Web site posting leads to calls for superintendent's dismissal

Teachers Social Security numbers and birthdates put on district Website

(Published October. 26, 2006, 12:38 p.m.)

By Mike Heine/The Week

A recent mistake that posted Big Foot High School district staff Social Security numbers and birthdates on the school Web site has raised calls for Superintendent Thomas Nykl to be relieved from his duties and even fired.

The Big Foot teachers union sent a letter to the school board the day after the Oct. 18 incident asking that Nykl, who started with the district this summer, to be relieved of his duties while an investigation is conducted into the cause of the error.

Then, at a school board meeting Oct.23 a Big Foot High School a district parent said the school board should fire Nykl for the error.

During the public comment period at the meeting, Nancy Rasmussen, who identified herself as a parent and district resident, said it was the school board's duty to fire Nykl immediately for the error.

"He no longer has credibility," Rasmussen said of Nykl.

She added that the district was the "laughingstock of southeastern Wisconsin" because of the Web site gaffe.

School board members made no comment on Rasmussen's assertions. School Board president Sue Pruessing said the school board does not usually comment on or argue with statements made by district residents during public comment.

Nykl made no comment, either. After the school board meeting, Nykl said that a report on the incident was being prepared and would be delivered to the school board, at which point it would be made public.

Nykl has said that the intent was to be open and provide the public with information about their district.

Big Foot is facing a problem with a growing imbalance between income and expenditures that's eroding its fund reserves. This year alone, the district will spend $326,500 more than it takes in.

A referendum and finance committee has been appointed to look at long-range financial planning for the district and to determine if Big Foot will have to go to referendum to raise its levy limits to head off any further deficits.

The plan was to release to the public through the school Web site the same information being given to the committee, including the names and salaries of current staff members on the Web.

However, because of an error made in posting the information, more than 80 current and former Big Foot teachers and staff had their Social Security numbers and birth dates posted as well.

Also during public comment, Michael Manghera, persident of the Big Foot teachers union, said that the district must take steps to ensure such errors do not occur again.

Manghera asked the board not to try to minimize or trivialize the impact the error had on union members.

The district has made assurances that the names, Social Security numbers and birth dates were on the Big Foot Web site for only hours and that the only ones who saw it were school staff, a school board member and a member of the district's referendum committee.

However, union members fear that a copy of the page may still be on a Web browser cache. Ramifications of the accidental release of this identity information may not come until months or even years after the incident, Manghera said.

The union has formally asked the board to relieve Nykl of his duties while it conducts an investigation into the mistake.




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