Racy emails kill Sebring's OPS job - Omaha.com
Published Sunday, June 3, 2012 at 1:00 am / Updated at 12:40 pm
Racy emails kill Sebring's OPS job

Click here to read selected emails.

The Des Moines Public Schools staff blacked out some words or names before sending the emails to The World-Herald. We have blacked out other words or sections for taste or because they were emails from Sebring's lover.

* * * * *

The woman with the tattoo on her foot, hailed as a bold, take-charge outsider who could face down the chronic academic problems plaguing the Omaha Public Schools, proved a weakling against her own passions.

Rather than charging into the OPS superintendent's office to a fanfare, Nancy Sebring crept quietly away Saturday, victim of an electronic communication trail and her reckless decision to carry on torrid exchanges with her lover on school computers, using her work email account, sometimes during the workday.

Some of the exchanges took place when OPS was working to select a replacement for retiring Superintendent John Mackiel, with emails discussing intimate matters while also noting her meetings in Omaha with school officials and community members.

Just a month before her start date with OPS, her hiring dramatically unraveled after the stunning revelation Friday night about Sebring's emails. The emails had triggered her abrupt resignation May 10 as superintendent of the Des Moines Public Schools, but neither that district nor Sebring disclosed the fact at the time.

Omaha school board members hastily called an emergency meeting Saturday afternoon. Within minutes, they voted 9-1 to accept Sebring's resignation, which she tendered as the graphic contents of the emails with a male lover went public. Board members Bambi Bartek and Barbara Velázquez were absent.

In her resignation letter, Sebring said she appreciated “the confidence shown to me by the Omaha board in hiring me as the next superintendent.”

“However, due to recent events I feel my ability to lead the district has been compromised, thus I am offering my resignation as superintendent of the Omaha school district.”

Sebring did not return calls seeking comment Friday or Saturday.

Omaha school board President Freddie Gray described the whole matter as “unfortunate.”

Gray said the full board will deliberate Monday and make a plan on how to proceed.

“Right now, what we're trying to do is get a superintendent hired,” Gray said. “That's our next step.”

She would not speculate on the board's options, nor did she want to discuss the content of the emails, which she said she had not read.

“I have no intention of reading the emails,” she said. “It's the action, not what's contained in the emails.”

Gray assured the public that the day-to-day operation of the district won't change.

“We'll still continue to offer the best quality educational opportunities for all of our students. We'll continue to move forward as a district. We'll be open as we were in the past in the selection process, and we'll continue to be so.”

She said Sebring contacted the board's attorney, Elizabeth Eynon-Kokrda, Saturday morning and asked how the board was reacting to the breaking news.

Gray said she told Eynon-Kokrda to call Sebring and let her know that the board was not scheduled to meet until Monday and that Gray had not polled the board members on their reactions.

Gray said she wanted Sebring to know that board members were getting emails from constituents, “and the tone of those are people's disappointment in what they had read.”

She also told Eynon-Kokrda to tell Sebring that board members were not talking about a resignation.

Eynon-Kokrda passed that along.

Sebring sent her resignation letter at 11:30 a.m., Gray said.

Board member Justin Wayne, who arrived late to the brief meeting and voted no, said the board should have had a full conversation about such a big decision.

When Sebring abruptly resigned from the Des Moines Public Schools on May 10, she publicly cited a need to prepare for the transition to the Omaha superintendent job.

At the time, Des Moines officials did not disclose that discovery of the explicit emails had prompted her resignation. The Des Moines school board chairwoman, Teree Caldwell-Johnson, issued a statement saying: “We understand and appreciate her wish to have some additional time as she prepares for her transition to Omaha and we support her request to make that happen.”

But the Des Moines district revealed Friday that district staff had found sexually explicit emails between Sebring, who is married, and a married man.

The district uncovered the emails while responding to a public records request from The World-Herald relating to her preparations for the Omaha job.

The explicit emails, which The World-Herald obtained Saturday, were exchanged over a period running from March into May and described, sometimes in graphic detail, their “wonderful physical connection,” as Sebring said in one email.

In response to the public records request, the Des Moines school district provided The World-Herald with hundreds of pages of emails on various topics relating to Omaha or even simply containing the word “Omaha.”

Among those were about a dozen emails between Sebring and her lover, sent to or from her official district account and discussing their affair.

Until Saturday, Sebring had been under contract with the Omaha Public Schools and was due to start as superintendent July 1.

Initially, Omaha school board members reacted cautiously to the news of the emails.

But things moved quickly as the contents of the emails spread.

Board member Marian Fey expressed dejection over the revelation. “It's sad,” Fey said. “All the way around. For her. For us.”

Sebring tried several times to prevent public disclosure of the emails.

Immediately after Sebring decided to resign from Des Moines, Sebring called The World-Herald to ask about its records request relating to Omaha.

She asked if the newspaper could revise its request, indicating that the full request might encompass such emails as her sister congratulating her about the Omaha job.

The newspaper, unaware of the sexually explicit emails, agreed to narrow its request to deal specifically with communications to and from people in Omaha.

Around that time, the Des Moines Register requested emails that included the word “Omaha.”

Phil Roeder, spokesman for the Des Moines Public Schools, said Sebring attempted to delete many of the emails during the week they came to light. But the district found the emails on its districtwide computer server, he said.

Roeder said Sebring also raised the possibility of filing a lawsuit to keep the emails from coming out.

Contact the writer:
402-444-1077, joe.dejka@owh.com

Contact the writer: Joe Dejka

joe.dejka@owh.com    |   402-444-1077

Joe's beat is education, focusing on pre-kindergarten through high school.

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