A high school principal in suburban Atlanta says he is concerned about accusation that that Katy ISD’s outgoing superintendent plagiarized his doctoral dissertation — claims that some critics say should lead to the revocation of his degree and to his termination.
Keith Rowland, principal of South Paulding High School in Douglasville, Ga., said he did a side-by-side comparison of his 2008 dissertation, “The Relationship of Principal Leadership and Teacher Morale,” for Liberty University with a paper Lance Hindt completed four years later, titled “The Effects of Principal Leadership on Teacher Morale and Student Achievement,” for his education doctorate at UH.
“There were a lot of similarities,” he said. “A lot of the sections were just flipped and copied.”
Rowland said the University of Houston declined to talk to him, citing privacy concerns. University officials wouldn’t comment on the accusations against the embattled educator but said they investigate any allegations of academic misconduct.
“The University has policies and procedures in place to ensure research integrity and address allegations of academic misconduct and investigates any allegations of this sort,” the university said in a statement.
Hindt announced his resignation from Katy ISD’s top job in a May 10 board meeting, about two months after he was accused by a former classmate of having been a bully in junior high school. Since the bullying claims were made, Hindt has said a “smear campaign” waged against him prompted his decision to leave the position effective Jan. 1, 2019. As a result of a contract amended at the last minute, Hindt will receive about $750,000, an amount equal to two years of base pay, on his last day on the job.
Sean Dolan, a Katy resident and frequent critic of the school board and administration, first raised the questions about Hindt’s doctoral dissertation. He said the investigation by the National Association of Scholars, which came at the request of Katy residents, vindicates their concerns.
“We’ve been so frustrated just knowing what this is. At every turn, the board not only denied it but refused to answer the question,” he said. “It would really be nice if the University of Houston could find a way to let us know if our superintendent should be fired for good cause. We can’t afford buses, we can’t afford cameras in special ed rooms, but we can afford this? It would save us a lot of money.”
Peter Wood, president of the New York City-based National Association of Scholars, said he has no connection to Katy ISD or the University of Houston. After examining both dissertations, Wood wrote UH President Renu Khator a letter dated July 27 noting the “strong similarities” between the works and stating that Hindt took steps to cover up his wrongdoing.
“His plagiarism is extensive but Hindt appears to have proceeded systematically by adding words and phrases and occasionally varying word order,” Wood wrote. “But given the brevity of both dissertations, which are little more than long-term papers, there is no great obstacle to comparing the two.”
Wood claims Hindt attempted to avoid plagiarism by stuffing superfluous words into Rowland’s text.
“‘First of all,’ ‘present’ and ‘in general,’ do not alter the structure or the meaning of Rowland’s sentence. They simply camouflage the theft,” he wrote.
Katy ISD officials declined to comment on Rowland’s allegations and instead referred to their statement from May when a spokesperson said there was “zero truth to this allegations” of plagiarism.
Wood made his letter public on Wednesday after not receiving a response from UH.
“If Dr. Hindt is indeed guilty of plagiarism at the order of magnitude I’ve pointed to, the University of Houston ought to revoke his degree. This is a matter of integrity of the university as much as it is an obligation to the public,” Wood wrote.
Rowland doesn’t know Hindt and said he only learned about the plagiarism allegations from the news accounts of the incident. He said Liberty University put his dissertation online after they awarded him the doctorate in education.
Hindt “could have just ‘Googled’ it and it would have come out,” Rowland said. “It is a black eye for the University of Houston.”