tampabay.com

Principal fined over two speeches

By TOM MARSHALL
Published April 21, 2007


TAMPA - Springstead High School principal Susan D. Duval received a $1,500 fine and letter of reprimand Friday to settle a state inquiry into her plagiarism in graduation speeches in 2004 and 2005.

Duval, 59, has admitted to using long, nearly verbatim passages from a widely circulated 1997 Chicago Tribune column by Mary Schmich, as well as a collection of sayings entitled "All I need to know I learned from Noah's Ark," in speaking to graduating seniors and their families.

In her settlement with the Education Practices Commission, Duval elected not to contest state Department of Education charges that she violated state laws and regulations governing educators, without admitting or denying their validity.

If Duval had been convicted of those charges - including an alleged act of "gross immorality or an act involving moral turpitude," and violations of the state Board of Education's code of professional conduct - she could have been stripped of her state certification as a teacher and principal.

Duval, who was present for the Education Practices Commission's unanimous vote in Tampa, declined to comment Friday.

Duval told district officials someone gave her the Ark material for use in the 2004 speech. She said she downloaded the Tribune column from another Internet site the following year but couldn't find its author.

She introduced both speeches as her "personal thoughts," but later said her failure to credit the authors or other sources for the cribbed material was a mistake.

"While I had absolutely no intent to convey that those quotes were mine, I understand that that impression could have been left and for that I apologize," Duval wrote in a letter.

She received another letter of reprimand and a one-day suspension with pay by Superintendent Wendy Tellone in 2005 for the incidents.

"Although I believe your act of plagiarism was not intentional on either occasion, it is not acceptable in the Hernando County School District," Tellone wrote in that letter.

"Our students and faculty are expected to adhere to responsible methods of educational research and techniques, and as a principal you are held to the highest standards of academic excellence," she said.

Tom Marshall can be reached at tmarshall@sptimes.com or 352 848-1431.