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.