NNDS Lawsuit: Employee Secretly Copied Hundreds Of Proprietary Files

data-loss

The National Network of Digital Schools (NNDS) filed a lawsuit today in the Beaver County Court of Common Pleas against one of its former employees, alleging she secretly copied hundreds of proprietary and confidential files before leaving to work for PA Cyber Charter School, the company’s largest customer.

The Rochester based NNDS employs over 350 people and is one of the country’s leading providers of online curriculum and educational services to brick-and-mortar and cyber schools.

NNDS alleges that Holly J. Fritz of Economy Borough abruptly left her job at the company in May of this year, just 6 months after being promoted to Senior Manager of Secondary Curriculum, to take a job at the PA Cyber Charter School as their Director of Secondary Curriculum.

Fritz’s husband, Alan Fritz, was hired by PA Cyber as Chief Academic Officer in February of this year after failing to obtain employment as Chief Academic Officer of NNDS. Holly Fritz had previously worked as a science teacher at the Ambridge Area High School when her husband Alan was principal.

Due to the similarities of her job titles, and the alleged abruptness in which she left NNDS, the company says they hired experts to conduct a forensic examination of her workplace computers.

According to NNDS’ 30 page complaint, the examination revealed that Holly Fritz used her position of trust within the organization to transfer hundreds of files onto external hard drives, USB devices, and the online file storage service Dropbox, before leaving the company.

“On at least one occasion as many as nine USB devices were connected to the computers assigned to Fritz in just a twenty two minute time frame,” the complaint alleges. “On another occasion, Fritz created ‘zip’ files containing seven folders and more than 170 documents containing NNDS curricula relating to the study of languages, math, science, social studies […] Just days before her resignation, Fritz attached an external hard drive to her NNDS laptop which external hard drive had enough capacity to hold the entire content of her laptop,” the lawsuit goes on the say. “Fritz accessed more than 110 folders and files using her NNDS computers, a number of which were thereafter deleted on the day of, or the day before, Fritz resigned from NNDS.”

The company also accuses Fritz of making copies of all of her corporate emails and attachments. NNDS says the files represent confidential, sensitive, proprietary, and trade secret information “including curricula and other material that she and/or direct competitors or her current employer-PA Cyber-could use to cause immediate and irreparable harm to NNDS.”

Public records show PA Cyber pays NNDS over $30 million annually to license their cyber curricula.

The lawsuit states that Fritz failed to return the data when requested by NNDS, and also failed to provide assurances she would not disclose any of the proprietary information in her possession.

Along with actual damages, restitution, and attorneys fees, NNDS is also seeking “punitive damages to punish Fritz.”

The company is asking a judge to issue an injunction ordering Fritz to return all of the information in her possession and preventing her from revealing that information to any third party. NNDS is also seeking an order to have the woman’s personal computers, cellphones, storage media (including USB drives), and data service accounts made available to the company’s forensic computer consultants to be reformatted or replaced to ensure no proprietary data remains available to Fritz.

Holly Fritz could not be reached for comment and an attorney of record has not yet been entered for her in the case.

About The Author

Profile photo of John Paul

John Paul is a Beaver County native and the founder of the Beaver Countian. He reports full-time for the site, specializing in investigative journalism with an emphasis on public corruption.

Reader Comments:


Guest
Eager Reader
1 year 1 month ago

Not like these two organizations haven’t had enough controversy already. This is going to be some serious shit!

Guest
Dan
1 year 1 month ago

PA Cyber pays NNDS $30 million a year? That sounds like it should be investigated.

Guest
Marsha Moore
1 year 1 month ago

It should absolutely be investigated. That $30 million comes from taxpayers. PA Cyber/NNDS is another case of cronyism in this county. Many of the employees of both entities have connections that date back some 40 years, when they were students or teachers at the local catholic high school along with Nick Trombetta.

Guest
UpsetWithBC
1 year 1 month ago

That’s not out of the ordinary. It may sound like a lot for us, but that is about average for a school of that size. You have to think that most school districts in the county have budgets in the tens of Millions of dollars each year. PA Cyber has double, if not triple, the amount of students than any school in the county. Not sticking up for them by any means but for this matter this seems about right.

Guest
Raven
1 year 1 month ago

This is extremely serious. In the end, she has compromised the clients, and they could be harmed. This kind of thing “is just not done” with confidential and proprietary information and files, and it can land people in jail. Add this to the manipulation of educational “definitions” at PA Cyber (like “Gifted”) that drive their programs and services, and it undermines the very basis of the institution. Greedy people operating within a cyber system that defies accountability.

Guest
Mr. 214
1 year 1 month ago

I am curious as to why there are no criminal charges.

Guest
currentsitguy
1 year 1 month ago

Generally speaking the bar to prove criminal liability is much higher than is required in a civil case. Most NDA and Non-Compete cases are adjudicated in one form or another through the civil system.

Guest
CougatBoo
1 year 1 month ago

I knew something was up when I heard that Allen Fritz lobbied the cyber school board to hire his wife at a school board meeting. My source said he basically created the position for her, including setting the salary. More shady business from the only place in BC more crooked than the courthouse.

Guest
Dennis McKee
1 year 1 month ago

The 3 great motivators of mankind. Money sex and power. Spike

Guest
SoTrue
1 year 1 month ago

None, of which, you get, have, or recieve. Poor fella!

Profile photo of Nikki
Member
1 year 1 month ago

SoTrue, I wish I could shake your hand! That was the best laugh I’ve had all week. Thank you!

Guest
Icanread
1 year 1 month ago

I thought NNDS was created so PA Cyber could produce its own curriculum instead of buying from established curriculum suppliers and keep the public school money with “friends of Nick.” I bet because of the investigation, PA Cyber needs to shop elsewhere, which they should. Most curricula are off-the-shelf, especially with the advent of common core, so I don’t see where any advice in that arena is necessary, much less worth $30 million. Look for online reviews, get competitive bids, and pick one.

I don’t see what of value Holly Fritz could have taken except a list of students from other cyber schools that use NNDS. I do wonder what the emails said, though. If NNDS is using this to try to keep PA Cyber’s business, I hope PA Cyber kicks them to the curb for playing dirty. And quit hiring relatives. Both PA Cyber and NNDS are empires of nepotism, just like the courthouse.

Profile photo of Raven
Member
1 year 1 month ago

“…a list of students from other cyber schools that use NNDS.” If my kid were on that list, I would be filing a lawsuit myself. That is confidential stuff.

Profile photo of Nikki
Member
1 year 1 month ago

Raven, did you happen to notice that the BCT JUST put the story online today, about this? It came across my timeline on FB. Wonder how much info is missing from their “story”?

Guest
Icanread
1 year 1 month ago

If she didn’t share any of the personal information, it’s not a FERPA issue. PA Cyber doesn’t sell curriculum, so why would any files be useful, and any student progress files that NNDS has should go with the student and school and be the property of schools such as PA Cyber, anyway.

Profile photo of Raven
Member
1 year 1 month ago

@nikki: It’s the BCT, so it’s probably the bare bones safe stuff. That’s why I come here to ask for more information at times. I’ve noticed that they often take JP’s lead, then report on the stuff that “suits” the readers after the initial path is cleared and the dust settles. This matter is a deep one, and there is much more to it than someone taking files; she has stolen private and confidential property and has compromised lives. She didn’t just steal a loaf of bread to feed her starving kids. People can’t “see” the purloined stuff, sot it doesn’t have the same impact.

Guest
Icanread
1 year 1 month ago

It is a very good story. I can’t believe that the NNDS/PA Cyber relationship was allowed to continue to the extent that it has. After Rendell tried to expose the whole corrupt relationship, Corbett allowed PA Cyber to shuffle public money to NNDS (and others) to enrich friends of Nick.

Old article for anybody that doesn’t know the background:
http://www.post-gazette.com/news/education/2012/07/15/Millions-flow-to-Beaver-County-based-PA-Cyber-School-s-spinoffs/stories/201207150214

This blog also has good information on the NNDS past, although it’s mostly anti-Corbett related
http://casablancapa.blogspot.com/2013/08/its-truethere-was-campaigning-in-capitol.html

Profile photo of medinfo2000
Member
1 year 1 month ago

It’s just another case of nepotism and favoritism at the tax-payer’s expense. In fact, the ENTIRE cyber charter school scenario may be a giant ripoff scam brought to you by the likes of Corbett and Christiana, under the umbrella of Trombetta Inc. The tax-payers are being milked for millions of dollars.

I hate to nickel and dime, but with THAT kind of money floating around does anyone else see Fritz’s possible double-dipping the tax-payers from Feb 13 to March 7?

Raven – you got that right. Releasing personal confidential information to anyone without permission by a former employee is very likely criminal. Maybe she should hire George David’s lawyer?

Guest
Name*
1 year 1 month ago

Nepotism? In a Beaver county school? Heck, these people are amateurs. They need to nepotism graduate school in Center. THAT place has more complicated family relationships than a West Virginia maternity ward. And then after they marry each other and get each other jobs , they cheat on each other with different family members. In that respect, Monaca fits right in, even tho their IQ is half of those in Center….

 

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