ROCHESTER, Minn. — Multiple new accusations of plagiarism have arisen against Rochester Public Schools Superintendent Michael Muñoz.
The allegations indicate Muñoz has plagiarized at least one letter, multiple speeches and a social media post over the span of more than a year. The new allegations have arrived in the wake of Muñoz admitting that he plagiarized the Thanksgiving letter he sent to staff in the district.
A parent in the district brought the new information to light after speaking with an Rochester Public Schools teacher, who had mentioned additional instances of plagiarism. The parent asked to remain anonymous so their children would not be targeted.
"The RPS parents, teachers and board, as well as the tax payers of this city, need to know the depth of his cheating," the parent said about Muñoz. "For someone of his position, the leader of students and teachers, to adopt such a corrupt practice is atrocious."
Forum News Service contacted Muñoz for comment about the new allegations.
In response, schools Director of Communications Heather Nessler simply provided the written statement from the School Board outlining its response to the plagiarism of the Thanksgiving letter. The statement did not address the fact that new instances of plagiarism have been found.
Following the Thanksgiving letter, the school board announced that Muñoz would be suspended for five days without pay. It also said he would have to go through a reconciliation process led by two board members. Nessler said a letter to Muñoz from the district's attorney, as well as the details of the reconciliation plan, would be made available to the public.
School board Chairwoman Jean Marvin said once the plagiarism of the Thanksgiving letter came to light, the school board received a couple of emails indicating there were additional instances of plagiarism by Muñoz. However, Marvin said no one brought any evidence of the additional instances forward at the time. She said the board did not have a comment on the new instances of plagiarism, since it had not seen anything about them.
The teacher who spoke with the parent about the additional instances said other teachers had dug into the superintendent's previous emails after finding out the Thanksgiving letter was plagiarized. That process spurred even more scrutiny into the superintendent's work, leading to a couple of his speeches.
The teacher said while plagiarism is a concerning issue that needs to be brought forth, there is a "culture of fear" within the district that has prevented teachers from speaking out about it.
The teacher described the plagiarism as embarrassing for the whole district. On top of the plagiarism itself, the teacher said the school board's handling of the issue was also insufficient.
"I think most teachers were extremely disappointed in the board's response," the teacher said. "Five days (of suspension) was like a slap on the hand."
New instances of plagiarism
One of the instances among the new allegations was found on social media in a Sept. 9 tweet from Muñoz. The tweet closely reflected another written by Danny Steele, an educator, speaker and author from Birmingham, Ala.
Visiting elementary classrooms I feel for our teachers and students. As students sit there quietly, distanced behind mask. It’s hard to generate the same energy in the classroom, hard to have the same engagement & rapport. But I know it’s what is necessary for school right now. pic.twitter.com/BJxw9p5skv— Michael Munoz (@munoz535) September 9, 2020
I feel for our teachers & students. As kids sit there quietly, distanced, behind masks and partitions... it’s hard to generate the same energy in the classroom. It’s hard to have the same engagement & rapport. I know it’s what is necessary for school right now.— Danny Steele (@SteeleThoughts) August 26, 2020
It’s just hard.
Another instance includes Muñoz's graduation speech from 2019. Nearly every paragraph from the speech can be found in the 2017 graduation speech from John F. Doherty, the superintendent of Reading Public Schools in Reading, Mass. Although the exact wording does not match 100% of the time between the two superintendents' speeches, the various paragraphs from Muñoz's speech essentially mirrored those found in Doherty's.
At one point in Muñoz's speech, he wrote:
"This year, all of your firsts became your last. Your last game, your last concert, your last performance, and your last day of high school. All of these moments, whether your first or your last, have provided you and your family with so many wonderful memories."
The same section from Doherty's speech reads:
"Which brings us to this year, when all of the firsts became lasts: your last game, your last dance recital, your last concert, your last performance, and your last day of high school. All of these times, whether it was a first or a last, have provided both you and your parents with so many wonderful memories."
Another instance was found in a letter from the superintendent to families in the district about the pandemic, dated April 22, 2020. Although some paragraphs were rearranged, and not every sentence was a carbon copy, the letter was largely the same as one written by Dr. Jo Moccia, a superintendent from Washington State. The letter from Muñoz also included a portion from Michael R. Cornell, superintendent of schools in Hamburg, N.Y.
The final instance is from Muñoz's 2020 graduation speech, which was culled from a number of different sources, including open letters from a Wisconsin superintendent, a Florida superintendent and a Louisiana teacher.