PITTSBURGH, Pa. – Pittsburgh’s newly hired superintendent has a problem with plagiarism.
Anthony Hamlet, who was hired in May to head the city’s public schools, is accused of plagiarizing portions of his resume, including his “educational philosophy,” which the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette claims was lifted from a Washington Post editorial last year.
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“This, as well as other revelations about facts stated on Mr. Hamlet’s resume, has galvanized some to demand that the school board find a different leader for the district,” according to the news site.
Hamlet is serving as a district consultant at a rate of $807.70 a day “for the purpose of transition and planning activities” through the end of the month, when he’s supposed to take over the helm of the district’s 54 schools full time, with a salary of $210,000 a year, the Tribune-Review reports.
But Hamlet is scrambling to explain the plagiarism, which consisted of a few sentences from the editorial, as well as questions about his track record at Palm Beach County schools in Florida, where he served as a principal of Riviera Beach’s John F. Kennedy Middle School.
The Palm Beach Post reported earlier this month that “Hamlet did not lift the school’s state grade from an F to a C as he claimed on a resume he submitted to Pittsburgh’s public school system.”
“When he became principal in May 2009, it had moved from a D to a C under his predecessor and remained at a C when he left in 2011,” according to the news site.
Hamlet’s claim on his resume that he increased the graduation rate at Palm Beach Lakes High School by 13 percentage points while cutting down on suspension was also a lie, the Post reports.
“During his three years as principal, the official graduation rate rose by less than 5 points, from 63.4 to 67.7 percent, state records show,” according to the news site.
State prosecutor Laurel Brandstetter is now reviewing Hamelt’s resume and is expected to give a report to the school board this week, though it’s unclear whether the report will be available to the public.
In the meantime, local education officials, politicians, union bosses and community leaders have held meetings to discuss Hamlet, and calls for a new superintendent search. The school board has also hired a public relations firm at the rate of $140 an hour on an “as-needed basis” to help with the “torrent of media inquiries” about Hamlet’s sketchy resume, Joanna Huss, head of Huss Group, told the Post-Gazette.
County executive Rich Fitzgerald and Mayor Bill Peduto issued a joint statement about the ongoing investigation into Hamlet’s background Thursday.
“The mayor and county executive have hosted meetings to listen to all voices in this matter, in hopes of bringing all sides together,” the statement read. “The discussions have been private – and will continue to be – to facilitate open dialogue among the parties.”
Several experts on plagiarism told the Post-Gazette there’s no question about whether Hamlet plagiarized the Washington Post editorial for his resume, but contend some plagiarism is worse than others.
“Yes, it’s plagiarism, but … not all plagiarisms are created equal,” said Jonathan Bailey, who runs PlagiarismToday. “When they plagiarize an entire novel versus plagiarizing just a passage, it’s a big difference.”
Bailey said he doesn’t believe Hamlet would face legal consequences for his plagiarism.
“The amount that was taken was just so small; it was only a couple of sentences,” he said. “The portion copied probably doesn’t qualify for copyright protection by itself. It’s likely that case would not go anywhere.”
Regardless, others believe any plagiarism sets a bad example for students.
“If you’re in a position of leadership, an example that you’re setting needs to be exemplary, especially if they’re going into the education system,” said Adriana Helbig, assistant dean of academic integrity at the University of Pittsburgh.
“You are the person that is creating the reality for these students before they enter the real world, and you’re teaching them how to engage with the real world.”