Barista Kids covered the Special Montclair Board of Education meeting on Friday, in which the Board passed a resolution to start an investigation on the breached assessments. Today, the district has just issued this statement about its authorization of attorney Mark Tabakin:
At a special public board meeting held Friday, November 1, the Montclair Board of Education unanimously voted to appoint attorney Mark Tabakin to conduct an investigation into the suspected unauthorized release of proprietary/confidential District assessments. The resolution also calls for Mr. Tabakin to investigate other incidents of conduct that may be contrary to the Board’s best interest, as may be disclosed by further investigation.
Pursuant to N.J.S.A. 18A:6-19 and 20, the Montclair Board of Education authorized Mr. Tabakin to issue subpoenas that require recipients to provide relevant documents or testimony. “The goal is to find out who was responsible for releasing the assessments. In addition, we will investigate who knew what and when they knew it as there may be conduct contrary to the Board’s best interest,” Mr. Tabakin said.
“District employees and others connected to this investigation should not destroy any emails or documents related to the investigation. That would be an obstruction of justice,” Mr. Tabakin continued. “As an officer of the court, I am legally and ethically bound to conduct an independent investigation and to turn over any findings of wrongdoing to the appropriate authorities. Those authorities may also step in before my investigation is complete and begin their own investigation.”
Board of Education President Robin Kulwin said “Mark Tabakin is the current general counsel for the Board. By asking our current counsel to conduct the investigation we can begin the investigation immediately.” Mrs. Kulwin continued, “As with any attorney we would hire, Mr. Tabakin reports solely to the Board and does not answer to any employee of the district. We have asked him to cast a wide net and to bring all evidence of wrong- doing, regardless of where it is found, to the Board’s attention.”
Dr. Penny MacCormack, Superintendent of Schools, said “Our teachers and Central Services staff worked long and hard this summer to develop assessments that will identify areas where students might need additional instruction. Leaking the assessments on the eve of their use is unfair to our students and to our teachers.”
MacCormack continued, “The assessments were password protected but of course we wanted them accessible to all of our teachers. Their feedback was important in producing high quality assessments. We believed more restrictive security measures were unnecessary given our expectations about the professionalism and integrity of the staff.”
If the investigation concludes that any district employees released proprietary and confidential assessments without authorization, those persons could face disciplinary action, up to and including termination. Any district employees and any nonemployees found to be involved could also face criminal charges.