Dan Johnson’s Accusatory Apologia, With Cover Letter

Thursday, July 25, 2013
Dan Johnson.

Dan Johnson.

Update: This morning a hitherto unreleased cover letter for the statement written by Boardmember Dan Johnson was read by NHUHSD Board President Mike Pigg. It is appended immediately below, with Johnson’s official statement following. – Ed.

Cover letter to NHUHSD Board by Dan Johnson

Dear Dr. Hartley, Mr. Lonn, and fellow board members,

I want to apologize for the awkward position I have put you all in over the past few weeks and thank you for your understanding.

Attached is a statement I felt I should make to the community clarifying my actions with regard to my graduation comments. It is intended to be public and you may share with any interested parties.  If requested I will also read it publicly at the next board meeting I am in attendance, which likely will not be until September.

I’m sorry it took me so long to address this. I was caught very much by surprise and have been dealing with some difficult family issues at the same time.

Thank you again for your understanding and I look forward to getting back to focusing on kids.

Dan Johnson

Public Statement by Dan Johnson

“I want to address an issue that has been made of my comments at the Arcata High graduation last month.

“As a sentimental dad who did not go to college myself, I just wanted to use my speaking opportunity to do something special for my daughter, who has graduated with a 4.04 GPA and is headed off to Santa Clara University.

“Like so many others, I was inspired by the 2012 Wellesley High School commencement speech of David McCollough Jr. [sic] It was a blunt, but ultimately inspiring, message to the graduates. My speech prep skills are lacking, and when I had heard the speech on the radio and liked the message, it gave me ideas for the speech I delivered at graduation.

“What I prepared to deliver at the graduation ceremony was a personalized version of McCollough’s [sic] message directed to my daughter. I thought all in attendance might appreciate it.

“My mistake, as community members, HSU professors and Arcata High faculty, much smarter than I, have informed me, was not simply crediting McCollough [sic] for his words and I’m sorry for that. I appreciate the constructive criticism and education I’ve received.

“I’m not an educator, journalist or author. I’m a just local businessman. I enjoy giving back to my community through Rotary, Casa, HSU athletics, non-profit board involvement, youth activities and service on this board, etc…

“The message I wanted to deliver is that I am proud of my daughter and want her to remember as McCullough spoke, ‘You’re not special, because EVERYONE is.’  And in my words, that ‘achievement is based on results, and results are what is most valued.’

“I understand that for some in our community – the self-appointed referees of good and evil – no explanation or apology I can offer is good enough. But I’m comfortable in the knowledge that their intolerance, so readily on display, is a far more profound flaw than mine.”

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62 Responses to “Dan Johnson’s Accusatory Apologia, With Cover Letter”

  1. Neil McLaughlin

    when is an apology not an apology? when it's qualified, like this one.

  2. Wendy Madsen

    Well done, Dan!

  3. Neil McLaughlin

    Last paragraph negates apology — he thinks he's a victim.

  4. I know, I don't see an apology in there

  5. Carlton Nielsen

    Enough said, now lets get on to solving some real issues, rather than railing against a good guy.

  6. Andrew Jones

    Agreed. If you're going to take a bath in the news media, get clean the first time. Apologize and ask for forgiveness. Don't defend your reputation (volunteer activity, etc.) and don't attack your critics (the last paragraph) because it eats away at the central claim (being truly remorseful and humbled by the experience).

  7. Rob Christensen

    Neither of these words are in this: "sorry" or "apologize."

  8. Kevin Hoover

    “My mistake, as community members, HSU professors and Arcata High faculty, much smarter than I, have informed me, was not simply crediting McCollough [sic] for his words and I'm sorry for that. I appreciate the constructive criticism and education I've received."

  9. Rob Christensen

    Does he mean "just a local businessman" or "a just local businessman"?

  10. […] regarding the 2013 Arcata High School graduation ceremony and accept Board member Dan Johnson’s statement to […]

  11. Kevin Hoover

    Andrew Jones A lot of those critics were Arcata High students. This boardmember is condemning students as having a "profound flaw?"

  12. Neil McLaughlin

    "Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and to remove all doubt." Often attributed to Abraham Lincoln or Mark Twain; authorship undetermined.

  13. Daniel Berman

    Not an apology when you end by insulting people for pointing out your mistake.

  14. Jan Olsen-Carr

    I almost felt sorry for Mr. Johnson…until the last paragraph. Disappointing.

  15. John Ford

    I have to disagree on this one. He still took the time to apologize, explain his self…and he took some time to blast his detractors .. lol!!

  16. Isn't there better things to spend our time on than this?

  17. John Ford he took weeks to do it John. I appreciate it but if you are going to give a speech like this shouldnt you have some people look at first and make sure you dont make a complete fool of yourself? also to use that last paragraph is a prime example of how this isnt a true apology as any smart person would not have included the last bit. I'm sure nothing will come of all this but it is a sad situation althogether

  18. Andrew Jones

    I agree Kevin. His apology is both arrogant and offensive.

  19. Philip Preston Middlemiss

    Yes, plus he allowed himself the moral high ground. I think the only lesson he learned from this experience is that fathers have the license to break rules for their loved ones, and that educated people are full of shit.

  20. Andrew Jones

    Irene, yes. If he had immediately apologized (and not criticized other people while apologizing), this would have been over weeks ago. Instead, this thing is only getting stranger and stranger.

  21. he needs to resign,he's a liar

  22. Julia Graham-Whitt

    They fail kids for plagiarism in schools. Why should a BOARD member be excused for doing the same thing!!! Seriously. Resign, Dan(Co). Show that you are a man of honor.

  23. Not residing in Humboldt I am wondering why this person was asked to speak at the graduation? I have never heard of a parent talking at a graduation ceremony.

  24. So this one stumble overshadows all the personal time, effort and money Dan has given to the community?

  25. Kevin Hoover

    Six week after the commencement address, he personally condemns Arcata High School students who objected on principle to his plagiarism, calls these kids profoundly flawed, and that is "well done?" Who is the adult here?

  26. Amazing. Stunning beyond belief.

  27. Blame the people who busted him. Classic. He didn't know stealing was wrong. That does negate the whole thing. That be lame…

  28. Ian Ray

    How is it that Dan Johnson says "screw you, you'll never accept my apology" the first time he tries to apologize? Here is some constructive criticism: should have ended this at "I appreciate the constructive criticism."
    All this had to be was "In regards to graduation speeches: I am sorry for plagiarizng McCullough's speech." Done! When the intolerant, flawed people try to say that apology wasn't good enough, it is at that point you go ahead and say screw you people. You don't go and say screw you people out of the gate in an actual apology. As in: "I am deeply sorry I cheated on the test, but all you teachers suck and are intolerant." No, t

  29. Neil McLaughlin

    There's all of that and then there's this, and this is certainly worthy of attention and discussion: a school board member who articulates a disdain for intellectualism and academic values and who calls those who uphold those values "profound[ly] flawed …" It's through discussions like these that we as a community calibrate who we are and what our values are (or aren't).

  30. Wendy Madsen

    Kevin Hoover I don't believe he's responding to the children, Kevin. I believe he's referring to the people who can't forgive a mistake…this is just another Arcata Witch Hunt.

  31. Wendy Madsen

    Dillon Savage I agree that one would have such an important speech reviewed prior to the event, however, it obviously didn't happen. Dan's apology was appropriate (with a bit of a dig) but the time frame is understandable given the community uproar. Put yourself in his position and understand that an immediate response would have certainly been further debated and shot down over and over.

  32. Wendy Madsen

    No, he isn't playing victim here. He's right, the people who have lead this witch hunt are focusing on one incident and ignoring the value Dan brings to this community.

  33. Wendy Madsen

    Dan is not an educator, he's an entrepreneur who has learned success through experience, trial and error and perseverance. These tools are valuable in the pursuit of being a productive human being. So often these are forgotten in the academic world. Not all kids are destined to be scholars. These kids need to see that adults who were not A students can succeed.

  34. Andrew Jones

    Wendy, a witch hunt persecutes innocent people. You cannot seriously claim Dan did nothing wrong. He represents a school district. Is this really the message you want to send to our kids?

  35. Allegra Kossow

    Wendy Madsen He made a general statement about all of the people who have made public comments about his very public error. A significant amount of the public comments were authored by students at the high school. He did therefore included them in his remarks.

  36. Denise Fitzgerald

    Why not

    "I'm sorry. It was wrong." It is what we would expect (or hope) from our children.

  37. Rob Christensen

    In the Times-Standard version it says "just a" in the Arcata Eye version it says "a just"

  38. Isaac Cash

    He was doing really good, until he negated the whole apology with the last paragraph. The difference between Johnson and a guy like me is, I understand how serious plagiarism is and I don't go around asking for a pat on the back for my civil service. Watching the young people I have helped along the way grow into fine men & women is my reward!

  39. Wendy Madsen

    Andrew Jones I absolutely agree Dan made a very serious mistake. Yes, he represents a school district, no doubt. However, the message to the kids should be that he made a mistake but is there because he cares about his family and community. The kids aren't out there pushing this witch hunt. I'm willing to guess that most kids have forgotten the issue entirely.

  40. Wendy Madsen

    Allegra Kossow Ok, technically this could be true but I doubt there is a kid contingency out there trying to hang him. In fact, many kids know Dan as a baseball coach, soccer coach and friend within the community. I am sure most kids are more willing to forgive and move on than the adults who are trying to blackball Dan.

  41. Kevin Hoover

    Rob Christensen Apparently the T-S edited that, and corrected his misspellings of McCullough's name, too. We ran the statement verbatim, just as it was issued by Dan Johnson.

  42. Wendy Madsen

    Kevin Hoover This has nothing to do with financial means. Put everything aside and understand that this was a father, very proud of his daughter, who made a big mistake. I would suggest that the mistake was out of ignorance, not deliberate.

  43. Anonymous

    At this morning's meeting, the Board made several excuses for Mr. Johnson– who was unable to attend–and accepted his letter of apology. I wondered, in light of Mr. Johnson's letter, if the Board and administration planned to adjust their policies and perhaps inservice teaching staff on more tolerance toward plagiarism.

    Steve Irwin, Arcata.

  44. You don't have to be an educator or a scholar or even know what the word "plagiarism" means to know that what Dan Johnson did was wrong. When he said that he wrote the letter to his daughter, he lied. His defense seems to be that he's not very smart. "…[I] did not go to college myself…" "…community members, HSU professors and Arcata High faculty members, all much smarter than I…" If he's not smart enough to know what plagiarism is, and that one shouldn't claim someone else's words as their own, then how is he possibly smart enough to be on the governing body of the school district, in the position of overseeing those Arcata High teachers who, by hos own admission, are smarter than him? Finally, it is not "intolerant" to point out that someone in a position of trust and authority in our schools committed plagiarism. According to Dictionary.com, one definition of "intolerance" is "unwillingness or refusal to tolerate or respect contrary opinions or beliefs." By calling his critics "profoundly flawed" and presuming their reaction to his statement before they've even had a chance to read it, that definition seems to describe Mr. Johnson's words much more than that of his critics.

  45. April Kitty Grenot

    Mark Sailors–you should see, above lirwinca, something that says 'more posts' or such–just click there. I didn't realize until you mentioned then saw the arrow.

  46. Kevin Hoover

    Wendy Madsen So it was more advisable to let it fester for six weeks, compounding the complaints with a failure to address the matter in a timely manner? Then issue a misspelled, insulting, qualified apology and not show up at the board meeting. That's what you consider good leadership?

    That doesn't even mention the matter of the double standard, and how students who cheat won't be able to do what the influential man on their governing board has done.

    If you like Dan, consider that you aren't doing him any favors by excusing his every action, any more than you would be helping a cheating student by forgiving that behavior.

  47. Kevin Hoover

    Wendy Madsen What if he, like others, didn't have the time and the financial means to assist the district and the community as he does. Would he then be held to a different standard?

    In other words, what is the purpose of the character testimonials? We're talking about an action by a person, not who they are – and why should who they are matter? Do the well-to-do have special dispensation to violate standards?

  48. Kevin Hoover

    Wendy Madsen He's a community contributor who loves his daughter. No one disputes that. The issue is the act, not the individual's motivations, looks or other back story.

    How do you feel about his waiting six weeks to address the matter, then issuing a statement that misspells the real author's name and includes a slap at the critics – including students who sat through the plagiarized speech – as being "profoundly flawed?"

    Do you consider this proper character modeling by a school board member for the students under his direction?

  49. Andrew Jones

    He doesn't need to wait until the September meeting. Dan, resign now and salvage your reputation.


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