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Montclair Assessments May Not Have Been Leaked After All

Township manager said permissions glitch on server placed files in public view; whether investigation will continue remains unclear.

The Montclair Board of Education appointed attorney Mark Tabakin to conduct the investigation into possibly leaked assessments. Photo credit: Teresa Akersten
The Montclair Board of Education appointed attorney Mark Tabakin to conduct the investigation into possibly leaked assessments. Photo credit: Teresa Akersten

Student assessments posted to a public website in October were not “leaked," according to a memo sent by Montclair’s township manager to the township council last week.

The assessments, the memo dated Dec. 29 stated, were saved with the wrong permissions on a server shared by the Montclair Board of Education and the township.

"This setting allowed anyone to be able to access the files from the Internet,” the township’s Director of Internet Technology Joseph Fagliarone explained in the memo prepared by Township Manager Marc Dashield.

Whether there was a security breach has been the focus of an investigation launched by the Montclair Board of Education on Nov. 1 after 14 tests appeared on the public website Gobookee.org just days before they were to be administered to students.

It remained unclear Tuesday if the information in the memo would put an end to the investigation.

“I am happy that we have some judgment, what I’m concerned about though is that we don’t have an independent judgment,” School Board Member David Deutsch said Tuesday.

The BOE was not made privy to the information in the memo and learned about it through the media earlier this week, Deutsch said.

In December, the town council voted to prohibit the BOE from accessing the joint servers they share as part of the investigation into how the assessments may have ended up online.

“There seems to be an enormous effort to prevent the board from looking at its own information,” Deutsch said. “We haven’t had access to the server to understand what happened.”

The memo answers questions posed by Councilman Sean Spiller regarding the security of the township’s network, including, was there a security breach to the township’s servers? 

The answers provided by Fagliarone indicate that there was no security breach.

“It was determined that no hacking or successful intrusion into our network from the point of entry ‘Firewall’ was found,” the memo stated.

When the news broke of the compromised assessments, Fagliarone said he worked with Network Administrator Alan Benezra, who was employed by the township and the BOE, to determine “if there were any attempts to obtain information from internal or external sources.”

“We reviewed the firewall logs and logs of all servers to determine that there was no intrusion,” Fagliarone said.

Meanwhile, Benezra is no longer working in the capacity of network administrator to the BOE, The Montclair Times reported on Dec. 30. 

“I am unwilling to speculate on the facts surrounding Mr. Benezra,” Deutsch said.

“It’s a head scratcher to me that our employee did not provide us with the information that was requested,” Deutsch said.

The board’s investigation cannot be put to an end without a formal meeting of the group. 

“We will need to meet as a board to discuss what the next steps will be,” Deutsch said.

esther January 10, 2014 at 09:03 PM
I'm confused- the superintendent said there was a breach. The BOE said there was a breach. The assessments were reconfigured and changed and counted as classwork. An attorney investigation was undertaken and subpoenas were to be delivered ..............and NOW there was no breach? It was an accident? Why isn't the superintendent saying anything now? There is no news on the website with a mea culpa or any inkling of an apology. The woman is making a mess of this district or am I the only one noticing and very very troubled?
esther January 10, 2014 at 09:06 PM
Maybe the board only wanted to get rid of Mr. Benezra. Anyone else thinking this?
Laura Marchese January 12, 2014 at 09:29 AM
Well the other obvious question is 'who saved the assessments with the incorrect permissions?' Was it Benezra and is that why he's out? More detail needed here Patch.
esther January 12, 2014 at 04:32 PM
I think Mr. Benezra is out because it's the only way he could be removed-look around the Valley Road offices-very few familiar names now. How about the board stop wasting money on attorneys and spend some of the surplus on the schools- like computers, science equipment, updating the physical plants of buildings...the list is endless.
I'd-Rather-Be-at-63 January 12, 2014 at 04:36 PM
Who fired Mr. Benezra? The Montclair Board of Education cannot. So who did? Could it be it was the same person who was responsible for the security of the assessments? Think about it. It could not have been anyone else.

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