Kathy Megyeri, the English teacher at Winston Churchill High School in Potomac who used without permission portions of a student's fictional essay in an article for a women's magazine also copied parts of a Washington Post story for an article published in a Minnesota newspaper in February.
The latest revelations about Megyeri came as Montgomery County school officials began an inquiry into the teacher's actions, which were reported in yesterday's Post. Schools spokesman Ken Muir said Megyeri had been asked to write a statement with her version of the incident. He and other officials declined to comment further, saying personnel matters are confidential.
Megyeri, contacted in her classroom at school yesterday, said she had been advised by a lawyer not to comment. She said school officials had asked her for a "clarification" of the report that she was paid $500 for an article in the March 29 issue of Woman's World magazine that contained portions of an essay, entitled "The Letter," written by honors student Brenda Way, a senior at Churchill. It originally was published last April in the school's literary magazine, Erehwon.
Robert W. Doubek, a lawyer and project director for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, said yesterday that he got a newspaper article in the mail Tuesday that contained passages from a brochure he wrote last year. The article, which appeared in the opinion section of the Owatonna (Minn.) People's Press on Feb. 9, carried a Washington dateline and the byline Kathy Megyeri. She was described at the end as "a former Owatonnan, turned Washington free-lance writer."
"I began reading it and it all started looking very familiar," Doubek said. "Then I came upon stuff that I knew was right out of the visitors' handbook (distributed at the Vietnam Memorial) that I wrote."
Doubek said other sections of the article, entitled "Tribute to a Friend, Vietnam War Victim," also seemed familiar to him. He said he examined newspaper clippings in his file and discovered that extensive portions of Megyeri's story were nearly identical to sections of a long article in the Style section of The Post last Nov. 9 written by Post writer Myra MacPherson.
In all, Megyeri's piece contains more than a dozen paragraphs that are copied nearly verbatim, although not necessarily in sequence, including quotations. MacPherson said the sections Megyeri copied are part of the second chapter of a book she is writing about Vietnam veterans. She said she has been working on the book for more than two years.
Megyeri also declined to comment on her Vietnam vets story.
"This is absolutely appalling," MacPherson said. "It's absolutely inconceivable to me that someone would absolutely lift wholesale phrases and images. These are paragraphs and phrases that I have labored over for my book. They are carefully crafted phrases that a journalist or writer spends hours on."
Jan Mittelstadt, editor of the People's Press, which has a daily circulation of 8,000, said she had thrown out records of her correspondence with Megyeri, but she said she remembered receiving the Vietnam article in the mail last January and used it because it contained references to men from Owatonna who had been killed in the war.
She said Megyeri was not paid for the article.
"She presented it as a tribute to a friend," Mittelstadt said. "I assumed it was all original."