Thoughts On & Advice For Dan Johnson & The NHUHSD Board

Successful, generous Dan

I have not talked to Dan Johnson about his speech, but I do know that he works very hard to support our community and our kids. He runs a large, successful, self made business that donates tens of thousands of dollars every year to philanthropic causes. He has done and continues to do many good works.

People make mistakes. Successful people who are public figures and make mistakes often get hammered in the public eye. I don’t understand why Dan gave this speech without reference, but I still appreciate his huge commitment and contribution to our community.

Jim Ritter



School board making it worse

As a former editor-in-chief of the Arcata High School Pepperbox, I once considered it my job to reflect the voice of the student body.

In the recent news coverage of the Dan Johnson plagiarism controversy, there has been an apparent lack of the student perspective. Therefore, I would like to offer a view from the students’ eyes.

Most graduates agree that what Dan Johnson did was wrong, although it is difficult to go on record saying so because many of us have some tie to the family (friend, teammate, classmate) or have enjoyed the generosity of the Johnsons at some point in our four years of high school.

I believe that is why we have been content with having our parents duke it out in the Facebook comments – they are saying everything we could say ourselves about why plagiarism is unprofessional and insulting.

As such, I don’t feel the need to denounce what Mr. Johnson did any further, as others have taken care of that for me.

I recognized the speech right away, sitting in the front row at my graduation, and yes, I was very angry.

Three weeks later, I am still upset, but no longer because of what Mr. Johnson did. I am more disappointed in my principal and superintendent, who it appears are more afraid of insulting a school board member and a wealthy benefactor than standing up for the educational integrity of the district.

In the July 3 Arcata Eye article, neither one truly addressed the issue or even hinted that Mr. Johnson should apologize. Which begs the question: Are they going to let him get away with it?

Some argue that plagiarizing a speech at a high school graduation teaches students that plagiarism is acceptable. In reality, every AHS graduate knows without a doubt that plagiarizing is a serious crime in the academic community – even Mr. Johnson’s actions can’t erase four years of adhering to scholastic probity.

Rather, if Mr. Johnson refuses to apologize or even acknowledge his error, it teaches us graduates that power and money lets you get by with a different set of rules.

During my senior year basketball season, Mr. Johnson, as an assistant coach, gave the team several motivational speeches that were very effective and helped us complete a successful season.

He is certainly a gifted orator – that is, if those words were in fact his own. If they were, perhaps he could use his own skill to write a public apology.

Elaine Cunha


Arcata High School Class of 2013


Board afraid to address problem   

One of the lessons so deeply drilled into us as students is “do your own work.” For this reason I was surprised and embarrassed by Dan Johnson’s apparent lack of regard for the educational ethics he claims to encourage and uphold by his position on the school board.

I can only imagine how his daughter felt as he flaunted her about on the stage, subjecting the audience to anecdotes about her childhood and reading to her what should have been a private letter – a letter that should have been co-signed by Mr. David McCullough, Jr.

Basic RGBWhile I and many of my peers were insulted by his stolen words – the AP English class in particular was very familiar with the speech, having had it assigned to read the past year – I feel more let down by the school board and the administration of Arcata High School.

While Mr. Johnson faces much censure for his actions, as well he should, the administration talks about how the rest of the ceremony was a success, and the school board seemingly turns a blind eye.

Their reasoning seems to be that if they ask for his resignation, he will withdraw all assistance to the district. If this is the case, it means the school board is sitting idle out of fear.

On top of condoning plagiarism, they are showing students and parents that it is all right to sit by while people whose wallets are a bit more padded flout the rules which the rest of society is expected to follow.

This incident is an unsightly blemish on the face of the district and everything they claim to uphold. It would be foolish to expect an apology from Mr. Johnson, as he clearly thinks himself above such an act of contrition.

However, I heartily believe that in order for the school board to save what little face they have left and show that they will practice what they preach, they would be wise to clamor for his immediate resignation.

Shea Lignitz


AHS Class of 2013


Johnson getting special treatment 

In school, students are taught that cheating and plagiarism is not OK, and if we do that, we get in trouble for it; we don’t get credit for that assignment and maybe even a detention.

Members of the school board are supposed to be setting an example for us, and if they cheat or plagiarize, they are teaching us that grown-ups or people with power are exempt from the rules that the rest of us must follow. And that’s not OK.

It seems to me that if Dan Johnson is allowed to get away with plagiarizing his speech, that teachers at Arcata High can no longer reprimand students for plagiarizing, either.

Mr. Johnson isn’t any more special than we are, is he?

Grace Lovell



A teaching moment for all

Regarding Mr. Dan Johnson’s plagiarized speech at Arcata High’s 2013 graduation. For over ten years, I taught the technical communications class to HSU engineering students. Over that time, I observed that more and more students are already aware of plagiarism and stealing of intellectual property before starting my class. Kudos to teachers who are preparing our children for these fast-evolving and ever-changing times! However, I believe there is a half-generation of folks who really don’t understand that stealing intellectual property is wrong, because cut and paste copying is so easy via the internet. Those of us of a certain age (say, Mr. Johnson’s age), could be very much in the dark.

If I were Mr. Johnson, I would write a letter similar to the following, to the school board and newspaper editors:

“I am very sorry that I plagiarized the speech that I gave at the Arcata High School 2013 graduation ceremony. I am not just sorry that I got caught; I am truly sorry to have acted in a way that has embarrassed our school board, our high school district, and our community. Especially, to students and young people, please accept my apology.

“I truly did not know that intellectual property can be stolen, exactly like how a car or money or a famous painting can be stolen. I’m a real estate developer, and I deal with things that are, literally and figuratively, concrete and therefore difficult to steal. My working world is based on houses, business structures, and apartments. I do not work much in the “new economy” based on services, design, ideas and concepts, and patents. I did not recognize that such invisible things like words or ideas are actually created and can be owned by someone. Further, I did not stop to think that a writer or creator may feel angry or taken advantage of, when someone like me takes credit for his ideas and words.

“Believe me when I say I know it now! And again, to all in our community, please accept my sincere apologies.

“I like to believe that I am a reasonably intelligent person who is capable of learning new things. I went online and read all of the content on this website: There I read ‘Can words and ideas really be stolen? According to U.S. law, the answer is yes,’ (iParadigms, LLC. 2013). I recommend this website to any who are wondering why my plagiarism during the graduation ceremony has created the situation I now find myself in.”

To Mr. Johnson or any who wish to use all or portions of this letter, please do—but with proper attribution please!

Sheri Woo, PE






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  3. Jonathan Willcox said:

    Many interesting comments, threads, and overall debate. None of it, however,originates from that place or from the persons who matter most. There is a disconcerting void here that worries me greatly.

  4. Mark Leppanen said:

    Sorry guys, I had to trim my hedge. I can not help but think this discussion a bit pedantic at times. Kevin,is not the process of pointing out inconsistencies in an argument one of the cornerstones of debate? I suspect there is a bias on both sides of this discussion. Many who have clamored for Johnson's resignation, I suspect support Gallegos, though I have no proof of that. I am glad we have this forum to express our opinions, and we are equally entitled to them.Thanks for dignifying my ideas with your thoughtful responses. Time for dinner.

  5. Ian Ray said:

    This article wasn't exactly groovocratic as far as Gallegos' writing:–-november-12-2010/

    People had the same excuses seven years ago when Gallegos was caught cheating: maybe he's too stupid to know what plagiarism is, his intentions weren't bad, it's not illegal, other people do it.

    People are going to write letters to the editor about these issues. I figure anyone who doesn't like that is just going to have to stop reading newspapers.

  6. Kevin Hoover said:

    Mark Leppanen So henceforth, before expressing an opinion on anything, we in Arcata are compelled to survey area newspapers for at least the past 10 years for similar incidents. We must then ascertain the level of news coverage and opinion, then gauge the ideology of any perpetrators, and finally, scale any opinion we may have to ensure balance with those precedents. Seriously?

  7. Kevin Hoover said:

    Ian Ray I think it stems from the Internet obsession with disqualification by inconsistency.

    Tying together unrelated matters and evaluating them for ideological inconsistency rather than on the merits. Johnson and Gallegos. Cigarette restrictions and auto pollution.

  8. Ian Ray said:

    What's up with all the tu quoque fallacy going around? Maybe people need to be getting their logic boosters reupped more often.

  9. Kevin Hoover said:

    Mark Leppanen "I would also contend that this animus is fueled by issues not exclusively related to plagiarism."

    Do you have any evidence of this? What is the basis of this speculation?

  10. Kevin Hoover said:

    Mark Leppanen A sense of fair play is what underlies their objections. Maybe county politics don't interest them, but the behavior of school board officials does. Is that permitted, or is everyone required to comment in equivalent fashion on all offenses at all times, or remain silent on all?

  11. Mark Leppanen said:

    This child card seems like obfuscation. I am concerned about public opinion as represented in our local media. I expect that their anti Johnson sentiments are representative of a large segment of our community. I would also contend that this animus is fueled by issues not exclusively related to plagiarism. It seems to me also that the amnesia these same people have towards Gallegos is inconsistent with truth and equanimity. I am not claiming that Johnson is innocent, rather that his accusers temper their rancor with a sense of fair play.

  12. Kevin Hoover said:

    Mark Leppanen As I mentioned, the students who sat through the commencement speech were children at the time of the Gallegos plagiarism. Are these students also limited in their right to object? Or just those who failed to address the Gallegos issue? Do different classes of citizens have different levels of moral authority to express opinions? What are the mechanics of al this?

  13. Mark Leppanen said:

    And we're supposed to abandon all experience and concoct new standards of judgement for each new infraction? Wiping the slate clean works out pretty well when those who support your ideology are guilty. The problem here is that only one side is allowed this luxury, and everyone else is supposed to wear the yoke of the public scrutiny. Fairness demands that we do not abandon our memories when it suits our purpose. We're not talking about proto- history here. Seriously and respectfully.

  14. Mark Leppanen said:

    I don't know. You're asking me to imagine that Gallegos didn't plagiarize? How about if I imagine that he has plagiarized, which he did ? This is not about some dog faced baboon on the dark side of the moon. This is about using the same standard of judgement to everyone in our community, whether on the right or the left. Calling for Johnson's resignation and not Gallegos' seems duplicitous and suspect to me. Again, I am not referring to you alone, but the surfeit of letters lately suggesting he resign.

  15. Kevin Hoover said:

    Mark Leppanen For example, the teenage high school students who heard the Johnson commencement address were children when the Gallegos plagiarism took place. It sounds like you're suggesting that these students are supposed to check back issues of a paper in another city for incidents of plagiarism by public officials, then evaluate the news coverage before objecting in this newspaper to the incident they experienced. And if the previous incident was underreported, then they are prohibited from addressing the current situation?

  16. Kevin Hoover said:

    Mark Leppanen It's not logical. If the Johnson affair is to be minimized because the Gallegos plagiarism was underreported, consider: What if Gallegos had never done that? Would citizens now be more justified in their demands for an explanation from Johnson? There's no connection; it's all tu quoque.

  17. Mark Leppanen said:

    Sheeshit. I didn't realize that you were taking this as some sort of personal journalistic imputation. To the contrary, I admire your even handedness . I am referring to the vast amount of letters (in your paper as well as others) calling for Johnson's head. The groovocracy you refer to, is again out in full force, and if they were complaining before, it was because you dared to malign their water boy, true? Pointing out hypocrisy is not a logical fallacy, it is called fair play.

  18. Mark Leppanen said:

    Casey Anthony? I'd stop there for sure. I didn't know she was a plagiarist.The point being Kevin, Paul Gallegos was also a plagiarist and there was barely a blip in the papers about it. Class envy is fashionable unless it's your own ox that's getting gored.

  19. Kevin Hoover said:

    Why stop there? There are limitless past injustices to reverse. Let's tie it to the Casey Anthony verdict as well.

  20. Mike Bernsten said:

    The school board should be trying to promote academic honesty and should request Dan resigns.

Comments are closed.