Outcry at Montclair BOE Meeting, Allegations Of A “Breach in Security and Faith”

Accusations that Montclair Education Association computers breached during the BOE test leak investigation launched in 2013 dominated the Montclair Board of Education meeting Monday night.

Gayle Shepard, MEA president
Gayle Shepard, MEA president

Following moving vocal/music presentations by students from Watchung and Glenfield schools, the public comment period of the BOE meeting began with a bombshell statement from Montclair Education Association President Gayle Shepard:

“It has recently come to our attention that there has been a breach in security and faith. It appears that computers including those solely owned by the Montclair Education Association were specifically compromised. We believe that this breach which began in the fall of 2013 allowed for the tracking and monitoring of activity including confidential MEA information. I stand here representing over 1000 members whose trust and confidence is shattered. I ask you now, were members of this or any previous board complicit in this activity. I ask you now were any district employees past or present complicit in this activity? At a special Montclair board meeting on Nov 1, 2013 regarding legal counsel, Mark Tabakin and the investigation into the alleged assessment leak, the former board president stated ‘We have asked him to cast a wide net and to bring all evidence of wrongdoing regardless of where it is found to the Board’s attention.’ We ask for the same indiscriminate inquiry. Our members demand an answer. The community deserves an answer. Thank you.”

Shepard’s comments were followed by thunderous applause and then, more speakers raising the same issue and asking for answers from the Board.

Regina Tuma started by thanking the current board for the great work they were doing to move the district forward. “I read Shelly Lombard’s letter in the Montclair Times last week and I want to ask this board a couple of questions. Shelly Lombard stated what the legal fees for Mr. Cummings were, but can you please let us know what amount the board actually spent in terms of payment for the investigation. We never really had a full accounting of that. Shelly Lombard, a member of the former board, said the assessments were leaked. So I’m assuming that this board can back that up and you can corroborate. Montclair is an amazing place, but it’s also is home to a lot of corporate reformers in education. We need to hold everybody accountable here. Accountability goes both ways and tax payers deserve transparency.”

Members of the MEA Negotiations team.
Members of the MEA Negotiations team.

Petal Robertson, joined by other MEA members as well as Shepard, and all dressed in black, spoke on behalf of the negotiations team. “My plan tonight was to speak on negotiations but after listening to some of the comment tonight I decided to change my remarks. As we, the negotiation team, stand before you, we represent 1000 members, many of whom you see here tonight. The agreement between this board and the negotiation team was to negotiate in good faith. Unfortunately the issues raised this evening call all of that into question, the good faith and the integrity of the board. The MEA membership requests a response to the following: Have any of the members of the board’s 2013 or current negotiations team been complicit or had knowledge of the computer breach that was mentioned tonight? This is a sincere inquiry and it’s imperative that a response in received promptly so we, the negotiations team, know we would like to proceed.”

Chris McGoey referenced David Cummings’s remarks about the test leak investigation at the last BOE meeting. She asked “What is a member of the public to believe? If spending on the Assessmentgate investigation was undertaken, aimed or or continued with knowledge that it was not necessary, or knowledge that people were being wrongly accused, or that the investigation was outside the Board of Education’s authority, then the public needs to know. So I ask you, does this current Board of Education or this superintendent have information or documents showing that type of knowledge? If it is known that the investigation was unnecessary, then as parents, we need to consider who is shaping the allocation of funds for our district right now and in this budget cycle.” McGoey added “And as a parent to hear that someone was breaking into the private computers of the Education Association, then who else? Was my computer looked at?”

Following public comment, the board proceeded directly with voting on resolutions and approvals of personal reports, then shortly after, adjourned the meeting. There were no reactions or response by the board to the allegations.

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  1. All good questions and fair is fair. Start the investigation. Same rules. $150/hr, unlimited hours, to get to the bottom of this new chapter. We pay for any Board member’s personal counsel at whatever the going rate is for individual representation, unlimited hours. Put a hold on any negotiations until the MEA & BOE are satisfied.

    But make no mistake that the public education stakeholder relationships in this town is flat out dysfunctional and the culture is absolute poison. The one thing this town doesn’t have is a belligerence gap. I don’t have a big problem with all this as long as you cap the school levy at no more than 6%. But, there is no way what goes for educational leadership in this township should get their hands on their $14MM capital budget request and bust all the work this Council has done to get our debt down and our rating up. It handcuffs this Council’s ability to campaign on their past success. Sorry, life sucks. While this behavior is going on, no Councilor in their right mind should, at the very least, condone such a request and really should speak out that adults behaving like children are not worthy of such a windfall.

    Who really cares who is appointed to the BoE? Does it even matter?

  2. Not that we care about you if your selling, but those putting their homes on the market this Spring market should just take 10% of their planned asking price and sell early. This is only going to get uglier and once the NYT & Washington Post weigh in, it will be a 15% reduction.

  3. Tick tock…tick tock.

    Remember, the Spot who told you it would be hot.

    Yes, I said this was all soon to be coming….despite some nay saying advance…

    Maybe I was off a week or so in timing…but now we can all start to dance.

    You can see whose heads will be rolling….And it’s not a pretty show.

    And yes the Times WILL come calling…

    Because it’s time for some old board members to finally get up and go…..

    Political Poetry by Spotontarget- 2016

  4. Don’t you just hate it when you go to all the trouble of having someone removed from a BoSE seat in vengeful payback for the ouster of the old regime only to have your thunder entirely stolen by actual allegations of wrongdoing under that very same regime?

    This 24-hour news cycle just ruins perfectly good conniving.

  5. dblespresso – you need to remember your characters in this public play. The Spot here was never an actor in all this he-said she-said testing fight.

    The Spot only highlights hypocrisy and wrong-doing no matter which side can’t t play in the public sandbox fairly and nicely.

    That testing fight was a policy battle. But because of the poor process of the then Board and then Superintendent who rolled out that plan, they antagonized and split up the whole town.

    That’s their real fault. A mixture of naivete that they didn’t think they needed to gain political consenus, and arrogance for unwillingness to actually defend and sell their policy positions to convince town parents that their ideas were really correct.

    Instead, they let the Tumas, Fines, and asssessmentgate’s vision dominimate while looking like a big bad big brother on the throne. And now, their process screw ups are really coming exposed.

    If it’s actually true that they all or some knew early on that the Goboke testing leak was due to a technology breach from the staff’s own missteps, or lack of proper security prevention and yet, still conducted an expensive witch-hunt investigation (now with accusations of spying on people’s computers), then there really could be serious trouble in paradise.

    Not only fiscal malfeasance with public monies, but offical missconduct and all sorts of other nice and serious possible public board trust breaches might be involved – which could even rise to the level of a district attorney involvement.

    Remember, it was the Spot who told you this would all be coming. What we didn’t know or think was that the MEA players and anti-testing forces ready to push back and pounce would pocket it for a few weeks only to use for deflection. The deflection was Sean Spiller receiving a conflict of interest decision.

    See how that’s all part of the stew now?

    The conflating of a right-wing, anti-union conspiricy against Spiller personally, with reverse BOE member asserted anti-union behavior and wasteful spending allegations — are now merged into the brewing pot.

    It’s still forces of evil v. the forces of public light.

    Poor Robin Kurwin. Remember the line “what did you know, and when did you know it”. Those are the next questions which will be asked of her and of board member David Deutsch.

    The others already off the Board like Lombard and Larson may have to hire attornies now, just like David Cummings.

    Did David Cummings violate his Board oath in the process of all this clearly working on the Michelle Fine-Tuma side? On the surface it always looked like he did. But if he can now prove, or assert enough in the public’s mind today that it was needed to stop the now seeming improper acts and behavior of his off the reservation colleagues…Cummings might just survive.

    Either way, the BOE show must go on. It’s up to the Mayor to decide how to clear the decks here…whether the past players ship out quietly ….or if they go down under a serious investigation…once put off the boat.

    I suspect this new heat will soon fade into the lets keep our property values high dust…and we will all just move on.

  6. We’re wondering what’s worse, your poetry or your predictions. The curious diversion will be shown to have no basis in fact. That may only happen after more of your tax dollars are squandered as Frank describes. We would also like to know which “heads will roll”? In case you didn’t look, the Union has a majority of the BOE members on their side, and there is no significant opposition to them. It is doubtful Kulwin will be back and the Mayor also holds the strings on Deutsch. Would it make any sense to run through the process to remove them when they may be gone anyway? You, and all your friends in the black shirts only floated this idea to divert the public from the fact that the Mayor willfully ignored a clear conflict of interest to maintain his political machine. We have seen it all before in Dr. Fine’s emails. Hopefully, she’s not using the CUNY mail server this time. Even professors can learn. Montclair Reformer

  7. You too Montclairreformer? This is not about the Spot. Our bad poetry ok…but our predictions…right on target.

    “you and all your friends in the black shirts”…you write. That’s what you need to see differently. The spot is not on the anti-testing or pro-testing side. The spot only targets and opens up what’s behind the curtain.

  8. both sides should be trying to help our kids….not impersonate them. I wish we could just kick everyone off of the BOE except for Eve Robinson and the other new person, simultaneously disband the MEA and kick their leaders to the curb and start from scratch with rational people who want to work together. The union militancy is so ridiculous as is the behavior of a BOE that comes off as bumbling as Dean Wormer in Animal House. All the while our per pupil costs are sky high, school quality is at best decent (which is actually fine for me but makes no sense given what we pay), property taxes are near the top in a state that is the worst for property taxes nationally and families are being priced out of their homes.

    Maybe it’s a lost cause and the sane should move out and let the lunatics continue to run the asylum.

  9. Reformer, if you find yourself pontificating about impropriety and as proof, you cite the time your colleagues invaded a private citizen’s personal emails through their employer via a loophole, you may want to step quickly and carefully down off of what you thought was a soapbox.

    You may not have noticed this but the public was not impressed with the whole “OMG! Let me tell you how sleazy the emails we got in a REALLY sleazy way are!” thing.

  10. The damage done to our Children, especially as it affects those children that the feathery neoliberal elite in this town are always claiming they are “for”, needs to be addressed. If monies were used to maintain their privilege at the expense of Children, then indeed, there is more than an appearance of “conflict of interest”, but criminality. I believe the smoke has dissipated, and we are about to see the flames for who they really are.

  11. This is all so sad. I thought I would be entertained by the spectacle of “progressives” and liberals eating each other for lunch but it just looks silly. I guess the teacher’s union exposing themselves as only caring about the money will be a good thing and wake taxpayers up.
    Montclair parents seem to be in a trance when it come to their kids education. Bottom line…teachers and administrators are grossly overpaid. They play the “it’s for the kids” card but wake up! The quality of education hasn’t changed from when you were all kids, the only change has been in the cost. Taxpayers can throw a ton of money into public education but the results won’t change … to paraphrase Yogi Berra..What makes a good school? Good students.

  12. How about coming back to policy reality:

    – still a huge achievement gap long covered up which needs focus and attention to eventually get fully addressed.

    – when do we really roll out pre-k for most to help turn that around?

    – still massive swings in fiscal accountability..one year huge surplus and we are over-taxed…next unplanned deficits. How does that get corrected institutionally so when Bolandi leaves…not same old same old?

    – same mediocre college placement office. If you have money, hire your consultants…if you don’t…bureaucratic level treatment way to late in the game to play the GPA class rank manipulations. Those in the know can work it. The poor with unsophisticated parents still get the short end of the stick.

    etc. etc. etc…..

    When do we stop fighting over the tinker toys, and finally get back to work?

  13. flipside, I respectfully disagree that teachers are “grossly overpaid.” Considering the importance of the work they do and the amount of work they do, they’re underpaid. (And paraprofessionals are VERY underpaid.) People who are overpaid? CEOs, pro athletes, movie stars…

  14. The achievement gap has long been addressed, with some success, but those programs that could be duplicated, weren’t, and those people who could develop and implement specific strategies through PD and application, were either literally run out of town, or had their budgets depleted, because what they were doing was too successful and affected mainly Black and Brown Children (and I do know what I am talking about).
    We don’t want Pre-K because it costs money.
    Fiscal Accountability and Transparency is what we want to know about, especially as it involves this investigation, and the hiring of unqualified and overpaid administrators/consultants/lawyers
    The college placement office has been maintained in a mediocre state at the expense of certain students. Yes, you better know how to work this system, and anyone who tries to address these inequities is either gone or passed over.
    The elitism and racism in this town run deep, and until we openly address it, and stop pretending it doesn’t exist, those Children without the benefit of an IMANI or Sister to Sister, Brother to Brother, Project Oasis, Succeed2Gether, Pre School Program or Families who know how to advocate, will continue to be purposefully left behind.

  15. Meccamagic…your backstory is music to my ears. If you are willing, please reach out to me privately either martschwartz@yahoo.com…or facebook message.

    Would love to put heads together, check boxes and really talk. The ground is actually starting to shift at the top. Some change may finally be possible now.

  16. Thank You, martinschwartz, but I think I will remain where I am. However, if you do what it sounds like you are thinking of doing, I will be watching and listening to see what change you feel you can affect “at the top”.

  17. Flipside, I’m not sure you followed the trailer for the drama apparently headed for a theater near you. The union are the ones alleging they have been spied on. If true, that would make the administration the Richard Nixon here. As you know, Watergate wasn’t the story of a hero using only his guile to root out others’ corruption. It was the story of HIS corruption and the lengths he was willing to go to – including the commission of actual crimes – to undermine his opponents.

    Way too early to know what the allegations are based upon and whether there is any merit to them but the assertion that private systems were intentionally compromised by an adversarial party is not small potatoes. A scout for a major league baseball team just got jail time for doing that very thing… and that was just baseball.

    If municipal employees were spying on private citizens via improperly accessing non-governmental computers… Yikes… That would make for some unflattering and very attention-getting headlines.

  18. Dblespresso, what’s an “actual allegation?” Are you suggesting allegations against Spiller were mere aspersions? Guess judge thought otherwise.

    These allegations do look bad, and I’m not referring to just fractured syntax and accusers’ radical chic outfits (smatter, ladies, couldn’t agree on black berets?) But doesn’t a BOE meeting seem like an odd place to lodge these accusations? Wouldn’t you first go to, let’s see, mayor? police? FBI? Forensic IT specialist? Union lawyers? Then revelations devolves into discussion of assessmengate? I will be surprised, unhappily so, if these allegations have merit.

  19. “The elitism and racism in this town run deep, and until we openly address it, and stop pretending it doesn’t exist…” Meccamagic, could you point to a verifiable example of that elitism and racism in Montclair?

  20. Wait a minute, the comments here are confusing… The educators of Montclair are announcing that their computers have been breached and compromised and that they have been tracked and monitored, including “confidential MEA information”. And it seems that they are concerned that there are members on the BOE who have knowledge of this happening and perhaps “complicit”. This is crazy! Given the tone and tenor of the BOE over the last 4 years, Im not completely surprised, but this is a new low.

    And the comments here are about Sean Spiller and other unrelated items?? We should be having a serious conversation about figuring out who these BOE members are from 2013 and about getting some answers about this.

    How can we expect our educators to educate when they don’t feel like their district trusts them?

  21. I have no doubt there is something that points to the computers of employees being searched by the district and I’m sure all the facts will come out at some expensive point in the future. But, I find it eerily reminiscent of the contentious atmosphere the year leading up to the Fall 2013 Assementgate. We watched all the verbal knife-throwing and personal darts over those contract negotiations. Fun times. If you ignore the issues, both now and then, for the moment, it is very deja vu.

  22. Elcam, you are too smart to not know that the bar for disqualification under conflict laws is so low that it doesn’t require an allegation of wrongdoing.

    You may want to read the ruling before you run up the steps of the Municipal Building Rocky-style singing “Eye of the Tiger”. Reads a lot more like a reluctant DQ than a TKO from what I understand.

    Also may want to print out the Spiller stories and keep them handy. In particular, keep the quotes. You’ll want to have certain individuals’ proclamations nearby to really, really get full enjoyment out of Act IV. It features a madcap plot twist loaded with irony. Shakespeare as done by Larry David.

  23. “could you point to a verifiable example of that elitism and racism in Montclair?”

    “I’m not referring to just fractured syntax and accusers’ radical chic outfits (smatter, ladies, couldn’t agree on black berets?)”

  24. Spiro Agnew once called the counter-culture of the 60’s a movement of effite impudent snobs.

    This comes to mind when I see the veiled (but all-too transparent) racism that is lobbed through comments of the “ladies in black” and their “radical…” (A word sure to be taken out of the Frank Luntz playbook) outfits.

    In case you were not there, the union members (black, white, Asian, Hispanic, male, female, fathers, mothers, grandparents, sons, daughters, etc) were all dressed in black. In solidarity with their leadership. Don’t get it mixed-up.

    Lastly, and this goes back to the allegations made by the MEA. Lest we forget that contract negotiations are ongoing. Lest we forget that the BoE’s negotiations team includes several of the strongest supporters for the previous superintendent and her divisive measures. SHOULD these allegations reveal that any BOE members, past/present, have known about a possible breach, how could good-faith negotiations really continue until answers are provided?

    Let’s “cast a wide net…” for this possibly “criminal” activity. Remember those words? I sincerely hope that no member of the BOE past/present was involved in any authorization of such behavior or complicit in not doing anything, if true. If true, shame on them. And shame on us for allowing such abuse of power. Handcuffs may have to do.

  25. Montclair education is already in handcuffs. Putting some of the actual leadership in handcuffs would just provide a great optic! A half billion dollars in 4 years to just tread water.

  26. The tremor being felt in Montclair is the collective shaking of all 850 real estate agents. Good luck getting someone to plunk down 800k and pay 28k in RE taxes to send their kids to a snake pit of a school system. There is nothing in all these shenanigans that has anything to do with education or the children….it’s all about the Benjamins.

  27. the jcunninghambot hat learned a new routine: concatenating quotes. Touche bot!

    dbl, you’re right; I am too smart to think proving potential conflict of interest requires proof conflict occurred. I have been ‘plaining that up and down here since ruling. I look forward to hearing your own views on ruling and why you and Judge Moore differed on substance of case.

  28. If only the BOE would ramp up its college placement and guidance efforts to work for all and highlight and promote this newly directed and charged Montclair’s focus — promoting placement success.

    Adults could then throw all the slings and arrows they wanted and eat each others policy lunch. If our placement college output held strong or improved..if the achievement gap really started going down…if test scores were improving etc…this battle royale could continue on. Who would care?

    However, when there is no head of guidance right at the time students are applying to college. When there is no on-going outreach and marketing of our HS school to colleges and this made a priority – when the system still starts its placement efforts way to late in the game and doesn’t really reach those who can’t afford private consultants — well then this internecine warfare does actually frighten our real estate agents — rightfully so.

    At what point does the madness end here and political leadership clean up this mess? When do we begin to actually identify what is reality and if needed get rid of those who allowed or turned a blind eye to the craziness if true?

    Not all the facts are on the table — it’s clear. But they should be.

    We need less PC worry about lawsuits from hurt feelings or fears of firing people…more action to clear the decks and let the system move on.

  29. I don’t actually have an issue with the ruling, Elcam, nor do I find fault with it. If you actually go back and read all my prior comments, you’ll see that I was pointing out that these things are not as cut and dried as this one has been made out to be – and I pointed out that the criteria used to make the decision isn’t as simple as having a strong tether to a side. They often come down to which aspects of complex criteria the judge weighs most heavily. In this case, if the judge had leaned more heavily on the limitations of the role and its influence and the directness of benefit or loss, they might have ruled differently. If the judge leans more heavily on safeguarding the public from even the appearance of a worrisome potential conflict, well, that’s not that hard to figure out.

    My largest bone of contention with the public debate was and is that people mistake bias for conflict. People wrongfully think a person cannot favor a side and hold an office. That’s obviously not the case. Being strenuously pro-union is seen by many as a disqualifying condition regardless of the person when that is very much not the case… nor would being strenuously anti-union.

  30. “We watched all the verbal knife-throwing and personal darts over those contract negotiations.”

    Agreed. This new shout sounds a lot like what we saw during the last contract negotiation. I think it just that: a way to pressure the BOE with bad PR.

    Recall: the district wanted its computers audited. It was the town council that blocked this, leaving us all with nothing but imagination and unfounded claim regarding what actually occurred. Wouldn’t it be nice to *know*? Apparently, some on the town council preferred the ignorance. What did they want to keep hidden?

    Will the MEA have its computers audited? Since some of these machines are “solely owned” by the MEA, there should be noting to prevent it. Or will this claim too be permitted to fester with no grounding basis in fact?


  31. “The achievement gap has long been addressed, with some success, …”

    I find this a questionable assumption. First, I’ve read articles about the AGAP (not called such) as far back as 1994. For example, many of the themes in this article will be very familiar to us today:


    Perhaps more importantly, consider how you measure “some success”? I’ve pointed out before that Dr. Alvarez, at least in his final years while I was paying attention, was – accidentally or not – presenting an inaccurately rosy picture of the AGAP. I’ve no idea for how long such fantasy was being presented. But it brings into question any claim that we have done better in the past.

    This doesn’t prove that claim wrong either, of course. A lack of information is not information. We simply don’t know how well – or badly – we’ve done.

    And now, thanks to so many people opt-ing out of state tests, we’ve no idea how we’re doing today. As I’ve also written before: I find it suspect that immediately after we turn our attention to addressing the AGAP there’s a large movement to render us blind to it.


  32. “still massive swings in fiscal accountability..one year huge surplus and we are over-taxed…next unplanned deficits. How does that get corrected institutionally so when Bolandi leaves…not same old same old?”

    It sounds like the district is doing well on the new budget. Based upon the preview at a recent BOE meeting, they’re allocating surplus from the previous year to 1-time costs. That’s more sound than allocating surplus – which is unpredictable – on recurring costs such as hiring three more K teachers (laudable as the goal was).

    As for surpluses in individual years: they’re not bad per se. Looking at just one line item: a warm winter will yield much more surplus than a cold winter. We’re speaking perhaps of one or two million dollars, which is less than 2% of the budget of the district. Considering that the district isn’t permitted to under-budget, I think they’re currently doing reasonably well.

    The problem under Dana Sullivan was that surpluses were permitted to accumulate, largely because she didn’t budget based upon actuals but based upon the previous budget. That is, if a line item in year N was $100, but actually came in at $90, she accounted for inflation over the $100 instead of $90.

    This wasn’t just a financial issue either, but a political one. It neutered the BOE to a large degree. The BOE could demand: “cut this line item by 10%”, but that 10% would be less than the amount by which that item had become padded. So the BOE would see its instruction followed, but there’d be no actual change in spending as a result.

    I’m not sure how many current BOE members really understand how this sort of thing works. Laura Hertzog was asking questions, a few months ago, that brought her close to how this sort of thing occurs. To the best of my knowledge, unfortunately, she hasn’t pursued that line of questioning. It’s possible, of course, that she did learn what she needed in private.


  33. I have been waiting to see if there will be news of any response from the BOE regarding their invasion into the educators computers and personal information. Are they supposed to respond to this any time soon or will they just ignore it? Or, worse yet, will they hire another attorney to rack up hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees before we still get no answer?
    And aren’t these educators working without a contract for this entire year already? Get this thing settled, and get it done with an uncompromised Board!

  34. Some Folk want to continue to blow smoke, obscure, and deflect, rather than deal with the flames…why aren’t the questions presented before the board being answered? How much money was spent on an investigation that was not needed? What/who was the real target of the investigation and why? Who’s computers were breached, and for what reason? Just how wide was this net that Attorney Tabakin (sp?) and past/current board members cast, and why?
    It’s not about an appearance of conflict of interest, but possible illegal behavior by those who were given a responsibility of Public Trust.

  35. “news of any response from the BOE”

    I certainly wouldn’t expect a response to baseless accusations. Now, if actual facts arise – the results of an audit, perhaps – then things change. Failing that, this simply looks like negotiation theatre.


  36. Andrew,
    I highly doubt the MEA President would make baseless allegations. She might not have put them in a formal request yet, but I’m sure she will.

    To minimize our legal exposure & expenses, it might be best to act proactively, unilaterally, & expeditiously I recommend the BoE approve a contract offer with a 3% wage increase across the board as long as the BoE commits to any cuts necessary to stay under my aforementioned 6% school levy cap. Legal fees could easily be well into 6 figures and the certainty of a settlement will allow taxpayers to plan their levy increases earlier than usual. I would further recommend the Mayor replace any Board members who were around in 2013 during that sordid affair. I agree we should remove all vestiges of that Board’s makeup ASAP. Lastly, a new BoE policy should be enacted striking any form & use of the word “compromise”.

  37. Andrew, my understanding is that it is not theater. There is an issue there.

    In addition, it didn’t help when a former board member recently repeated the understood-to-be-false assertion that there truly had been a leak way back when our former super came out shootin’ first and trying to take names.That definitely cued up the orchestra music in some ways again and prompted some response.

    Hopefully, among those involved, there will be a cooler head who remembers the adage that the cover up is always worse than the crime. The board was asked some reasonable questions and while this should go without saying, it would be wise of them to answer fully, openly, expediently and with an air that conveys that we are all best served by surfacing whatever might need cleaning up from an unsavory period, acknowledging it, resolving it and moving on.

  38. Here are the allegations in their simple form as I’ve heard admittedly 3rd hand. I cannot say whether this is true or not. The allegation is that at the time the brouhaha started over the leaking of tests, some school board members were actually aware that the real cause of the breach was instead the self-created, or inadequately protected computer security problem.

    Nonetheless, some of those same Board members still supposedly authorized the Board attorney’s “investigation” against both outside and inside individuals to find the supposed “leaker”, possibly knowning there was none. This allowed for thousands of dollars of public monies potentially be inappropriately spent, while possibly covering up the Administration’s own failings. Especially their new Superintendent whom they just recently brought in.

    Add to that now that this “investigation” may have inappropriately spied on the MEA’s computer and potentially other employees with possible 4th amendment violations for government employee protections against unreasonable searches by their employer.

    That is the nub of the claims today as I understand them. However, whether any of this is true I cannot say. However, while attorneys are no doubt counseling all to remain silent and let things play out (ergo the Board’s lack of response to the allegations), that is precisely the wrong action to take for public policy now.

    Both the school Board Chair and the MEA should make clear statements today what the allegations are and what the issues are and how they will be handled going forward; whether by another attorney review, by the District Attorney, private litigation, settlement — whatever and whoever is involved.

    This is NOT the time to listen to legal counsel who always advise caution. Look at where that has gotten us to date. Internecine warfare. This is the time for communicating clarity and straightforwardness of process to all town constituents. Such communication can still be handled generally without compromising anyone’s individual rights or position.

    BOE you have a confused and agitated public. They have a right to know the facts as they are available to date.

    Please pull back the curtain Jessica and let the sunlight in.

  39. On Monday, the MEA President made a dramatic, planned out, interestingly timed, extremely serious but awfully vague blanket accusation. When an accusation is made, it usually is accompanied by some type of evidence. Has ANY evidence been presented whatsoever? If a computer was hacked in 2013, was this information found during a recent audit? Will the results of such an audit be made available? Otherwise, this comes across a little like the question,”So when did you stop beating your wife?”
    Ms. Shepard, you have agitated your members and the public, please pull back the curtain and let the sun shine in.

  40. Martin, you seemed dialed into the gossip. Did the rumor mill have any comment on the negotiating team storing their negotiation docs on and/or emailing from their employer’s computers and network – because that was my inference from their comments as a group?

    PS: would think this opens up all kinds of new OPRA opportunities once this is settled as that law doesn’t care if data is stored on a sever or a laptop hard drive. Yes, indeed. Transparency in the digital age.

  41. The MEA owns their own computers from what I understand…

    Regardless, I sincerely hope the people involved handle this one in a way so diametrically opposed to the usual that we’re all floored. If there was wrongdoing in the past, it gets surfaced, laid on the table and reasonably put to bed so we can move on. The Vegas odds on that happening are rather long though.

  42. dblespresso,

    You have very good analytical and deductive reasoning skills, yet you choose not to use them above.

    The obvious flag in the headline was the compound clauses, specifically the “Breach of…Faith” clause.
    The information was almost certainly obtained via OPRA requests.
    It doesn’t take a lot to settle on a working assumption that the someone OPRA’d emails from the MPS servers and, therefore, were in the Public Domain (hence the OPRA access).

    Just remember there is a third party “right to information” here, the public. That right doesn’t give a whit about faith…as it should be.

  43. Frank, I’m sorry to nullify in its entirety a guess crafted so carefully from colorful imaginings but in this particular case, I needn’t pull on the Sherlock Holmes double-brim and parse the word choice on Barista. Didn’t need my thinking cap. Only needed my ears.

    You needn’t look far for analogues where the first public glimpse of an issue came when one party asked broad questions of another which were mistaken for swings in the dark rather than opportunities to be forthcoming about that which was already known.

    Unfortunately, as we both know, whether it’s Tricky Dick or Lance Armstrong, when faced with that fork in the road, the person always leans in close to the microphone, voice rising in anger, and waggles their pointed finger in sheer outrage at even the inference of something that they have no idea they’re already all kinds of busted for.

    Hey, maybe this will be a new and shocking chapter. Maybe all of the quotable quotes from our self-appointed paragons of virtue will perfume the air with the sweet aroma of openness and full disclosure. I would not cash out my IRA to wager on that outcome though.

  44. p.s. as I understand it, MEA members’ communications are not subject to OPRA production unless another party acting as an agent of a public entity is also a party to those communications… and even then, the production would need to be achieved via an OPRA of the agent acting in a public capacity.

    MKF knows this pretty well. You can backdoor your way in if the person happened to use the assets of an entity that is subject to OPRA discovery – however, that’s post facto. You can slime your way into Michelle Fine’s emails on the back-end but you’re on ground that just won’t hold if you instead opted to “self-help” and scraped them yourself…

  45. I have many ideas though many are of negligible quality.

    I know you stayed rather close to all of the drama as it unfolded back during the rough and tumble days of AssessmentGate, so no doubt you could enlighten me and I’d certainly welcome that.

    Not sure what in those two comments struck you as particularly clueless but the general frame of the comments – per my understanding at least – is sound. The MEA as an organization does not fall under the OPRA umbrella it would seem to me. However, if their members conduct their business using their school accounts, that would be a different story.

    This all premature and thus assured of being pointless speculation but if it were to turn out that MEA-owned computers were indeed breached as a means of accessing documents or communications that would not be subject to an OPRA production, that could get rather unpleasant.

    Again, that’s my understanding based on a reasonable understanding of the legal principles and precedent re: OPRA in general but you know the history, precedent and facts more germane to this particular cast of characters, so enlighten, enlighten and enlighten some more.

    I’d rather be wrong and then corrected than continue to be so…

  46. p.s. just to directly address your earlier speculation, as I understand it, no, the issue afoot here does not track back to material obtained or obtainable via the means you described (and I’m speaking purely operationally not legally).

  47. It is still early this morning and I’m struggling to get my young children up and off to school. I am feeling sad. Why did Deutsch, Mernin, and Kulwin authorize this witch hunt of an investigation in 2013 long after it had been publicly demonstrated that ‘the breach’ was the Superintendent MacCormack’s own failure to provide for the security and privacy of our children’s school records? Why did they spend my hard earned money on a school-board lawyer turned ‘investigator’ with already a very questionable record in other school districts knowing it was their system that was at fault? My children struggle in this school district. They need more attention for learning and feeling good about themselves in school. I just feel sad today when I see they are still hiding the truth and really don’t seem to care about my children. What makes me proud though is to see Ms. Shepherd and those other strong black women from MEA standing up for my children.

  48. I disagree w/ your postscript characterization of the issue. The issue is that the MEA can’t obtain it, only the indications they allege, very publicly, is a breach of security.

    I have dispensed with the “breach of faith” part. The unmitigated gall of ANY of the educational stakeholders invoking a “breach of faith” argument is beyond the pale at this point. Remember, the State needed to send in a mediator during the last contract negotiation…before Assessmentgate was a twinkle in someone’s eye. The institutional venom had become public – contrary to the stated policy between the parties not to comment publicly on negotiations. That policy is a starting point that seems to always fall to the wayside. Loosely akin to a ceasefire that can’t last in an ongoing cultural conflict.

    Let’s take a hypothetical analogy where there is a public allegation of the administration knowingly not following concussion protocols protecting our student athletes. I would expect at least some anecdotal evidence would be given. That’s not a high bar to meet.

    Now let’s look at the stipulation that only a full, “cast a wide net”, transparent investigation will be accepted. Think about what that would require. This has been linked directly to negotiations. So, someone has to examine all the communication and files related to the BoE’s negotiating team of De Koninck, Deutsch and Kulwin the contractor advising them. Well, wouldn’t that be a sticky wicket for the BoE? Personally, I vote for putting all the negotiations materials of both sides out there. Since the MEA seems to allege the BoE has MEA negotiations material, it shouldn’t be that hard for an investigation to comply with.

    As to OPRA, if it comes to the point of legal briefs being filed I have the odds at 5:1 that the terms “arcane” or “deminimis” will appear. Deminimis – such a great legal concept! In the meantime, I recommend establishing an OPRA Awareness Day soon and everyone who wants to speculate over how OPRA applies, should go down to Orange Rd and file an OPR request. Of course, these OPRA request add up and I believe last year’s total cost was 2 teachers worth.

    Then let’s talk.

  49. “after it had been publicly demonstrated that ‘the breach’ was the Superintendent MacCormack’s own failure to provide for the security and privacy of our children’s school records?”

    This is a rewrite of a rewrite of false history. It’s impressive.

    The only evidence for it not being a leak was the statement from the town’s IT Director. This was the person responsible for the system’s security. This was the person that requested that the council block any attempt to audit the server. This is something of a joke; I find it amazing that anyone takes it seriously. What was the IT Director so eager to hide from an audit?

    Further, OFAC confirmed that “initial ‘release’ of the assessments that allowed posting to a site accessible to the general public could only be accomplished by individual/s/ possessing a district issued user name and password”.


    OFAC also – in fact, this was their primary goal, as I understand it – ensured that student records were kept secure.

    “a former board member recently repeated the understood-to-be-false assertion that there truly had been a leak”

    Sorry. OFAC asserts it was a leak.

    Repeating misinformation doesn’t improve its quality.

    The town blocked the district’s audit after the leak. We’ll see if the MEA’s claims are similarly protected from investigation.


  50. Thanks. I understand and hear where you are coming from – and I too tend to shunt aside the portions of the discussion related to the softer, intangible alleged damage done (e.g. loss of faith, trust).

    Portions of your comment and take at this point reminded me of a quote I heard once re: nurses. The gist was “Young nurses make mistakes because they know too little; older nurses make mistakes because they know too much.” The uninitiated make mistakes because they don’t have enough experience with moments just like the one they’re in presently. Their more experienced counterparts sometimes make mistakes because they are SO experienced their pattern recognition is near instant – and while that works well with what is usually the case, it works less well for less typical situations.

    With that said, if you heavy up the focus on the “plain meaning” of the entirely tangible aspects of the statement and entertain that they may have been carefully worded so as to be accurate by design, the elements that might seem most salient distill down to 1) a breach of security; 2) to MEA’s physical systems; which 3) allowed for ongoing monitoring.

    Employing that same plain-meaning/presumption of purposeful word choice approach further to the “ask”, a reasonable analogy might be a scenario in which there are two partners in a business and one discovers that the other did a little skimming from the till a few years ago.

    The partner could sit down the offender and lay it all out. They could say “I have videotape from a camera you didn’t know about showing you helping yourself to some lunch money and Marie in Accounting also told me she saw you stuff two $20’s in your pocket a while back.”

    Or, they could instead sit the offender down and say “I’m aware there has been some skimming. This is your opportunity to come clean…” as a means of both gauging the offender’s willingness to be honest now and as a means of informing your decision on how to proceed.

    If the other partner bows his head and says “that was an awful time in my life and I made some mistakes…” it’s a lot easier to put the past behind you than if the person says “I have nothing to say to you.”

    The very literal interpretation of the sum of the statement is “We know. Now what do you have to say for yourselves?”

    We’ll see how the Board plays it from here but there is a pretty real and inherent risk in assuming too much about the limits of another party’s information or evidence…

    Again, it’s back to the older nurse thing. Vague language may mean a party has vague information in most cases… but sometimes it’s because they’re giving you enough rope to either hang yourself or demonstrate you deserve clemency.

    Unfortunately, as we know from everyone from Bill Clinton to Barry Bonds, the tendency is to double down old-nurse-style. Increase the stakes by banking that vaguely stated means only vaguely informed.

    Zoom back up to the distillation of the tangible parts above and think through what, in terms of technology, might one do that would breach a physical system to allow for ongoing monitoring?

    And last but not least, the flip-side of the plain meaning/purposeful word choice analysis is noting what wasn’t said… Communications. Files. Messages.

    Instead, it was a breach which included physical systems.

    If someone were speaking plainly and another hacked the server, they’d likely say “accessed our private communications” or “gained entry into our private files.”

    May be worth betting on the young nurse on this one… or at least not betting the mortgage on her older colleague.

  51. Does anyone know how much of my money and your money, Deutsch, Mernin, and Kulwin spent on the investigation of ‘casting a wide net’?
    Were any of my neighbors were secretly investigated, perhaps having the privacy of their computers and e-mails violated?
    Does anyone know of a single result of this enormous expenditure?

    We need to see some changes in how we are respected. A lot of good people spoke up and they were not listened to. I hope more of us minority women will now begin to speak up and bring transparency and accountability to the education of our children.

  52. Andrew, it would seem safe to say that we don’t have absolute certainty about how computer files containing the assessments came to be posted online. I assume we can all agree on that.

    With the being the case, while we can all debate the positions and interpretations of the various parties, what is beyond debate, it would seem, is where the files appeared and how that site typically came to possess and post files back when it was operational.

    The site where the assessments appeared was a web-scraper – not a publishing platform. To people with web tech experience, the premise that someone would leak an asset via that vehicle for publication on that platform is analogous to thinking someone might blow the whistle on cheating by the New Jersey Devils by leaving a scathing report in the path of the Zamboni so it would be swept up and eventually found.

    I’m sorry but while the various parties may view this from a less digitally-savvy perspective, to people who get how sites like the one in question actually work as business models and as technical systems, the “persistence of discredited beliefs” is pretty striking here. It’s like finding a pirated movie on hotmoviehitz.rus and thinking the actors were to blame.

  53. “I assume we can all agree on that.”

    Yes, but I continue to emphasize that our ignorance on this is deliberate on the part of the township (or at least the town’s IT Director and a majority of the Council).

    “by leaving a scathing report in the path”

    Someone might do something like that if he or she wanted to avoid responsibility for the action.

    You’re also missing another aspect of this. Consider what a “web-scraper” does. It starts off with a set of URLs (web addresses). It “scrapes” the content at those URLs, seeking more URLs. It then “scrapes” those, and so on.

    How would a “web scraper” find the URL of some web page made available only to a limited community? Somehow, the “web scraper” needs to be seeded with a URL that will eventually take it to that content.

    One possible path is the link on the BOE’s site to the “teachers’ portal”. But if that weren’t password protected, many people would have spotted that quickly. That would appear to preclude any “natural” seeding.

    So that brings us to the possibility that someone deliberately put the documents online, seeded Gobookee, and then removed their copy of the content. Or perhaps Gobookee did have a direct upload mechanism; I’ve never tried to use it. Either way, this is an idea mechanism for making content available w/o leaving evidence regarding the “publisher”.


  54. I obviously don’t know the exact technical detail of the format the docs were in originally and were then posted in (and haven’t seen them in their leaked form – from which I could probably infer where in the process they changed hands).

    However, at a fundamental level, it appears that the focus was entirely drawn to one area (teachers/the district’s computers/the district’s network and security) for a whole bunch of reasons (both technical and political). That focus may have accidentally closed the aperture prematurely on some far more likely, reasonable and even frequent ways these things happen.

    For example, the report concluded the docs appearing online had to have started with someone with password access. Yup. I buy that. However, that says less than it seems to.

    We know this: regardless of what system, platform or tool the district was using to author the assessments, they had been converted into a file by the time they were posted. They were documents. So, somewhere along the way, they were saved or converted. Not exactly uncommon in computer usage.

    All it would have taken for documents that someone could only access originally via a password to find themselves in the path of a web-scraper is any of the following:

    1) saving a doc to your laptop, taking it home with you and getting online
    2) deciding you don’t feel like lugging your computer around and saving the files on a USB stick so you can work on your home computer
    3) emailing the docs to yourself so you can open them up at home without having to even do step 2
    4) working on them on a machine configured with an automatic back-up to a cloud storage acct

    When it comes to hacking and leaks, everybody always think zebras and it’s almost always a horse. The most exotic possible scenario – a conspiracy, a covert op, a deliberate and shrewd and well-masked plan to put them in the public domain… zebras (which only seemed like horses because of the bad blood).

    Nope, probably not. Far more likely that some very average, very normal staffer who could have even been one of the highly agitated truth-seekers did something very normal and average like: deciding to leave their MacBook at school because they were running off to visit their parents but then throwing the docs they were supposed to give one last proofread onto a USB stick that they then plugged into the computer of the two lovely but not tech savvy parents who don’t even have a password on their wifi and who use their street name as their password.

    That’s a horse.

    Remember when all of those celebrities had their phones hacked and nude pics posted online? They all blamed Apple. Nope. They all had easy passwords. Their dog – the one in all of the pictures in that photo spread in People; their middle name; their hometown.

    The giant “security flaw” in iCloud? Yeah, it was just a horse. Normal people doing normal things that occasionally bite ya.

  55. Finally, and this is a point that could not have been made before this week but may be quite important, if the assertions made by the MEA are even close to founded (which I understand is likely), it is entirely possible (at the very least) that our former administration jumped to a hasty conclusion driven by the political climate which toppled the first domino – asserting there had been a leak – and then used an opportunity they had accidentally created as a result of that assertion to serve some other not-altogether-wonderful purposes…

    …and, hey, no matter how “Hunt for Red October” it may seem, once the bell had been rung and the administration found itself with a defensible cover for an “investigation” that involved poking through opponents’ things, which of these serves them better: 1) a prompt conclusion that we don’t know exactly what happened and there is the possibility it may not have been a “bad act”; or 2) insisting we will not stop our principled search for the truth (while our guy continues to dig through your stuff…).

    I mean, counter-intuitive as it sounds, if you want to indulge in conspiracy theories, what better way to hack a system than announce with great shock and dismay “We’ve been hacked!”

    You don’t need to break in. You just made everybody hand over their keys so you can “go in and look for clues”.

    Three years later that one looks a whole lot more like a horse.

  56. There’s a very good chance the person who “leaked” the assessments still to this day has no idea they were the responsible party. That’s because at the time, it was technically impossible to personally upload documents to the Gobookee website. The website did not function in that capacity. When this fact was brought up to the powers that be, it was ignored. Why? Because the investigation was truly the perfect opportunity to “cast a wide net” and go after the people who were getting in the way of what they were trying to accomplish.

  57. “path of a web-scraper is any of the following”

    No, sorry, that is just wrong. For example, unless the USB drive were connected to a web server (as opposed to someone’s random non-server computer), it would not be visible to a “web scraper”. Emailing a copy to one’s self wouldn’t either given that email is typically password-protected. The same is true for cloud storage.

    This doesn’t preclude accidental release. Someone’s computer could have a virus, for one obvious example. Even this, though, would require several unlikely steps for the files to have become posted on the web with no human action.

    The simplistic scenarios you propose simply don’t fit how “the web” works.

    “They all had easy passwords.”

    Indeed. If only the audit hadn’t been blocked.

    However, what this does do is demonstrate that all those assertions of “fact” that there was no leak are inaccurate. The simplest assumption is that there was deliberate human action involved. That’s “the horse” in your lexicon.

    “if the assertions made by the MEA are even close to founded”

    The MT article claims that the MEA refused to respond with any substantiation. I see no evidence for this zebra beyond some shouting, and I’ve heard plenty of that at BOE meetings over the years. Especially given the timing – in the midst of negotiations – this screams of tactic.


  58. “When this fact was brought up to the powers that be, it was ignored. Why?”

    Because it is wrong.

    At a minimum, one could load something onto Gobookee by adding a URL pointing to the content to be uploaded to a page already known to be “scraped” by Gobookee.


  59. dblespresso,

    Yes, I agree the language was designed to accommodate an MEA strategy and that your either/or scenarios is probable. It is also likely the MEA wanted maximum flexibility if this backfires with key segments of the general public. I can envision a MEA pivot strategy to recast the issue an opt-in issue. I’ll freely speculate the BoE hasn’t instituted a robust Electronic Data & Transmission Release policy. A boilerplate policy obtains a user’s written acknowledgement that their access to provided technology does not convey any expectation or rights to privacy, even content ownership.

    Yes, relative age and experience are common error variables. I don’t understand to whom you are applying it to? Admittedly, the problem is I am being dense getting it.

    Can’t have a back and forth on strategies and motivations without discussing goals. What is the primary outcome the MEA desires? The End Game? Getting 2 members off the BoE with a tarnished reputation, and whose terms expire in 45 days, would (hopefully) only be no more than a secondary benefit. It could be as simple as leverage with the new contract. It could be the MEA negotiating team committed an unpardonable sin with their communications practices. Is this where your nurse example applies?

    Sometimes it is just that straight-forward and obvious. Let’s say none of the above. Now that would make it more interesting. We could be talking big issues….like power.

  60. Andrew,

    Gobookee bordered on being a hacker group. They were in the document business. They trolled information systems for unprotected stored documents. That’s less about mining websites for content. When I said web-scraper, I was being general and just contrasting between a publishing platform (of which there are many – and many specific to teachers which they use often to share assets like tests and assessments) and a site whose business model is find stuff that has some value but is unsafeguarded. I was pointing out that Gobookee was more of a hunter than a host.

    With that understanding, all of the examples I gave are of ways documents from within protected environments come to be exposed to crawlers, hackers, etc., who develop rather efficient ways to find stuff that even briefly was taken outside of the fortress walls.

    The whole conclusion about needing account access becomes moot once you accept that people can and do both by accident and design port documents from within the protections of a network or IT system out to some other system.

    Gobookee probed systems storing documents for ones that weren’t protected. They literally stole copyrighted material and had angry owners inflamed that their material had been swiped somehow and posted for sale…

    …and the irony of this situation, per Complainer’s comment, is that the people who inadvertently create the most risks like these are the senior people not the Joe Punch-clocks. They travel the most, access information remotely the most, have the most devices and access points configured.

    A teacher who does their work at school and maybe works on a laptop over FiOS from home creates virtually no risk. A senior officer who attended 15 conferences and events, took three vacations, stayed at a total of 17 hotels, and had 227 log-ins from outside the office that year… that’s the person who ya gotta worry about.

  61. “At a minimum, one could load something onto Gobookee by adding a URL pointing to the content to be uploaded to a page already known to be “scraped” by Gobookee.”

    Andrew–I can’t tell if you’re being sarcastic or not. Either way, I think you’re missing the bigger point. The powers that be knew darn well that the assessments were not intentionally uploaded onto Gobookee. Yet they chose to launch the investigation. Why? Now we know the answer.

  62. Frank, just for now, if for no reason than to keep it fresh and interesting and maintain the hope that this won’t be just another “Groundhog Day” like the many you’ve already seen, try to leave a little room open for the wholly novel scenario: something very wrong did go down – wrong enough to be in a whole different class of bad behavior – and it was discovered… and then fully unraveled.

    Hey, how did Watergate start? Someone saw some people using flashlights in a dark room?

  63. Yes, I keep that potential outcome in mind – always. As I said, it is sometimes the obvious what is on the surface is what it is the same as what is below. I just didn’t see the value of posting further thoughts on what is the MEA’s vague contention, and what has already been ground well-covered by others.

  64. It would also be ironic if the voluminous & costly OPRA requests that yielded such minutia as number of remote log-ons by school employees also helped to prevent adding a couple of more teachers. Thank you for those critical tidbits.

  65. “Three years later that one looks a whole lot more like a horse.”

    Well, this might soon get to be eligible as a matter for the Historic Preservation Commission to take up.

  66. Ah, the classic “There’s no ‘there’ there.”

    “It’s only a Benghazi if I say it’s a Benghazi! Oh, and if I say it’s a Benghazi, you will. hear. about. it! p.s. reading this message constitutes an omnibus opt-in for mail, email, press releases, press clippings, occasional stop-by’s and when available, literature-drops by commercial drone.”

  67. “Now we know the answer.”

    Not really. Despite claims otherwise, what you have is one description of an incident that doesn’t fit the evidence and another “incident” for which no evidence has been provided. People can choose to draw conclusions from such “data”, but it will convince only those with an agenda that requires being convinced.


  68. “With that understanding, all of the examples I gave are of ways documents from within protected environments come to be exposed to crawlers, hackers, etc., who develop rather efficient ways to find stuff that even briefly was taken outside of the fortress walls.”

    “Hackers”, yes. That’s why I cited malware as a possible threat. And if you’re going to show evidence that Gobookee incorporated such tactics, then there is an additional path available. If this were the case, though, it would be even more critical to audit the systems at risk. This was prevented.

    It also disagrees with the state’s assessment.

    “Crawlers”, no. And, as I’ve understood it, this is the better description of Gobookee.

    Unless Gobookee used tactics like malware, the most likely scenario is someone publishing on Gobookee perhaps using the technique I described earlier: making it available on a seeded URL and then letting Gobookee do the rest.


  69. Sorry, but a view predicated on your presumptions isn’t “most likely” simply because it seems so to you. As a matter of technical investigation, the purposeful leak of assessments to a site whose business model was to find content rather than receive it was the less likely scenario. Support for it was bolstered by bias and even now, continues to be… although now it’s made even worse by a rampant case of the form of “confirmation bias” known as “persistence of discredited beliefs.”

    Unfortunately, there is no cure for the paranoid marriage to ideas that require wholly disproving the occurrence of a non-event to dispute. The only way the “it was a leak!” conclusion-jumpers would be satisfied would be to prove absolutely with no unanswered questions that it was not… If that same bar was applied to the “leak” theory, there’d be no conclusive proof there either.

    Opinion sans proof… Some heavy zebra love in a world of horses.

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