Students in Massachusetts’ Newton public schools who are caught plagiarizing can get a zero on their assignments, and suspended for a second offense. The stakes are apparently much higher when it’s the superintendent who’s cheating. According to The Boston Globe:

The superintendent of the Newton public schools was docked one week’s salary by the city’s school board Thursday for his failure to credit Governor Deval Patrick in two graduation speeches he delivered [in June].  …

Newton’s superintendent, David Fleishman, admitted he was wrong not to cite Patrick as the source of several passages. “That was my mistake,” he said in an interview.

The questionable passages became public Wednesday, when the Newton South High School student newspaper called attention to five sentences from Fleishman’s June 9 remarks at the school’s commencement ceremony that echoed the governor’s speech to Boston University graduates in May. …

Newton’s public schools are known for their high achievement levels, and Fleishman has received praise for his engagement with the community and for keeping the district’s financial house in order.

He became the Newton system’s superintendent in July 2010, and makes $254,000, or $4,890 a week, the school district said.

Sadly, this was not an isolated instance.

Last month Mansfield School Superintendent Brenda Hodges resigned one year before she was due to retire amid charges that she plagiarized remarks from a commencement address by Navy Adm. William McRaven at the University of Texas at Austin in May. According to The Sun Chronicle:

Details of any severance package were not immediately available, but the most recent Mansfield town report said Hodges made $158,314 plus a $15,000 “curriculum stipend,” making her the second highest-paid official among town and school employees. …

Hodges’ resignation follows a month of growing public outrage among parents, students, and former students who were upset that Hodges didn’t attribute the portions of her speech she used. Some said her actions presented a double standard because Mansfield schools have a strict anti-plagiarism policy.

Leading by example is a critical lesson for students. Hopefully, Massachusetts school officials will take the bad choices of some of their leaders to heart and increase their efforts to win back the support and trust of students and parents throughout the upcoming school year.