When “A Better Legacy” first came out on Facebook I wanted to personally read through the website and see another side of things. The Katy Independent School District’s PR is committed to promoting the many wonderful attributes of our schools. There are fine educators in Katy, and many fine administrators leading students toward meaningful, purposeful lives. However, equally in importance is the district’s ability to hear from those who have a grievance about events, programs, and yes, district employees. There are comments online from angry community members. Those people feel like they have not been heard by the district and find that finally someone is listening to them through “A Better Legacy.” There are as well, community members who are angry with Sean Dolan. They call him an online bully and point out that he is the reason our superintendent is stepping down from his job. On the surface, that seems to be a logical assumption. But in reality a leader is continually confronted with criticism. How many great leaders face this criticism defines their true character and the ability to move forward in their purpose to create a legacy that defines their leadership.
Through all the negativity on both sides, I have remained a student of the facts. And the facts are what speak volumes; not the persona that’s presented to the public, or even the ability to “get things done” in a community. A great leader’s ability to admit his wrongs, listen to others and find a way to give back in spite of his own humanity, can truly define a lasting legacy. There is a saying in layman psychology that states, “Secrets keep you sick.” The biggest secret that came out of all of this was what research found in the dissertation in question. Many individuals change from their childhood mistakes; they do not deny the existence of these mistakes but instead use those mistakes to fuel purpose in their adult lives. But what about someone who is now an adult and does something that they innately know to be wrong, denies that they’ve done it and then blame’s another person for their misfortune when the truth finally comes to light? I’m speaking about the dissertation in question and the blame laid at Sean Dolan’s feet. For those who do not fully understand academic integrity, I’ll explain.
An educator learns to be an educator through a rigorous 4-year degree at a higher learning institution. If they have been challenged and taught well (like our students in Katy), they will know going into their university years that doing one’s own work is paramount to learning. Graduate studies are even more rigorous and it’s important that a graduate student not take shortcuts in this process. It’s even more important for leaders who represent the values of a learning institution to be honest in this endeavor. It’s like the medical doctor who cheats on exams in medical school. He may present well to patients in his bedside manner and get along well with his colleagues. But if he cheated his way through medical school, wouldn’t you question whether or not he has the actual knowledge you need about your condition? If you knew the truth, would you be comforted or distressed before he does surgery on you? For anyone reading this, don’t be blind to the fact that citizens in this district have done their work and have read the dissertations. So our question now should be, “What CORE message are we sending to our children in this community? With the actions of our Board of Trustees and the comments from Katy ISD’s Communications Department, I believe the message is inherently dysfunctional. The message that makes the most logical sense for a strong and healthy school district to disseminate to the community should be, “We’ve received information about the dissertations in question and are actively pursuing our own investigation as to the validity of this information. Our district upholds the value of academic integrity and will remain transparent in this process.” I haven’t heard any official from our district say this yet, and for that it truly saddens me. “Secrets keep you sick.”
If a degree is rescinded, our district will have to face a secret that they denied existed. Through defamation lawsuits, vetting processes, denial of events and blind support of someone who has fooled the community, this will be painful for those at the top. I urge every citizen who is a taxpaying member of this community to do your own research. How will our Board of Trustees respond when the truth finally comes out regarding the dissertation? How will they respond if the degree is rescinded? I would assume that every single board member will be chagrined to face our community after the decisions they’ve made to use our taxpayer money in support of fraudulent actions made by an employee of the district. Katy citizens, do the right thing and research the facts before you lay blame to the citizen that only brought the truth to light. If you want to lay blame, do the right thing and blame the individual that fooled you.
“No legacy is so rich as honesty” -William Shakespeare
“The greatest legacy one can pass on to one’s children and grandchildren is not money or other material things accumulated in one’s life, but rather a legacy of character and faith.” -Billy Graham
“People who think you could wave a magic wand and the legacy of the past will be over are blind.” -Ruth Bader Ginsburg