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June 7, 2012
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Nancy, Nancy, Nancy

We always knew former Des Moines Public School District Superintendent Nancy Sebring had a way with words, as she directed many of them toward us through the years.

After we published an editorial column in October of 2010 questioning the district’s use of taxpayer money on what was, in our view, expensive and unnecessary computer software, she fired back voicemails and emails, describing us and our comments as “smug,” “absurd,” “arrogant,” “condescending,” “misinformed” and “insulting,” noting that our opinion was “shoddy journalism.” As usual, we took it all in stride.

She continually chastised us, saying it was wrong for us to “rifle through documents” and then “talk down” about the district’s decisions. She also told us, “Our schoolhouse doors are always open to visitors, especially those wanting to learn a thing or two about what goes on inside.”

We can’t help but wonder how she now feels about the “rifling” of her email documents that has happened in the past few weeks, fully unveiling “what goes on inside” her world.

We were able to obtain Sebring’s emails that The Omaha World Herald, The Des Moines Register and the local TV stations have been referencing over the weekend but have opted not to publish.

View many of the emails here >>>

The words and phrases Sebring chose to describe us are Disney-like compared to the verbiage discovered in her emails to her lover, whose name, incidentally, was redacted in the documents by the district’s general counsel pursuant to Chapter 22.718 in the Open Record law. (But he is a tattooed, married father of daughters who cries on occasion and probably has a pretty good job.) We intended to publish many of those emails in the pages of this paper, but even we were blushing after viewing what read like a stack of Penthouse letters. Her graphic references about her craving for something “long, hard” and her desire for something else with “a suction cup” would make most anyone uncomfortable. But the email detailing why she would be wearing skirts every time she sees her lover was enough to fog even our glasses. But like a train wreck that was taking place before our eyes, we couldn’t stop watching. Simply stated, these emails make “Fifty Shades of Grey” read like “Mother Goose.”

Yes, these are emails from our former school district superintendent, one who abruptly left our great city for the greener fields of Nebraska.

Yes, these are emails that were sent on district computers, on the district email system during regular business hours.

Yes, these emails are from a person who had ultimate responsibility for the well being of more than 30,000 students of the school district.

Sebring appropriately accepted responsibility for her actions, albeit after realizing there was no way to possibly slither out of the problems she created. With that in mind, we have to wonder what more could be found by searching emails dating further back.

This isn’t a matter of Sebring’s private life versus Sebring’s public life, as some have suggested. The district’s email policy is clear, and she violated it in ways that are unbelievably reckless. She apparently felt she was above the policy — untouchable, you might say. Then again, after reading the emails, untouchable may not be the best word choice.

There’s no doubt that Sebring has a strong personality, and there’s no denying that she has strong sexual desires. But simply being an egomaniac and a horn dog doesn’t violate district policy. Sending it out in graphic detail on district equipment does.

We regret the pain and embarrassment that Sebring’s actions have caused her family, the faculty and the patrons of this school district. We caught a glimpse of this arrogance in our dealings with her, and the board of education for the Omaha Public School District was wise to accept her resignation to avoid much of the same. We can now somewhat understand what our own board of education was dealing with in Sebring, but this still, in no way, justifies the secrecy of the closed session meetings and the way the board handled the entire scenario.

If nothing else, this embarrassing fiasco serves as a reminder to those who work on the taxpayer dollar that all communication on taxpayer-funded equipment is a matter of public record, as it should be. CV

Many of Sebring’s complete emails, minus the names edited out by the school district, are available here.



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