Wood BOE suspends PHS principal

DeMoss to be gone five days without pay

Photo by Michael Erb Parkersburg High School Principal Kenny DeMoss addresses the Wood County Board of Education Tuesday, apologizing for plagiarizing a speech at the school’s May 23 graduation ceremony. The board voted 4-1 to suspend DeMoss for five days without pay.

PARKERSBURG — A principal accused of plagiarizing a graduation speech was suspended Tuesday after delivering a public apology in front of the Wood County Board of Education.

The board voted 4-1 to suspend Parkersburg High School Principal Kenny DeMoss for five days without pay. Board member Debbie Hendershot was the lone vote against the suspension.

The vote came after a 30-minute executive session and after DeMoss addressed the board during the public comment portion of Tuesday’s meeting.

DeMoss read a prepared statement apologizing for his May 23 speech at the PHS graduation ceremony which copied heavily from a 2013 speech by actor Aston Kutcher.

“My intent in speaking tonight is to say I’m sorry,” DeMoss said. “I am a proud graduate of PHS, have coached for 25 years and have been an administrator for seven years in this community. I would never purposefully bring shame to myself, my family, my school, our school system, or our community.”

DeMoss did not cite Kutcher when he gave his speech last month and after public outcry issued a statement online apologizing but defending his actions. At the time, DeMoss said he greatly admired Kutcher’s speech and never intended to copy the content of it, only the format, and said a disclaimer at the start of his speech was intended to show he was using multiple sources.

In Tuesday’s apology, however, DeMoss lay the blame squarely on himself.

“I made a mistake. I have brought a negative focus upon us and I deeply apologize,” he said. “I hope that those disappointed in me will forgive me. Through this, I have learned valuable lessons and it is on me to earn your respect moving forward.”

Video of DeMoss’ speech spliced with video of Kutcher’s original speech was posted on Facebook by a PHS graduate shortly after the commencement ceremony and quickly went viral, gaining attention not only online but with national media.

Kutcher himself posted a tongue-in-cheek response Saturday on Twitter.

” ‘Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery that mediocrity can pay to greatness.’ – Oscar Wilde. *cite your sources kids and faculty,” Kutcher tweeted, ending with a smile emoji.

DeMoss, who has said he was very impressed and inspired with Kutcher’s speech at the 2013 Nickelodeon Kid’s Choice Awards, said Tuesday he was to blame for his actions and his initial response.

Board members made no public comment on the suspension, but following Tuesday’s meeting Superintendent Will Hosaflook issued a written statement.

“As superintendent of Wood County Schools, it is my responsibility to ensure all employees adhere to the employee code of conduct established by Wood County Schools and the West Virginia Department of Education,” Hosaflook said. “In this case, Mr. DeMoss is not disputing the mistake he made. He fully accepts responsibility for his actions and was disciplined appropriately.

“As Mr. DeMoss said tonight, he would never purposefully bring shame to his alma mater or our school system.”