Embattled Chapel Hill High School Principal Sulura Jackson addressed the allegations of plagiarism in a recorded phone message this weekend, apologizing for the distraction caused by the controversy and pledging proper citation in the future.
Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools spokesman Jeff Nash confirmed Monday that parents and staff at the Chapel Hill school received the message Friday night. Jackson is accused of plagiarism in school memos and letters both before and after her arrival in Chapel Hill this summer.
“Although I was saddened to hear it through the newspaper, I have heard the requests of this staff and community and, beginning now, I am committed to citing these sources, whether broad or specific, and modeling proper protocols for all to see,” Jackson said in the message.
Nash did not say whether any additional disciplinary action is pending for the principal. Multiple documents obtained by INDY Week show Jackson seemed to lift entire passages for letters and messages written in her capacity as principal at Chapel Hill High and her former school, Skyline High in Ann Arbor, Mich. Jackson would sign those passages herself and offer no citations.
Members of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Board of Education have not returned multiple phone calls for comment on the controversy, which has angered parents and some staff at the school.
Jackson defended herself last week in the INDY, saying her actions do not qualify as plagiarism because she is not receiving compensation for that work or turning in her writing for a grade. That would seem to clash with her school's definition of plagiarism. According to the student handbook, plagiarism would denote "copying the language, structure, idea and/or thought of another person and representing it as one's own original work or using information obtained from printed or electronic media that is not appropriately referenced."
Here is Jackson’s recorded message in its entirety:
“Good evening Chapel Hill High students, parents and staff. This is Principal Sulura Jackson.
I'm calling this evening to tell you about an important lesson I learned this week regarding the value of always citing sources in newsletters and other internal correspondence that goes out to staff. Throughout my career, I have made a practice of implementing a variety of resources, including books, online tools and even public access templates specifically designed for educators to use in communicating.
Although I was saddened to hear it through the newspaper, I have heard the requests of this staff and community and, beginning now, I am committed to citing these sources, whether broad or specific, and modeling proper protocols for all to see.
As always, I am happy to entertain any questions about my intentions or sources and I apologize for any distraction this may have caused.
Thank you for listening and have a great weekend.”
The future for Chapel Hill High School Principal Sulura Jackson is unclear at the moment, following this week's plagiarism allegations. The allegations, as well as the evidence, are covered in detail in this week's Indy. Read it online here.
Members of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Board of Education were already scheduled to meet tonight at the Lincoln Center in Chapel Hill. The board's agenda says members will discuss a personnel matter in closed session starting at 6 p.m. The public portion of the meeting begins at 7 p.m.
School administrators have defended Jackson, lauding her for attempts to increase communication at the school. However, many parents and teachers are angry.
For her part, Jackson has not denied using other materials to fill her writing, but she says it would not be considered plagiarism because she is not turning in her memos and letters for a grade or compensation.
Here is the Chapel Hill High student handbook. This is what it says on plagiarism: "Plagiarizing is copying the language, structure, idea and/or thought of another person and representing it as one's own original work or using information obtained from printed or electronic media that is not appropriately referenced."
Due to space limitations with this week's story, not all of the corresponding documents could be shown. We will post some of these documents here, including memos that show the principal—before and after her arrival at Chapel Hill High—lifted quotes and ideas from books without providing citation.
This first memo on finishing strong, dated November 2012 when Jackson was principal at Skyline High in Ann Arbor, Mich., pulls directly from a book by motivational writer Dan Green. Jackson signs the memo as if they are her words and does not offer any citation.
In this August 2013 memo (PDF below) to Chapel Hill High staff, Jackson talks about something she calls the "100/0 principle," a method of relationship building she explains as taking "full responsibility (the 100) for the relationship, expecting nothing (the 0) in return."
The problem is that the idea belongs to workplace consultant Al Ritter. Watch a video explaining the idea here. The word choice will sound familiar.
More to come on this as it happens.