April 13, 2016

School board member plagiarized answer on questionnaire

Bernalillo County Commissioner and actor Steven Michael Quezada.

A response by an Albuquerque school board member to a candidate questionnaire appears to be directly lifted from a website without any attribution.

And after speaking to those involved, it’s unclear who exactly copied the answer.

When Steven Michael Quezada ran for his current spot on the Albuquerque Public Schools Board of Education in late 2012 and early 2013, he submitted answers to a candidate questionnaire with information ranging from basic personal information to his overall thoughts about education. Quezada’s answer in response to a question regarding the role of individual board members is identical to language from the National School Boards Association.

APS school board member and actor Steven Michael Quezada.

Albuquerque Public Schools board member and actor Steven Michael Quezada.

Quezada, who is now a candidate for Bernalillo County Commission, told NM Political Report he wasn’t the one who copied the information but that he is ultimately responsible for the final result.

“At the end of the day, I signed off on it,” Quezada said.

Quezada said he can’t remember writing the answers to the questionnaire. He added that his campaign manager for the school board race completed most of his campaign material.

“Everything I did was with the approval of Neri,” Quezada said, referring to Democratic political consultant Neri Holguin.

Quezada didn’t blame Holguin directly, but maintained that plagiarism is out of character for him.

“I’m an honest guy, everybody knows that I am,” Quezada said.

Holguin, for her part, also denied she copied wording without proper attribution. She also said she would not have filled out a questionnaire for a client.

“I cannot find evidence that I did that,” Holguin said. “I wouldn’t do that.”

The two are now actually on opposite sides of an upcoming primary election.

Holguin is the campaign manager for Adrian Pedroza. Pedroza is also running for the same Bernalillo County Commission seat as Quezada.

Quezada said he was unaware of plagiarism in his 2013 campaign until NM Political Report brought it to his attention.

“I didn’t even know what the National School Board [Association] was,” Quezada said.

Screen Shot 2016-04-12 at 10.51.42 AM

An answer from Stephen Michael Quezada on a 2013 questionnaire.

The identical wording came in Quezada’s answer to a question about the proper role of school board members.

“Promoting outstanding student performance based on clearly delineated standards is central to the key work of school boards,” Quezada wrote. “The next step is to determine how well students are doing in meeting those standards. School boards need information in order to make decisions, not only about how well they are doing, but also about what may be needed in order to ensure that the APS school system goals will be met.”

The same answer can be found almost word for word on various school board websites, most of which attribute the language to a book published by the National School Board Association. Quezada added the words “APS school” before “system” on the answer’s last sentence, marking the only difference in wording between the two answers.

Effective School Boards taken from the National School Board Association

“Effective School Boards” language from the National School Board Association

The APS policy on plagiarism includes a procedural directive for copyright compliance. That directive reads, “Copying, selling or distributing copyrighted material without the express written permission of the author or publisher (users should assume that all materials available on the Internet are protected by copyright) and engaging in plagiarism (using other’s words or ideas as your own) shall be prohibited, and in most cases illegal.”

In response to questions about the alleged plagiarism, an APS spokeswoman referred NM Political Report to the plagiarism policy.

The school district’s student handbook does not appear to address plagiarism.

Quezada gained attention in New Mexico and nationwide while playing the role of DEA agent Steven Gomez on the popular television show Breaking Bad.

Quezada won election to the APS board in February 2013 and recently announced his candidacy for county commissioner.

Quezada and Pedroza are both aiming to replace Commissioner Art De La Cruz, who is term-limited and cannot run for another term.