Thursday, November 8, 2007

NMF Spam...School Leak Revisited; Investigation Necessary

On November 5, I posted a piece about a campaign-related e-mail that was sent by NMF to many people who had never given their e-mail addresses to anyone but the School Administration. Several parents who received this political spam wrote that they created new e-mail addresses just for school purposes. Thus it seemed readily apparent that there was a possibility of a leak of a School mailing list or lists. Now that possibility is morphing into a likelihood. The following is an e-mail exchange that sheds a great deal more light. I supplied the highlighting:

DATE: 11/04/2007 7:21 PM
TO: undisclosed-recipients
SUBJECT: Election Day is TuesdayAs Election Day approaches, here are a few things you should know:Your vote counts. Democracy is based on maximum participation. Your vote will influence the future of New Milford.You do not have to vote for everyone. For example, the instructions for Town Council tell you to "Vote for any nine." You do not have to do this. You should vote only for those you really want to be elected. The polls will be open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday. If you are not sure where to vote, visit for a street-by-street listing of who votes where. If you would like more information about the New Milford First candidates, please download the sample ballot. If you would like to be removed from this mailing list, please reply with the word "remove."
To New Milford First;
How dare you invade my private e-mail address to promote your desperate political agenda. This despicable tactic is tantamount to telemarketing your poor product. New low (of many) in your history.I further hope New Milford's Public Schools system did not stoop so low as to betray parents' trust by divulging their list of e-mail addresses. That clearly was not the intended purpose of providing the school with the addresses.
Julian Munoz
To: (Principal)
I sincerely hope the High School administration was not the source of e-mail addresses used by the below mentioned political party. I do not want to believe such pandering occurred.
Julian Munoz
From: Jerry Monaghan, New Milford First
To : Julian Munoz
Thanks for your message.The list was provided by a fellow parent.The email message itself was generic, encouraging your participation in the democratic process. Any New Milford First information was contained in an optional download. New Milford First understands your comments, but appreciates the fact 24 percent of New Milford's voters believe New Milford First offers something positive for the town.--
Jerry Monaghan
To: Dr JeanAnn C. Paddyfote
From: Julian Munoz
Who is this "fellow parent"?How/from where did this fellow parent secure the address list? Does this "fellow" parent know me? Does this fellow parent have my consent to divulge my e-mail address for soliciting purposes? Is this fellow parent an employee of the NMPS system?Regards,
Julian Munoz
Dear Mr. Munoz,
Please be advised that the New Milford Public Schools does not intentionally release parent email addresses. If a school or teacher is sending an email to several individuals, they have been told to put the parent email addresses in the "Blind Copy" field.
Sincererly,JeanAnn C. Paddyfote
Superintendent of Schools
New Milford Public Schools
Dear Mr. Munoz,I have no idea who the New Milford First organization is talking about with respect to "parent". I have spoken with one person from New Milford First about your concern, and I was told they were given the email addresses from friends of NM First members. No one employed in the school district is authorized to give out email addresses of parents.My suggestion is that you pursue the matter with the New Milford First organization.
JeanAnn C. Paddyfote
I just have to use some straight street talk here because it so aptly describes the foregoing responses: there's some shuckin' and jivin' here at its best.

Let's first look at Jerry Monaghan's NMF e-mail. It would take a complete fool to not know that it was an NMF pitch. Pure and simple. Yet he claims that the e-mail "was generic" and "any New Milford First information was contained in an optional download." That's pure hogwash from a guy who considers himself to be the spinmeister of all spinmeisters but is really very little more than a hack who has been rejected by New Milford's major Parties and voters (including two days ago), who violated the Zoning Regs while on the Planning Commission and, together with a couple of other cronies including old ethics-challenged Davey Hubbard, is responsible for the Route 7 construction debacle that we suffer through day after day, month after month, year after year. "Generic," Jerry? Do you really think we and Mr. Munoz are that stupid?

In addition, the self-proclaimed great media guru ought to get a web lesson from Kostes. Ask him to explain to you the difference between files "as attachments" versus "in-line." Depending upon computer preferences, the "optional download" was anything but and the NMF pitch appeared on-screen with the body of the e-mail.

Now JeanAnn enters the picture but does not satisfactorily address the issue. I'm sure that mailing lists aren't "intentionally released" and that no one is "authorized to release them" but who has access to them? What safeguards are in place to make sure that they can only be accessed appropriately? Does every person who uses the list know how to "bcc?"

JeanAnn wrote that she had "spoken with one person" from NMF and was told that it got the list "from friends" of NMF but Monaghan wrote that it came from "a fellow parent." Did he lie? JeanAnn told Mr. Munoz to "pursue the matter with" NMF. Did her investigation end there or is she looking at the School's e-mail records to find a leak? The "friends" of NMF got the list from somewhere!

Last but certainly not least is the law. The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) at 34 CFR 99 set forth the rules about what is called "directory information" and the disclosure thereof. It came as no surprise to me that the School's own Policy at 6141.324, I believe, are not in strict compliance with FERPA and are also internally inconsistent. Both are grounds for a FERPA complaint to the United States Department of Education.

There should be a comprehensive investigation of this matter by the Superintendent; she has more than enough information to move forward.

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