in a row in front of the old Central Office on North Decatur Road.

The pickets were in terrible weather. In fact, one time, Keith Whitney of 11 Alive News called me to tell me that the news van had to head back to the office. They returned the next day. “Systematic Cheating?” and other pointed messages were on the signs.

A couple of months later, the DeKalb cheating scandal broke wide open in the media. Shortly after this, Crawford Lewisn and Ms. Reed were indicted. Needless to say, we felt vindicated.

I think that because I defended the right of the school board to exist based on the Georgia Consitution yesterday that some might have concluded that I was defending the DeKalb School System in general. I have been its most vocal and open critic. We have picketed with signs that read: “DeKalb is a Gangsta System!” We did this on several occasions way before Crawford Lewis and Reed were indicted. In fact, the same Keith Whitney pointed out the “Gangsta” signs on TV.

It is beyond me whatt people get promoted in DeKalb County. There have indeed been some characters. Dr. Atkinson’s explanation doesn’t hold water, in my opinion.

20/20

January 17th, 2013
9:23 am

It is truly sad how low Dekalb and Atlanta Public Schools have sunk!

Solutions

January 17th, 2013
9:27 am

You journalism majors take plagiarism more seriously than the rest of us, at least those of us outside the academic and scientific research world. There are only so many ways one can phrase and rephrase certain sentences in a technical article and have the sentence still be understood by the reader. As a reader, all I want is the information, accurately and concisely, I don’t care who gets credit for the writing, as I don’t even look at the author’s name in most cases.

Agent

January 17th, 2013
9:34 am

Solution,

Wow. After reading your comment I can now see how these people keep getting elected/hired. Idiots supporting idiots.

DeKalb Inside Out

January 17th, 2013
9:38 am

Don McChesney’s new blog post,THE STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION VS. THE DEKALB COUNTY BOARD OF EDUCATION. WHAT WILL THEY DO?, says it all. Assuming Sarah and Donna don’t make complete fools of themselves today, which is a possibility, Don’s predictions will come to past.

Private Citizen

January 17th, 2013
9:46 am

Solutions, point is if you are the person who did the work and produced the information, at the very least you should receive attribution. That’s why we have “quotes,” to distinguish what another person has said. There is also a question of expected methods of professionals. All you want is for your tooth to stop hurting. You better hope the dentist uses the right drill. Which reminds me, one time I visited a dentist in Dekalb County and they had a new hire fresh from doing dentistry on an Indian reservation. When they went to drill the tooth, the person did not have the drill bit seated in the air drill resulting in “big vibration.” I guess this is an example of some of that “good times” management of professionals. I once had a boss (not in Georgia) and his method of training new workers was to give them enough rope to hang themselves, give them an open door to how much they could handle. But this was with supervised workers, not professional level managers. It was actually a pretty fast / effective way to train people.

Bill & Ed's Excellent Adventure

January 17th, 2013
9:46 am

@DIO aren’t you in fact Don McChesney? Also, @Solutions REALLY? By your logic, I wrote Tom Sawyer.

Bill & Ed's Excellent Adventure

January 17th, 2013
9:49 am

@DIO Will Don ever take some accountability for the mess Dekalb’s in? It’s always someone else, never them.

Dawn

January 17th, 2013
9:53 am

Solution, I don’t know what you do for a living, but I’m a writer. And if I learned that someone else had completely lifted large portions of something I had spent many hours researching and writing and then got paid $10,000 for the work I had done, that SOB might not live to benefit from the work done by anyone else. Are you serious? How would you like it if someone else came in and claimed credit for the work you did and got paid for it?

Firing the board doesn’t go far enough. And if Atkinson does get fired (we can only hope!) we don’t need another so-called educator replacing her. We need a proven CEO who knows how to run a business, profitably and ethically. He or she can hire a former teacher with some common sense to help advise him on curricula and decisions that affect learning, but when it comes to running the business of educating DeKalb students, we need someone who actually understands how to manage a budget, how many staff it takes to do a job, and how to hire intelligent, capable people.

DeKalb Inside Out

January 17th, 2013
9:59 am

Maybe Atkinson can stay. Our likely alternatives are much worse.

End Game – Where is DeKalb going to be 4 years from now? We can kick out the BOE and the Super, but to what end? The evil doers in the DeKalb delegation are already working their angles to recommend new appointees. The old guard will be reelected next summer.

Unless we implement the Portfolio District, Independent School Districts or county wide independent charters, we are up the creek. On the bright side, we will soon be able to take our schools back with the Parent Trigger law.

Question – Ala Charlie Wilson’s war, once we clean out DCSD … then what?

StnMtnMOM

January 17th, 2013
10:13 am

I really can’t even begin to wrap my thought process around the utter disgrace that has beset DeKalb Co. Schools & for Atkinson to give such an ridiculous response, she (and Taylor) need to be IMMEDIATELY fired. How much more corruption needs to occur before the State recognizes this School system is truly on its last breathe right now?

sneak peak into education

January 17th, 2013
10:19 am

The parents and residents in Dekalb County need to start calling Head Office and demand action. Let the phones ring off the hook and don’t let up until he is gone. I felt that Dr. Atkinson needed a chance to try to change the system and move it in a positive direction but she has shown that she is incapable of doing so. What she has done is to create controversy over and over again with her actions. Think it’s time to admit that she is not up to the job.

Concernedmom30329

January 17th, 2013
10:30 am

I do agree with Bill and Ed for once. Don has to take some responsibility especially as it relates to Crawford Lewis (retaining him) and hiring Tyson.

Wondering Allowed

January 17th, 2013
10:43 am

@Solutions, you stated: As a reader, all I want is the information, accurately and concisely, I don’t care who gets credit for the writing, as I don’t even look at the author’s name in most cases.

Intellectual property is property. Taking someone else’s property is wrong. I’m going to substitute a couple words in your statement to show you how ridiculous you are being…

As a DRIVER, all I want is TO GET FROM POINT A TO POINT B, accurately and concisely, I don’t care who OWNS THE CAR, as I don’t even look at REGISTRATION WHEN I GET INTO SOMEBODY ELSE’S CAR AND START DRIVING.

If someone were to steal your car because they decided the ride suited them, you would call the police. Intellectual property is no different. Stealing is stealing, and stealing is wrong.

Wondering Allowed

January 17th, 2013
10:45 am

@Sneak Peak – Calling the central office will accomplish what, exactly? Telling these fools that they are fools isn’t worth it. You need to start demanding the board dump her, loudly, publicly and relentlessly.

Mirva

January 17th, 2013
10:46 am

The fact that he does resign in shame just proves he has none.
Associate superintendent of what?

Disgusted

January 17th, 2013
10:46 am

Perhaps the Board of Education could muster a rare display of unity and fire Atkinson before they are removed from office.

Concernedmom30329

January 17th, 2013
10:49 am

If they fire her, we have to buy out her contract. Oh joy.

Bill & Ed's Excellent Adventure

January 17th, 2013
11:01 am

This is all for naught…Atkinson is going NO WHERE. Especially when she’s been bringing “Victory to Every Classroom” for more than a year now [sarcasm]. I’ll be stunned if it isn’t status quo at the end of the day folks.

Wondering Allowed

January 17th, 2013
11:18 am

@Concernedmom – It would be a bargain at double the price. Money spent getting her out the door is better than money spent on her protecting overpaid gas bags and letting her continue to destroy children’s educations. It’s a mess, but sometimes paying your way out of a mess is better than living in the crud.

DeKalb Inside Out

January 17th, 2013
11:25 am

Bill & Ed … Am I the D. McChesney? The board, new and old, is at or en route to the dome by now, so No Soup For You!

RCB

January 17th, 2013
11:29 am

For once, Eugene Walker speaks intelligently. So what does he propose as a consequence?

Wondering Allowed

January 17th, 2013
11:30 am

@RBC – Every dog has it’s day. Every number eventually becomes a winner on the roulette table.

bootney farnsworth

January 17th, 2013
11:30 am

-don’t feed the solutions troll