Toronto’s top educator resigns after admitting to plagiarism

TORONTO – The director of education at Canada’s largest school board has resigned after a plagiarism scandal, saying he regrets he hasn’t set a good example for students.

Chris Spence resigned today from the Toronto District School Board after he admitted to plagiarizing parts of an opinion piece published in a major Toronto newspaper.

The board’s chair, Chris Bolton, says that the resignation is effective immediately and the board will appoint an interim director.

In his letter of resignation Spence says he’s stepping down because he doesn’t want to be a distraction for his colleagues at the school board.

He says he will try to restore his reputation, uphold academic integrity and make amends.

In a statement of apology Wednesday he said as an educator he “should know better” than to cite other people’s work without attribution — something he said happened five times in the op-ed he penned for the Toronto Star.

In his letter of resignation he wrote that he was leaving with “great sadness.”

“I have come to this decision after a great deal of reflection, and no small amount of consultation with family, friends and colleagues,” he wrote. “I do so with a profoundly heavy heart.”

Spence said he’s dedicated his life to the education of young people.

“More than anything else, I regret that I have not set a good or proper example for the many thousands of young people I’ve been privileged to meet and know,” he wrote.

Spence’s article ran on Jan. 5 and focused on the importance of extracurricular activities, which have been cancelled in many schools due to the ongoing labour strife between teachers and the province.

The newspaper said the plagiarized material came from several sources, including a blog belonging to the Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching, an online encyclopedia and a 1989 New York Times op-ed.

The National Post reported Thursday that it uncovered two more op-eds and a blog post by Spence that resemble other people’s works.

The Toronto board isn’t the only one to deal with plagiarism this week.

The University of Waterloo said Tuesday it has suspended a professor of mechanical and mechatronics engineering who plagiarized a research paper published last fall.

In a statement, the university said Dongqing Li will be suspended without pay for four months beginning April 1.

During that time, Li will be allowed to visit the campus but otherwise relieved of his duties and privileges and unable to use university resources.

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