High school principal congratulates wrong school in plagiarized graduation message

High school principal congratulates wrong school in plagiarized graduation message

A high school principal in New York is being accused of plagiarizing nearly his entire message to the Roosevelt High School Class of 2014, which was printed in the school’s yearbook.

Dr. Steven Strachan, principal of Roosevelt High School (Roosevelt High School via News 12 Long Island)

In his message, Roosevelt Principal Dr. Steven Strachan tells the graduates how proud he is of them and that they are a class of “great leaders, articulate orators, brilliant scientists, breathtaking athletes and extraordinary artists.” The problem is that those words, along with a majority of Strachan’s message, were written by California principal Dr. Ted Barone and presented to Albany High School graduates in 2013. The Roosevelt principal even concluded his message like Barone did, writing, “Congratulations to the Albany High School Class of 2013.”

Dr. Ted Barone's message from 2013 (top) and a portion of Dr. Steven Strachan's message from 2014 (bottom) (Albany High School and Newsday)

As reported by News 12 Long Island, Dr. Strachan claimed that he received permission from Barone, to “reuse the remarks.” However, Barone told the station that Strachan emailed him last Thursday asking only for permission to quote him. Barone gave Strachan the go ahead, never thinking that the Roosevelt principal would plagiarize his work and not credit the source. “There’s part of me that thinks it’s funny,” Barone said to News 12 via phone. “There’s obviously part of me that finds it quite sad.” Roosevelt senior Jordan David said, “That's embarrassing…To use another person's words when you could have just sat there and wrote, took five to ten minutes out of your time to write a nice letter to us.”

Dr. Ted Barone, principal of Albany High School (News 12 Long Island)

Dr. Strachan would not speak on camera about the matter. However, Newsday reports that Strachan released a statement through public relations firm, Zimmerman/Edelson saying:

"I sincerely apologize to the Roosevelt community and to the class of 2014 for the inadvertent clerical error causing mistakes to be printed in the 2014 yearbook. An unedited draft of my remarks was accidentally published rather than the final version, and I take full responsibility for the oversight."

Alfred T. Taylor, vice president of the Roosevelt school board, told the paper that the incident was an “unfortunate mistake that occurred” and surprisingly said that “It’s unfortunate that somebody thought it was newsworthy.” Roosevelt junior Hannah Brown-Foxx feels that that type of relaxed reaction to the principal’s plagiarism is unfair, saying, “It’s wrong because if we was supposed to do something like that it would have been ten times worse, rather than a principal doing that.” The school district’s code of conduct (pdf) states that academic misconduct such as plagiarism is a level 7 offense and calls for suspension.

The 2014 Roosevelt High School yearbook (Roosevelt High School via News 12 Long Island)

As for the yearbooks that contain the “clerical error,” they were collected and the page in question will be edited and re-printed at a cost of $800. According to Newsday, that money will be taken out of the principal’s “discretionary fund.”

Video and more info: News 12 Long Island, Newsday, Albany High School