AN INSIDE LOOK - Commentary and opinions on local politics and life in general in Southeastern Massachusetts! Featuring the writings of Bill Gouveia, newspaper columnist for the Sun Chronicle and local cable TV talk show host. Feel free to read, comment and enjoy!
Monday, July 28, 2014
Mansfield Superintendent Did It To Herself
This column originally appeared in The Sun Chronicle on Monday, July 28, 2014
AN INSIDE LOOK
By Bill Gouveia
School Superintendent Brenda Hodges – victim of a local political witch-hunt
and the internet age, or lazy administrator who disrespected her school system
and the town?That has been the topic of
some debate over the last few weeks.
me try and settle that debate right now.
one of the wounds that led to Superintendent Hodges ending her time in
Mansfield were self-inflicted.Not some
of them, not most of them, but all of them.She has absolutely no one to blame for her predicament other than
professional educator and administrator substantially copied a speech without
attributing her source.She did so at
her high school’s graduation, the pinnacle moment of achievement for Mansfield
students.Then she made light of her
transgression, acknowledging it in a limited manner only after being exposed by
some of her own students on social media.
planning her remarks to students, parents and citizens on the night her seniors
graduated, Superintendent Hodges was either unable or unwilling to come up with
original words.Instead she recycled a
speech she says she heard a pastor in Oklahoma give, one she says he gave her
permission to reuse.
it too much to expect the leader of a school system that annually expends
millions of taxpayer dollars, and more importantly imparts upon students skills
and values they will carry with them forever, to at least be sincere?
she was so impressed with this speech, she could have easily prefaced her
remarks by saying “I’d like to share with you a speech I recently heard” and
mentioned the author.But she did not,
for reasons known only to herself.She
failed to adhere to the standard of honesty, integrity and personal
responsibility she regularly demanded from her students.
don’t know if Hodges would have been fired had she not retired and
resigned.The school committee kept
things very much under wraps, and did not share with the public the opinions of
individual members on the superintendent’s actions.
the private sector, that would be a wise business approach.In the public sector, it is seen as being
less than forthright.Though they were
no doubt limited by legal restrictions and contractual obligations, the school
committee owes the voters who elected them more in the way of explanation of
their role in the entire affair.
week in Newton, the school superintendent was caught up in a similar
controversy.Weeks after giving two graduation
speeches in which he used excerpts from a speech by Governor Deval Patrick
without attribution, Superintendent David Fleischman was disciplined by his
members voted to fine Fleischman one week’s salary for his transgression.He admitted his mistake while stopping short
of saying he was guilty of plagiarism.
he got off easy.
Newton High School newspaper and writer Jordan Cohen-Kaplan said it best when
he wrote:“It is disappointing and disillusioning
to imagine we cannot expect the best from the highest ranking Newton Public
Schools official, especially on a widely attended day designed to celebrate
student achievement and serve as an educational capstone.”
it fair that Fleischman gets to keep his job while Hodges seems to have been
forced out?Probably not, but each
community has its own standards and each superintendent has their own strengths
and weaknesses.Fairness does not really
figure into the equation.
as Hodges walks off the Mansfield scene (complete with plentiful accumulated
sick time) let there be no doubt she figuratively dug her own grave.Yet she continues to deny she is the problem.
submitting her resignation, Hodges said in a letter:“Moving forward, I do not believe the school
system can continue to make the progress it has made if this issue remains a
Superintendent.But you caused the
distraction.You are responsible for
it.You are not leaving because the
distraction exists, you are leaving because you created it.You cost yourself the respect necessary to
be able to perform your duties at a proficient level.
after careful and objective consideration, the clear answer to the opening
question is - lazy administrator who disrespected her school system and the
Bill Gouveia is a local columnist and
longtime local official.He can be
emailed at email@example.com and followed on Twitter at