Newspaper Charges: Schools Chief Plagiarized Speech -- For Honor Society Induction

By: One of the main tenets of the National Honor Society is to develop character in high school students.

But it appears the schools superintendent in Fort Lee may have set a bad example when she gave her induction speech to the Society in her district last week.

The words Joane Calabro chose were almost exactly the same as those in a sample speech on a Web page on how to speak in public.

An anonymous source slipped an amateur video of Calabro's speech to The Record of Bergen County, which reported on the speech similarity in Friday's newspapers.

Early in her minute talk, she tells students, "I believe that what should make you and your parents most proud is not the actual honor itself, but what you had to do to get it." She goes on to quote Ralph Waldo Emerson on the same topic-- exactly like the example posted on by teacher Melissa Kelly.

Another line from both cliche-ridden speeches: "Are you one to stand up for what you believe in and 'face the music' even when that music happens to be unpleasant?" the speech asks.

Calabro did not respond to a message Friday from The Associated Press or from calls and an in-person visit the day before by a Record reporter. The school district would not allow The Record to see the district's video of the speech.

School board lawyer Robert Tessaro told the paper that plagiarizing a speech would not be grounds for firing. "I don't know if anything is illegal," Tessaro added.

A school board meeting had previously been scheduled for June 11 to discuss whether the superintendent's contract should be extended.

Shana Kemp, a spokeswoman from the Reston, Va.-based National Honor Society, said she expected the Fort Lee students would be getting some lessons on plagiarism.

"Even though it's an unfortunate thing that this happened, I'm sure she's very embarrassed," Kemp said. "Hopefully, the students still were able to gain something from the speech."


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