Thursday, April 16, 2015

Suggs denies plagiarism; critics stick by their accounts

Posted By on Thu, Apr 16, 2015 at 1:14 PM

click to enlarge NO PLAGIARIST: Dexter Suggs disavows allegation by Blue Hog report. - BRIAN CHILSON
  • BRIAN CHILSON
  • NO PLAGIARIST: Dexter Suggs disavows allegation by Blue Hog report.

Benji Hardy covered Little Rock Superintendent Dexter Suggs' meeting with Forest Park parents up in arms about his idea to close the pre-K at the A-rated elementary school. (Pre-K has been a valuable lure for long-term students.)

At that meeting, Hardy asked Suggs about the allegations made by Blue Hog Report that he plagiarized his doctoral dissertation. Suggs denied it. Blue Hog has shown excerpts of Suggs' dissertation against two others done years earlier on the same subject, and sections appear to match up verbatim.

"I haven't seen the allegations yet, but I'm going to look at it," Suggs said. The superintendent said he stood by the integrity of his dissertation "without a doubt."

"In this day and age, you and I both know we can't get away with [plagiarism] ... I don't know what Mr. Campbell found ... but it is legit."

We've also learned that John Walker, the civil rights lawyer, had turned up the same pattern in his research on Suggs. He told me that he had been  prepared to take the information to the state Board of Education as an argument that neither the board nor Suggs was qualified to lead a district in state receivership. Walker earlier elicited in a deposition with Suggs that the district leader made an ACT score no higher than 15, well short of what's necessary now to qualify for a lottery scholarship in Arkansas.

Walker and Matt Campbell, the author of Blue Hog, say they have strong material against Suggs. Walker says his was prepared by a professional researcher.

So far, in the stone silence department in response to my requests for information:

* Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who named Johnny Key his education commissioner despite Key's lack of qualifications.

* Education Commissioneer Johnny Key, who now serves as the Little Rock "school board" and Suggs' immediate supervisor. Key resisted other ideas for people to lead the district after the state took over.

* Dexter Suggs.

* The Little Rock School District PR apparatus.

* The state Education Department PR apparatus.

Suggs is innocent until proven otherwise. But the evidence presented so far demands a review by state officials. Is a compliant factotum so important to Key that he intends to hunker down and hope this blows over? Given the disruption Suggs has created in the district in the short time he's been "in charge" without school board oversight, I don't think it's likely to blow over soon. The plagiarism almost pales in comparison to the pettiness and poor judgment Suggs has demonstrated when left to his own devices.

UPDATE: This comment from an Education Department spokesperson:

Accusations of this nature must be and will be taken seriously, but a rush to judgment does not serve the public interest.

My followup is whether "taken seriously" means Key will investigate or not.

UPDATE: I received this response from the governor's office:

The Governor has met with Commissioner Key about all issues affecting the LRSD, and any particular response should come from the Department of Education. 

Blue Hog, responding to a post by Drew Petrimoulx on Twitter that Suggs hadn't seen Blue Hog, said:

.@DrewPetrimoulx he also claimed he didn't receive emails from me, despite his lawyer saying Suggs forwarded my emails to the lawyer.

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