PEORIA -- Peoria School District 150 watchdog Sharon Crews discovered that the calendar put out this year by the school district uses fake photos and plagiarized text. It's apparent aim is to deceive parents and the public.
On Monday, Oct. 24, she told the School Board about it during the public comments. (I was unable to attend the meeting so did not record the other public comments.) Here are her comments:
"Traditionally District 150 has used its annual calendar, sent home to parents, as a way to showcase District 150’s students and the district, in general. In the past, calendar covers have sometimes displayed the art work of a particular District 150 student. The pictures above the calendar for each month were always pictures of District 150’s students and personnel.
As I began to look through this year’s calendar, I noticed a handsome, young African-American teacher interacting with a group of young students. My first thought was “I wonder who that is” because I know that male African-American primary school teachers are few and far between.
Already a bit suspicious, I Googled “Rosetta Stone Classroom, and there it was--the same picture on that website—only in color. Unfortunately, the young teacher in the photo is not a District 150 teacher.
I assume that District 150 received permission to use this photo due to its purchase of Rosetta Stone materials because the 150 calendar shows the whole “Welcome to Rosetta Stone Classroom website page, not just the picture, including the words, “All rights are reserved.”
I’m guessing that the main problem is that this year’s calendar was an afterthought—that planning didn’t start soon enough. However, the rush led to a calendar that is a total deception.
There are about two pictures of actual District 150 personnel mixed in with stock photos, most of which were probably taken off the internet. I found two of the pictures on a website called Fotosearch, so I assume that if I had had more time to waste I could have found most of the pictures. At least, the ones I found were royalty free.
Then I decided to try the English teacher’s trick for uncovering plagiarized term papers. I Googled the first ten words of the narrative found above the September calendar and found the narrative word for word on the Bureau of Labor Statistics website. This particular page does not give any credit for the plagiarized words. However, narratives on later pages do start with phrases such as, “The Bureau of Labor Statistics website says.” However, no quotation marks are used—which, as any English teacher will tell you, is required of direct quotations.
Stock photos and plagiarized narrative are minor compared to the deceptive message sent to Peorians by this calendar. Many people will be led to believe that the pictures depict what is really going on at the Woodruff Career and Technical Center.
Don’t get me wrong; I am thrilled that District 150 has seen the need for a technical school and an alternative school. However, if things stay as they are right now, District 150 will not have a viable technology program or an alternative school, so please do not deceive people into believing that miracles are now occurring at Woodruff.
According to the District 150 website, there are only about five teachers and, therefore, very few students engaged in the technology program. The equipment currently available and the hands-on activities carried out by students are in no way as sophisticated as the pictures in this calendar purport.
Please don’t tell me that the pictures aren’t meant to deceive. The name of Woodruff boldly appears with the pictures for September, November, January, February, April, May, and August. In fact, there are under 100 students at Woodruff, but the photos for seven months are dedicated to the technical center only
Parents who believe the pictures and narratives will be very disappointed to learn that much of what is depicted has nothing to do with reality. Of course, the narratives use what could be considered “fudging” words, such as “Students will be introduced to some of the following skills and careers.”
For example, that statement precedes a list of careers including biomedical engineering, dentistry, mental health, ophthalmology, pharmacology, and veterinary medicine.
“Introduced,” of course, is the weasel word in the narrative. A weasel word or phrase’s aim is to create an impression that something specific and meaningful has been said, when in fact only a vague or ambiguous claim has been communicated.
This whole calendar is a series of weasel words and pictures. To quote Shakespeare’s Macbeth, “Things aren’t always what they seem.” So it is with this year’s calendar."
-- Sharon Crews
My take: Wow! Good work, Sharon. Wish I had been at the board meeting to see their faces when the truth about the calendar was revealed.
-- Elaine Hopkins