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Boston principal resigns amid more plagiarism allegations

A newly appointed Boston middle school principal who admitted to plagiarizing a Forbes magazine column in her first memo to staff submitted her resignation Wednesday after new allegations emerged that she had plagiarized portions of her job application materials.

Jaime Moody, principal of the Lilla G. Frederick Pilot Middle School in Dorchester, stepped down hours after the Globe contacted the School Department to inquire about a five-paragraph “executive summary” in her job application that was nearly identical to an educational philosophy statement that appeared on Oregon State University’s website, as part of an online education course developed in the 1990s.

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A closing statement of the application materials, which was obtained by the Globe Wednesday, also appears to have plagiarized two sentences from a book “Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion,” written by the Rev. Gregory Boyle, a Jesuit priest and author.

Interim Superintendent John McDonough said in a statement that the School Department was accepting Moody’s resignation and has notified the pilot school’s governing board to begin a search for a new principal immediately.

“For the second time in two weeks The Boston Globe has raised questions about whether an employee used someone else’s work without proper attribution,” McDonough said. “In the first instance, it was an informal e-mail to staff. In the second instance, it appears to have been in an application for a promotion. We have every expectation for high standards and excellence for our students, and we expect an even higher standard of our school leaders.”

Moody, a 2005 educator of the year in the Boston public schools who holds a master’s in education research from Northeastern University, could not be reached for comment.

Last month, she apologized to staff and to the author of the Forbes column after revelations surfaced of the plagiarism in her July 9 staff memo, saying she “inappropriately copied words from another author and passed them off as my own.”

‘We expect an even higher standard of our school leaders.’ — John McDonough, interim Boston school superintendent

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In the latest incident, Moody’s apparent plagiarism began on the second page of a 13-page memo she submitted when applying for the principal’s job, which she landed in June at $110,000 a year.

She appears to have used an entire example of an educational philosophy statement posted on the Oregon State website. The statement was meant to show students of the online course what such a statement would look like as they attempted to write their own, one of the authors of the course said.

Moody merely changed a few words.

A 1999 copyright appeared at the bottom of the sample statements on the website.

Moody also appears to have lifted two sentences from Boyle’s book without attribution. One sentence read, “Salivating for success keeps you from being faithful, keeps you from truly seeing whoever’s sitting in front of you.”

The other sentence was “I’m not opposed to success; I just think we should accept it only if it is a byproduct of our fidelity.”

Moody secured the principal’s job with the hope she could boost school morale and test scores, after the previous principal was placed on leave last year as the School Department investigated issues with technology equipment.

But the origin of many words in her July 9 memo generated suspicion among some teachers. One teacher copied a passage into Google. The first entry that popped up was the Forbes column, written by contributor Margie Warrell under the headline “Why Getting Comfortable with Discomfort is Crucial to Success.”

Moody had used about 300 words of the column, which was based on Warrell’s book “Stop Playing Safe.”

At the time, the School Department refused to say whether it would take any disciplinary action against Moody, saying it was a personnel matter, even though students who are caught plagiarizing receive zeros for the assignment and can face other punishments.

Two days after the Globe story ran, Warrell responded to the revelations in a Forbes column titled “Plagiarized by a School Principal: How to Avoid Straying Off the Path of Integrity.” She wrote that the plagiarism by a principal “charged with educating children about the importance of honesty” should “serve as a reminder about how easy it can be to cross the line between right and wrong, and act in ways that we know aren’t right and would dread others to know about.”

In concluding her column, she wrote, “I sincerely hope the woman who inspired me to write this column will gain a profoundly valuable lesson for her personal growth as she faces the steep cost that straying off the path of integrity can exact.”

James Vaznis can be reached at jvaznis@globe.com.
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