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An overdue vacancy

Indiana State Board of Education member Gwendolyn Griffith Adell resigned last Wednesday, citing "familial responsibility and personal reasons."

There was no announcement of her departure. I discovered it when checking the State Board web site and found the 1st congressional district seat was vacant.

It's been more than three months since blogger Doug Martin contacted Purdue University and the governor's office demanding an investigation of Adell's doctoral dissertation.

Purdue officials have dragged their feet and Gov. Mitch Daniels, who has responded quickly in other cases involving ethical concerns, said through a spokeswoman that he was waiting on the the university's investigation. Adell served at the governor's pleasure, so it would have served him well to demand her resignation as soon as the alleged plagiarism involving her dissertation came to light.

Tom Matrka, once profiled in the Chronicle of Higher Education as an academic plagiarism watchdog, compared Adell's dissertation to an earlier dissertation submitted to Virginia Tech and declared Adell's "one of the worst abuses of the U.S. higher education system I have seen."

Clearly, it's embarrassing to have a top state education official and charter school leader accused of academic dishonesty when you're shoving through an education agenda that bolsters charter schools at the expense of traditional public schools.

The administration and Purdue might wish this story to go away, but it speaks to the credibility and integrity of the people driving so-called education reform in Indiana.

Karen Francisco, editorial page editor for The Journal Gazette, has been an Indiana journalist since 1981. She writes frequently about education for The Journal Gazette opinion pages and here, where she looks at the business, politics and science of learning as it relates to northeast Indiana, the state and the nation. She can be reached at 260-461-8206 or by e-mail at