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posted: 12/26/2011 5:30 AM

Antioch High School tightens security after grade tampering

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  • Sara Glashagel

      Sara Glashagel

 
 

A poorly written computer program password is blamed for allowing former teacher Sara Glashagel to access secured grades in other classrooms and change them, Antioch High School officials said.

Antioch-Lake Villa Area High School District 117 Superintendent Mike Nekritz said a more secure system is now in place, and teachers and students are moving on from the much-publicized grade-tampering scandal.

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"I think once the resignation hit our website and the faculty knew what was going on, we all turned our attention to the goal of teaching students," Nekritz said. "It was nice to see how quickly people wanted things to get back to normal."

Glashagel resigned Nov. 23 from her teaching job, six days after news of the grade-changing scandal broke. She is expected back in court Jan. 9 for a preliminary hearing on the misdemeanor charge.

If convicted, she could be sentenced to probation by a Lake County judge.

Early on, Glashagel said the situation "spiraled out of control" and she intended to fight the allegations. She has not returned phone calls since her initial statement, and an official defense attorney is not listed in court paperwork.

Police said the 29-year-old Elk Grove Village resident admitted to changing the grades when questioned before charges were filed.

District officials say Glashagel inflated grades, then changed them back in most cases. She is married to Antioch head football coach Brian Glashagel, but police and district officials said they are confident no one else was involved in the grade changing.

While not going into detail, Nekritz said Sara Glashagel figured out an administrator's password and accessed the schoolwide grade book computer program between Sept. 15 and 21.

In all, changes were made to more than 240 grades involving more than 60 students, Nekritz said.

"She got a hold of an administrative password that allowed her to see and do things that she shouldn't be allowed to see and do," he said. "There is still some question on how the password was obtained, but at the same time, the password itself was not too difficult to figure out."

Documents obtained by the Daily Herald through a Freedom of Information Act request showed a math teacher's classroom was targeted first, then other areas were hit. The changes included four students whose health class grades went from a D or an F to an A.

Roughly 41 football players had their grades changed during the tampering, officials said.

District 117 officials said, and the IHSA agreed, the grade changes were discovered and corrected before the eligibility status of any student-athletes could be affected.

After the scandal surfaced, every teacher and administrator was locked out of the system, then each person had to develop new, more complex passwords, Nekritz said.

Also, a new software security system was installed that required teachers to use multiple passwords. Administrators were no longer allowed access to the entire system.

"The new passwords could no longer be something like 'password' or '1,2,3,4,5,'" Nekritz said. "There's even areas on our system that I can't get to."

Nekritz said Glashagel received monetary compensation for only unused sick days under the district's separation agreement approved after her resignation.

She no longer receives insurance benefits from the district, but she is allowed to be a part of her husband's district medical insurance, Nekritz said.

She is not expected to be asked to repay any past tuition reimbursement, he said.

Emails between Brian and Sara Glashagel on the day of her arrest show Sara telling her husband that district officials intended to fire her, and it was best if she resigned.

She was placed on administrative leave after she was charged that day, the same day the news broke.

Nekritz said the security breach was a tough lesson for the school.

"I think, if there was a lesson to learn, it was that there needs to be protection built in to prevent things like this from happening," he said. "It was a tough lesson but we are moving on."

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