Last week Washington West Supervisory Union superintendent Brigid Scheffert Nease suggested that former principal Dr. Andreas Lehner may have had inappropriate access to former administrative assistant Laurie Jones’ computer at Warren Elementary School after he retired in 2012.
She made the allegation at a Warren School Board meeting on November 3. Her discussion at the school board came after a September 16 letter she wrote to Rebecca Holcombe, secretary of the Vermont Agency of Education. In that letter, she wrote that her technology IT person had found a MobileMe app on Jones’ computer which allowed Lehner access to school email, student information and other protected documents.
“I have plenty of direct evidence of access to digital records [on] PowerSchool by nonemployees,” Scheffert Nease told the Warren School Board on November 3.
So what is the MobileMe app? It is an Apple application that allowed users to access their computers remotely. Apple discontinued and stopped supporting the application on June 30, 2012, according to Wikipedia.
The Valley Reporter reached out to Scheffert Nease about whether her IT people knew what MobileMe was. Given what she said to the Warren School Board about “plenty of direct evidence” that a nonemployee had digital access to school records, she was asked about times and dates of access.
“You should note that my letter reports some of what is known. It was not meant to be exhaustive of all information. Our office does not have the resources to conduct a full forensic investigation. That would be up to the AOE. Passwords would be needed from nonemployees and only the AOE could move to receive those,” Scheffert Nease replied via email.
Asked about Apple’s discontinuation of MobileMe in 2012, Scheffert Nease said that MobileMe was just one part of the alleged digital access by a nonemployee and also said that the MobileMe app could still be used locally and that it was through June 2015.
“My reporting was based on the reports made to me by the previous two principals and the IT department. The MobileMe piece was just one part of that. The MobileMe access was active through June 2015, after which time my IT department removed both the MobileMe app for Laurie Jones and Andreas Lehner. According to my tech department, even though Apple was not supporting the MobileMe app it can still be used locally and was through June 2015. There is no way to know exactly when and how often without a forensic investigation,” she said.
The Wikipedia entry for MobileMe notes that it “was a subscription-based collection of online services and software offered by Apple Inc. All services were being gradually transitioned and replaced by iCloud and the service ceased as of June 30, 2012, with transfers to iCloud available until July 31, 2012. Afterwards, all data was deleted and the email addresses of accounts not transferred to iCloud were marked as unused.”
“MobileMe was shut down on June 30, 2012, with user data available for retrieval until July 31, 2012, when the site finally closed completely,” the Wikipedia entry reads.
HOW IT WAS USED
A cnet.com article from June 29, 2012, discussed Apple’s retiring of the MobileMe app at length and also explained more of how the app was used.
“Come Sunday, Apple will make good on a year-old promise: MobileMe, its paid cloud sync and storage service, will go dark. That means files that users have stored on the service -- as well as the sites they have published through Apple's iWeb software -- are going to disappear as well. MobileMe users ought not to be surprised. The very same day that it named a replacement service, Apple said it would be closing up MobileMe. Since then, the company has steadily nudged people toward migrating their accounts to iCloud, which opened up last October. At its core, MobileMe was Apple's existing Web-based .Mac tools combined with the understanding that computing was no longer just on computers and was now happening on mobile devices too. MobileMe's claim to fame was that it would keep a handful of things, like email, calendars, contacts, photos, Safari bookmarks and Mac Dashboard widgets in sync across all your gadgetry. Whether you had a Mac and an iPhone, a PC and an iPhone, or anything in between, the idea was that just about everything kept in step. Apple pitched it as ‘Microsoft Exchange for the rest of us,’” reporter George Lowensohn wrote for the website.
Lehner, for his part said the accusations of him accessing the school computer after he retired were untrue and he also took Scheffert Nease to task for not talking to him about the issue before writing to Holcombe and taking the issue to the board.
“If she had any concerns,” Lehner said, “she never brought them to my attention. She never asked me about it. Why didn’t someone call me?”
The Warren School Board also responded to Scheffert Nease’s allegations with their own letter to Holcombe in which they assure Secretary Holcombe that they take student privacy very seriously and they question Scheffert Nease’s motivation in bringing the issue forward without talking to Lehner about it.
“Andreas Lehner was principal of the Warren School for over two decades. He was a gifted educator. The success of our school during his tenure was in no small measure due to his leadership. He was an outspoken critic of centralizing education, a view that often created tension with his colleagues across the supervisory union and with the superintendent. It’s fair to say his retirement eased tensions at the supervisory union, but we have difficulty reading the superintendent’s letter to you without sensing some of that tension bubbling back to the surface,” the board wrote.
The board’s letter appears in its entirety in the Op/Ed section of this week’s issue of The Valley Reporter.