Tavares, FL - July 29, 2012
A candidate for Lake County School Board, Cheryl Thomas, appears to be using much of the same campaign platform wording as another former School Board candidate in Virgina, and gave it to the Orlando Sentinel for publishing. Should a School Board candidate be apparently plagiarizing another website and providing that as original campaign platform content to the Orlando Sentinel? Shouldn't we expect the candidate to be able to write their own original campaign platform information, and would we want someone on the School Board defining policy who plagiarizes ideas? Is that fair in politics, but not school test taking, and what do you think?
Cheryl L. Thomas is running for Lake County FL School Board District 4 against incumbent Debbie Stivender and opponent Thuy Lowe. The position is non-partisan, but she is a Democrat opposing the other two who are Republicans.
We sent her an email and left a phone message using the contact information on the Supt. of Elections website, but they were not returned by our deadline.
Thomas has a website here: http://www.thomas4lakecountyschools.org/
She also was recently interviewed by the Lake Sentinel staff of the Orlando Sentinel. Under the heading "Platform" she submitted the following information to
Following Thomas’s “Platform” below is the source of much of this, a website for a School Board Candidate in Virginia. The highlighted or Italic Underlined sections are almost direct copies from the Virginia website (which is provided further down) which had more content than was apparently used by Thomas:
Platform (from Cheryl Thomas): The role of the school board is not just to run the schools but to run them well. As a candidate for the Lake County Public Schools (LCPS) System, I have a practical vision of what is necessary to make our good school system a great one. We need to continue to improve our school system to adapt to a changing world but need to do so in a way that is as cost effective as possible. It's time for the school board to have a fresh perspective, a fresh new outlook, and a more diverse view, as bringing diversity to the board is important. The district is still challenged when it comes to raising the achievement of its lower quartile. I would like to develop a system to evaluate the district's different programs to determine if they are working for all children. I believe if we A.C.T and not react we can move our district forward.
(Editor’s NOTE: Notice above that Thomas refers to the “Lake County Public Schools (LCPS)" System – she didn’t even change the full name from “Louisa Public School (LCPS) System to the proper name of Lake County School District (LCSD). )
A -- Accountability
Student Achievement: What we measure is what we will improve. We need to make sure that funds are spent in the classroom on student achievement. No Child Left Behind is our current yardstick for student achievement, although we may not agree with it. We should support our schools so that they excel, while keeping in mind no single measuring tool gives a complete picture. With No Child Left Behind legislature in place, all students must show learning gains. Our students who achieve on level 4 and above should continue to be challenged. We should investigate programs such as magnet or IB (International Baccalaureate) programs (Note: See our comments about the IB program in the conclusion section – ed) that offer a variety of classes for all students. These programs bring students to our district instead of forcing parents to look at other area school districts for these types of opportunities. These programs help close the achievement gap by allowing students to thrive in areas that fit their individual needs.
C -- Communication (Text was taken from Strickland’s A- Accountability section on “Student Achievement”, not from his “Communication” section. - ed )
Parental Involvement varies from school to school in Lake County. There are many reasons why, but to ignore parental involvement is not the answer. I understand that parental involvement has a major impact on student success and can either help our schools thrive or hurt our schools in the long run. We should promote and expect more parental involvement in all of our schools. We should support this effort with programs that promote parental involvement. Our schools should implement a public relations plan and invite business and civic organizations to work together with effective communication we can increase parental involvement in Lake County Schools.
T -- Technology
When students graduate they will have to use technology in just about any profession they enter. Preparing our children for a global work force is top priority. The earlier our students are exposed to technology with regular practice the more proficient they will become. All schools should implement a regular technology rotation just as they have rotations for PE, Library, and Art. Technology is where we are going it is not something of the future. Technology is here and preparing our students to manipulate it effectively will help shorten the learning curve.
Another source for the above "platform"
In comparison, we found that the above text very closely matches text at the website below from Greg Strickland, a previous candidate for School Board in Louisa County in Mineral, Virginia. The website is old, and Strickland won his election and is currently the Chair of the School Board. Or, is Thomas recommending that Lake County Schools adopt a platform developed by the current Chair of a School District in Virginia?
His "Platform" tab leads to the following text, which appears to be the source of much of Thomas’s campaign platform described above.
Note: Update - 7:50 pm Jul 30 - Greg Strickland called and verified Thomas did not ask permission to copy his text. Strickland said that he gets periodic calls asking for permission to copy his text, which he provides, but Thomas did not do that.
Platform (of Greg Strickland)
The role of the school board is not to run the schools but to insure that schools are well run. As a candidate for the Patrick Henry seat for the Louisa County Public School (LCPS) System, I have a practical vision of what is necessary to make our good school system a great one. The three planks of my platform are Accountability, Communication, and Technology (ACT). If we can ACT
and not just react, we can move forward.
The specifics of ACT are:
“What gets measured, gets improved”
-Financial Performance - The school board has a fiduciary responsibility to insure that as much money as possible gets to and stays in the classroom. Administrative expenses arenecessary but should be kept to a minimum. Administrative Salaries should be at the same level with their peers as Teachers are with theirs.
-Staff Development and Retention - What motivates anyone to perform well and stay in their job really comes down to three items; time, money, and enjoying what you do. Research shows that job satisfaction is highly correlated with job turnover. The happier teachers are, the longer they will stay. That is a problem in our county. We have a high percentage of new teachers but we do not have great retention rates after 5+ years.
Teachers are just reaching the prime in their profession and we need to do our best to retain these experienced teachers. We not only lose them at 5 years but we don’t keep them at 10 or 15 years either. And while competitive salaries are effective, they are not the only factor. Better communication with administration and support from parents, and respect for their profession by the community are critical factors.
-Student Achievement - Anyone who has a child or grandchild in school has heard of the Virginia Standards of Learning (SOL) Assessments and the Federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act. Whether you agree or disagree with these programs, these are the current “yardsticks” that are being used to measure performance. We should support our schools to excel in these programs but we need to also measure our students’ performance in
additional ways. No single measure ever gives a complete picture.
-Parental Involvement - Parental involvement varies greatly from school to school in Louisa County. There are many reasons for this variation but involvement and support by administrators plays a crucial role. We should promote and expect more parental involvement through programs that will involve more parents. We should invite every civic organization of our community to work together. With effective communication we can
increase parental involvement. Our worst enemy is apathy.
“ When the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their government”
Encourage increased communication between parents, teachers, students, and administrators. When you increase the communication you can increase the collaboration and cooperation. In a rural community we have limited resources. It is important for schools to collaborate with organizations that all ready exist. Examples include (but are not limited to) such organizations such as PTA, Parks and Recreation, 4H, Boy Scouts, and the Louisa County Educational Association.
Technology can shorten the learning curve
In LCPS we have a terrific infrastructure of information technology (IT). Unfortunately, IT is used (or not) at various degrees in different schools. On one hand Central Administration has done a great job of putting the curriculum maps on the Internet so that they are available to teachers and parents. The high school uses video conferencing and high speed Internet for the Virtual Governor’s School classes. On the other hand, in some of the elementary schools students may get a brief computer class once every two weeks. We all know that when our children graduate they will need to use computers in almost any profession they choose. If they decide to become a lawyer, a mechanic, or a farmer, they will need computer skills. The sooner they are exposed to computers and given regular practice, the more proficient they will be. I would also like to see the principals become more computer proficient. If they can expand their knowledge then they can better understand its many applications and support and promote the use of technology in their own school. I would also like to see more hands on time for the students at the elementary schools. Just as we have regular rotations for art, library, physical education (P.E.), and music, we need to build a regular technology rotation into their schedules. Integrating skills and content across the curriculum can be made much easier through the use of technology as teachers can conduct lessons on any subject in the computer labs.
1. It is apparent that Thomas copied the ACT framework for her platform from Greg Strickland in Virginia and doing that is a questionable judgment call. Her website does not contain this platform which was given to the Orlando Sentinel. Do we want an elected official who cannot write her own platform and then be responsible for initiating policy at the School District? However, there is NO campaign platform or issues statement on her website.
2. Additionally, I cannot help but be amazed that in her campaign platform, Thomas added a suggestion for the implementation of “IB” or International Baccalaureate programs. They are run by one world educators and their curriculum does not contain any American history and focuses on teaching children how to be “citizens of the world”. They focus on “research” problem solving, and not learning FACTS to be capable of professional work like engineers, etc. IB is not in Lake County, but there are some IB schools in Orange County and their teacher training and curriculums are VERY Expensive and the exams are not defined by the US, but by the parent company based in Geneva, Switzerland. You can find many complaints on the internet about the IB program being an expensive scam. They are currently getting a significant amount of their funding in the US from the FEDERAL government. Fiscal Rangers will be publishing a white paper soonon IB schools and their limitations.
3. On her website, Mrs. Thomas says "Mrs. Thomas has a vast amount of experience and knowledge having been involved in public schools, private schools, and homeschool support groups."
Yet, we cannot find any resume, list of work experience, list of employers and employment dates, dates of college graduation or other information to confirm her "vast amount of experience" EXCEPT that she is listed as an Academic Advisor for a private "faith based" school in Eatonville HERE where her husband is the Principal. We believe the public needs more information on Mrs. Thomas's "educator" experience. We even checked the blog, Right Side of the Lake, which had no specific work experience details, the Orlando Sentinel page for her had a blank "Experience" field.
If we get any updates or corrections, we will add them to THIS page.
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