LETTERS: Thoughts on the Johnson speech controversy

NHUHSD Board Members and Administrators:

I am a retired Humboldt County teacher. Both of my adult children graduated from the NHUHSD. I will never forget the excellent instruction and professionalism of the staff and administrators who helped lead my students down a path of good ethics and integrity.

Therefore, I was shocked not only by Dan Johnson’s plagiarism, but that the high school board supported his plagiarism and so-called apology.  An honest public display of humility might have helped, however Johnson truly seemed to put himself above the integrity of teachers, retired and current, students, and the community. It was not an apology at all. Rather, it was more of an indictment and scorn against the entire community.

As a friend who works as a Counselor in K-8 in a school district out of our area put it, “True contrition can touch the heart and move a heart into forgiveness.” In contrast,  Johnson seems to think he can abide by an entirely different set of standards than the students and faculty for whom, as a board member, he would perhaps be a role model. As one student commented, she thanked him for showing and affirming that the rich and powerful can get away with anything. And as many said, do we now condone plagiarism in students? Do we not expect a high level in honesty and integrity from our elected officials? What a lesson for students.

If you study the etymology of the word plagiarism, which literally means

“ literary theft” and “academic dishonesty”, you will find the roots, whether from Latin or English, include “kidnapper and seducer” (plagarius), “kidnapping” (plagium) and from the Oxford Dictionary of the English Language (2009), “the act of taking the work of someone else and passing it off as ones own.”  We all know that this has been a growing problem in academics, severe enough to often result in the consequences of failure and/or expulsion, even for exemplary students.

I remember when one of the board members I know was sincere and steadfast in the preparation of a previous commencement speech. Quite the opposite of someone falsely claiming to have written a speech that he presented. Despite what good he might have done as a board member, it would be a much better lesson, especially for students, if Johnson admits his wrong doing with no qualifiers or accusations and gracefully and humbly steps down from his position.

As an elected official, he has not only tarnished the high school board, but he has shown disdain for the faculty, students and community. I hope a resignation can still be demanded.  It certainly looks to be the only solution for everyone.


Carilyn Hammer-Goldammer


More thoughts…


I did not attend graduation, but I did attend the July 26 NHUHSD school board meeting. I have followed the graduation speech controversy in the papers.

It appears to me that there are a number of truths in all of the commotion. Mr. Johnson’s speech was at best over dramatic, plagiarized and ill-advised. Mr. Johnson’s apology was not nearly contrite enough or soon enough. The action of the Administration and School Board was not fast enough nor specific enough. (Who is in charge when Mr. Hartley is on vacation?) Mr. Johnson should resign (his call, not mine.)

All of this happened but it is done. Let us move on. I see the School Board and Administration’s job as providing the best possible education opportunities for all of the 1,700 students in the district in the most fiscally prudent manner. Let us put this behind us and get on with the important challenge of educating our youth.


Rebecca Bair Kurwitz



They saw it  in the McK Press

Dear Editor:

Our Blackberry Festival in Westhaven on July 28 was a huge success! So many people told us they saw it in the Mckinleyville Press.

Thank you for the wonderful coverage you gave us. The photos of the fire department members on the front page (July 24) and the photos of the pie bakers (June 26) all brought attention to the festival.

In terms of support for the fire department it was our best year ever! We sold over 870 pies and all of our jams and jellies.


Erica Ervin

Westhaven Lady’s Club