Sunday, August 21, 2011

Lebo Citizens Blog: School-board president Posti plagiarized (updated)

Update 2011-08-22 12:35: Mrs. Posti’s blog is back online and now contains a “Corrections” article that includes an apology for “neglecting to cite original sources.”

The Lebo Citizens Blog is reporting that the president of the Mt. Lebanon School Board, Josephine Posti, has been involved in “numerous instances” of plagiarism in her public writings about school issues:
There have been numerous instances over the last year of Mt. Lebanon School Board President Josephine Posti stealing information from websites and posting it on her blog as her own. In the three instances outlined below, I have copied word for word her blog post and indicated in yellow highlighted text where that information was sourced from and the original text of that source. Again, Mrs. Posti has never indicated that her sources were from anything but her own intelligence.
At the time of this writing, Mrs. Posti’s blog, Center Court, is no longer available to readers. Visitors to the blog are told that “This blog is open to invited readers only.”

Update: Mrs. Posti issues “corrections”

At around noon on Monday, August 22, 2011, Mrs. Posti’s blog was reopened to the public. Its most-recent posting, Corrections, includes an apology:
Recently, a resident accused me of plagiarism as the result of information she received and published from an anonymous source. The anonymous source found three of my 435 blog posts where I had neglected to cite original sources that I had pulled information from. I apologize for that oversight and have made corrections to those posts.

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Blogger E. T. Gillen said...

Tom, I just added screen shots of the three instances reported to me. They can be found at the bottom of the post under the third update.
Elaine Gillen

August 21, 2011 11:07 PM  
Anonymous David Brown said...

Really. No, seriously, really?

Mr. Tempest, let me introduce you to Miss Teapot.

There's a world of difference between writing a book or an original research paper and trying to communicate a lot of technical information to one's constituents. The former would be an attempt to gain fame and fortune while the latter is a voluntary and much appreciated effort over and beyond what is already daunting, and unpaid, responsibility.

In my opinion, conflating those things to score political points constitutes a much greater intellectual honesty deficit than anything Ms. Posti is accused of. I'd also have to question the intelligence and character of anyone who would spend so much time making tenuous and tangential points and trumpeting them as if they found some kind of smoking gun.

There was a saying about someone I used to work with: "If there's an angle, he'll take it." It wasn't a compliment.

August 21, 2011 11:30 PM  
Blogger Bill Matthews said...


August 22, 2011 12:02 AM  
Blogger Tom Moertel said...


If it turns out that there is a pattern of plagiarism here, are you okay with it?


August 22, 2011 12:09 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Center Court Blog is now restricted to invited readers only. What happened your Flag of Transparency, Jo?

John Ewing

August 22, 2011 12:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mr. Brown, Ms. Posti studied and works in a very different field than you and I.
As an elected offical, she is also held to a higher level of standard than the rest of us. As a school director, she handles student discipline and acts as a role model for the District.
We expect her to gather facts from others and form her own opinion.
If she puts up another's opinion and states it as her official position, she compromises the integrity of her position between the time a motion is seconded and when the vote is taken. This is how her plagiarism can affect the way others on the board will vote. Ms. Posti's commments on agenda items carry more weight considering as President, her opinions are stated last, right before the vote.

Ms. Posti's training in English and public relations, as well as her matriculation through the Mt. Lebanon School District education system tells me she should have known better.

I won't ask her to resign because the board publicly humiliated me when I rightfully asked an AWOL director to resign. Who will step up and ask on Septmeber 12?
David Huston

August 22, 2011 9:59 AM  
Anonymous David Brown said...

I find it very suspicious that 43 days ago Tom Moertel wrote a simple plagiarism detector, and now Mrs. Gillen blogs about a "document from an anonymous source" showing supposed plagiarism by Ms. Posti, and then Mr. Moertel's blog reports that as if he had nothing to do with it.

Tom, did you use your high-tech plagiarism detector and then send the results to Mrs. Gillen?

Mrs. Gillen, what reason did your source give for remaining anonymous? Was he really anonymous to you or did he request that his name not be used?

By the way, for the benefit of others, when you read Mrs. Gillen's blog and, after all the irrelevant information, you finally get to see the Google doc containing the texts, the links to the sources are not clickable. Here are the links:

Municipal Merger/Consolidation and
Sharing of Services

Legislative report

Separation Act Reform

This is the most I can say right now because I'm at work but I'll have more to say later on the finer points of plagiarism, including what it is and what it isn't.

August 22, 2011 10:45 AM  
Blogger Bill Matthews said...

Having slept on the issue, I still find it inexcusable.

As the reader, I attributed Mrs. Posti's posts to Mrs. Posti. Agreeing or disagreeing with the content or context, I often came away thinking at least she has thought about the issue.

Now I think, not so much.

August 22, 2011 11:37 AM  
Blogger Tom Moertel said...


I did not tip off Mrs. Gillen, nor do I know who did or how she came to suspect the alleged plagiarism. If she even knows that I wrote a plagiarism detector, she didn’t learn about it from me (unless, of course, she reads my programming blog).

So far, David, you have attacked the messenger (and me, too) but ignored the message. I’ll ask you again: If it turns out that there is a pattern of plagiarism here, are you okay with it?


August 22, 2011 11:37 AM  
Blogger E. T. Gillen said...

Tom, I had no idea that you had another blog. But now that I do, I have to say that it is waaay over my head. Pretty cool about the detector. I just Google phrases. I have no idea what method was used by the person who found all this.
Elaine Gillen

August 22, 2011 11:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ms. Posti apologized for the oversight and linked to Elaine's blog.
David Huston

August 22, 2011 12:34 PM  
Blogger Bill Matthews said...

Last year, Mr. Kubit told the Community on the District website and in a slick 4-page flyer that "(t)he new High School design takes into account enrollment projections over the next 20 years."

Which turned out not to be true - whereupon he told me there was no "intent to mislead" anyone. I had no choice but to accept this - only Mr. Kubit knows of his intent.

Unfortunately there was little comfort in his explanation. Besides the fact that the Board did not look at enrollment trends past the tips of their collective noses - it really indicated to me that Mr. Kubit had no idea what enrollment levels he was using to make some very critical decisions.

Essentially I found his defense, offensive.

As is the case with Mrs. Posti.

I don't know how many times she failed to properly attribute, but dismissing the issue because of only 3 reported errors out of 435 posts, is dismissive of Mrs. Gillen. What if there were 4, would that be an issue? How about 24? Wanna bet there are more?

The particularly offensive element of Mrs. Posti's redress is her characterization of Mrs. Gillen as a "consistent critic of the District".

Why these words? Why not: 1) Resident, 2) Taxpayer, 3) Stakeholder, 4) Concerned Citizen, 5) Fellow Alum, etc...?

How does it serve Mrs. Post's stated mission on her blog?

"My mission is to share information and offer perspective on issues important to Mt. Lebanon School District."

Condescending comes to mind...

August 22, 2011 4:10 PM  
Blogger E. T. Gillen said...

Thanks, Bill. I posted another incident, so maybe four is the magic number.
Elaine Gillen

August 22, 2011 4:33 PM  

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