The fate of Matthew Strine as superintendent of the South Middleton School District is on hold until he can talk formally with school board members.
Board President Liz Knouse said Wednesday she doesn’t know when members could meet with Strine to discuss his recent admission that he plagiarized a portion of a 2011 speech in his June 10 message to Boiling Springs High School graduates.
On July 14, Strine posted an apology on the district website stating that he was sorry for using words drawn from four paragraphs of a commencement speech actress Amy Poehler gave to 2011 graduates of Harvard University.
Three days later, on July 17, board members posted a statement calling the plagiarism unacceptable behavior while vowing to address this development in the most appropriate way. No specifics were given on the possible options.
Board members would like to meet with Strine to not only discuss the plagiarism, but also to review the results of his annual performance evaluation, Knouse said. She would not speculate on how the evaluation could weigh in on any discussion regarding how to discipline Strine for what he described as a “lapse of judgment.”
In her opinion, the evaluation and plagiarism are two different things happening within a similar time frame, she said. Board members have the ultimate authority to decide the future of Strine’s role within the district.
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Strine acknowledged that Wednesday in a statement that he read before the start of a scheduled public meeting to gather input on how to incorporate greater diversity and inclusiveness within the school district climate and culture. The final meeting is scheduled for Aug. 10 at 6 p.m. in the high school auditorium.
“I know that some in this room want my resignation,” Strine read. “That will not happen tonight, and I’m awaiting my time to meet formally with the school board to find out what the next steps are with regards to my future in this district. I have been advised not to distract from the important work of this information session.”
Instead of presiding over the meeting Wednesday, as he had during the first session, Strine delegated the task to Alex Smith, director of student services, who delivered a PowerPoint presentation. Smith then opened the floor to questions from residents providing answers himself or referring questions to a panel of building principals.
The whole time, Strine sat in the front row off to one side of the community focus. There was no mention of his plagiarism in the public statements and questions.
Prior to the meeting, The Sentinel asked a number of residents attending the meeting what they thought about the recent news that Strine admitted to plagiarizing a speech.
“It’s totally unacceptable,” said Lin Anderson, adding that Strine’s behavior has set a very poor example for students, faculty and the community. “It calls one’s integrity into question.”
Calling his apology “horrendous,” Julie White said Strine should resign from his post as superintendent. “I believe children, adults, humans all deserve a second, third or fourth chance,” she said. “But when you reach a certain age, you know better. Your brain is fully developed. You have tons of education behind you. You know better, and I don’t think that it sets a good example.”
Local resident Tony Gonzalez said he views Strine’s behavior as a side issue. “Plagiarism can get you thrown out of a military academy,” he said. “It can get you thrown out of a college.”
Lately, there have been calls on social media for school board members to resign over the controversy generated by the diversity/inclusivity initiative. Knouse said she can only speak for herself.
“I will not be resigning,” she said. “I was elected by our community to do a job. When a vocal minority talks about my integrity, they really don’t know me. I have dedicated my entire life to this community. I owe it to the community to complete my term.”
Email Joseph Cress at email@example.com.