A Camdenton school board candidate is fending off allegations of plagiarism after answers to a round of questions were published in the Lake Sun and on LakeNewsOnline.com.
Shortly after the responses to the latest weekly question-and-answer feature running in the daily newspaper were published in the Wednesday edition of the Lake Sun and LakeNewsOnline.com, questions surfaced about Darin Keim's responses through a Facebook post.
The question from the Lake Sun asked candidates to answer in 250 words or less "how would you describe what an effective board member's role in the school district is?"
The Facebook post alleged Keim plagiarized his answers, using information obtained on the Internet. The post referred to an article published on the website of the Alabama Association of School Boards, written by Susan Rountree Salter titled "7 Habits of Highly Effective Board Members."
In a response to the allegations of plagiarism, Keim wrote, "I read an article about the 'seven traits of an effective board member' and I used the article to guide my answers to a question about effective board members without giving reference to the author of the article. I have read dozens of them in the last two months. I have talked to board members, staff and other leaders in our community and have used their words, wisdom and guidance to guide me, my life and my campaign," he said.
Keim admitted it was plagiarism but said it was not intentional. He said the article "resounded with me and spoke to how I feel."
Keim said from now on when he uses a quote or words that are not his, he will make sure to cite the source.
"I apologize to anyone who felt I was trying to mislead them," he said.
Camdenton resident Eric Miller, who originally posted on Facebook and LakeNewsOnline.com asking for an explanation from Keim, said he appreciated that Keim did not ignore what he feels "is a very important issue," but the response fell short of clearing the plagiarism question up.
Miller said if Keim actually remembered the article and knowingly plagiarized from it, "then that is not setting the kind of example we want our school board members to set for our children."
Miller said that if Keim had put anywhere in his answer or on the website something that acknowledged where the information came from, that would have been fine.
"A student who did this on a paper would suffer consequences. My question is what consequence should a school board candidate have to face? Again, I do appreciate [Keim's] addressing this situation. Some may find it a small issue, but for me, it is very important, as it speaks to the character of a person," Miller said.
Plagiarism as defined by the policies of Missouri State University includes, but is not limited to, the use, by paraphrase or direct quotation, of the published or unpublished work or sections of a work of another person without full and clear acknowledgment (whether intentional or not). This includes any material copied directly or paraphrased from the Internet. The unacknowledged use of materials prepared by another person or agency engaged in the selling of term papers or other academic materials, including material taken from or ordered through the Internet, also constitutes plagiarism.
Several key words and sentences used in Keim's response turned up identical or near identical matches to the article after an Internet search by Lake Sun staff.
The Lake Sun staff also ran Internet searches on the answers submitted by incumbents Nancy Masterson, Jim Besancenez, as well as candidates Tom Williams and Bill Moulder. None of those searches turned up any evidence of plagiarism.
Comparing Rountree's article to Keim's answer:
"each member must see the board as a team and respect the varying skills and perspectives..."
"board member must view the board as a team and respect the varying skills and perspectives..."
"operate from the belief that their peers have the best interest of the students, parents, staff, system and community at hear [sic] — even when they have radically differing opinions about how to address a problem."
"operate with the belief that their peers have the best interests of the students, staff, system and community at heart, even when they have differing opinions on how to address a problem."
"Focus on the 'we,' not 'me.'
"...focus on the 'we' and not the 'me.' "
"the board's job is to decide what should be done, while the superintendent is responsible for determining how it gets done."
"The effective board member knows that the board's job is to make policy and it's the administrations job to determine how it gets done."
"Every board member has his or her own strengths they bring to the board..."
"As every board member has their own strengths they bring to the table."
Darin Keim's response in its entirety:
I am writing this in response to accusations of plagiarism against me. I read an article about the "seven traits of an effective board member" and I used the article to guide my answers to a question about effective board members without giving reference to the author of the article. I have read dozens of them in the last two months. I have talked to board members, staff and other leaders in our community and have used their words, wisdom and guidance to guide me, my life and my campaign. Was it plagiarism, yes. Was it intended, no. I read the article; it resounded with me and spoke to how I feel. I will tell anyone that I don't have all the answers and ideas to make this school perfect but I will work, read, listen and do my best. From now on when I use a quote or words that are not mine I will make sure to cite the source. I apologize to anyone who felt I was trying to mislead them. When I make a mistake either as a husband, father or school board member, I own up to it, take my lumps and learn from it. I will have to let the community judge my character and God judge my soul.