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Confluence wipes all students’ Google accounts

Rebekah+Stern%2C+senior%2C+poses+for+a+photo+illustration+of+her+finding+out+her+original+Confluence+account+has+been+wiped.
Rebekah Stern, senior, poses for a photo illustration of her finding out her original Confluence account has been wiped.

Rebekah Stern, senior, poses for a photo illustration of her finding out her original Confluence account has been wiped.

Natalie ODell

Natalie ODell

Rebekah Stern, senior, poses for a photo illustration of her finding out her original Confluence account has been wiped.

Kumari Pacheco, Staff Writer

At the start of the school year, all students’ old Google Classroom accounts (and the documents within them) were found to be completely deleted.

Google Classroom is a teaching platform developed by Google that aims to simplify and expedite the creation, distribution, and grading of assignments. It was introduced into GCAA three years ago by Confluence, and many teachers found it to be a helpful tool – especially those whose classes required typed essays and responses.

“It wasn’t too hard to learn,” said Cindy Kalachek, who taught a variety of classes last year, including 1818 Writing Composition. “I could return students papers anytime, I didn’t have to wait for when class was in session…students couldn’t wiggle out of turning in a paper, I mean it was timestamped. So it transcended that part of the job.”

However, Kalachek also pointed out that Google Classroom has its flaws, the foremost being that it can be unreliable. “I have to have chromebooks in my classroom and the internet has to be working and things like that,” says Kalachek.

Most students are familiar with these issues, but they are problems of scheduling and repair more than they are technological. Google Classroom’s unreliability was truly experienced with the return to school, when students noticed their Google accounts were empty, and learned that all of the documents, emails, and assignments from last year’s accounts had been deleted from the server.

The realization sparked widespread unease, and in some cases, outrage, throughout the school. Students in English classes, Writing Composition in particular, were especially distressed, as many had college essays stored in their old Google accounts.

One former Writing Composition student, Rebekah Stern, described how she first discovered her documents had been wiped.

“I was in class and we were logging in and she said that we needed to use this new password that [Confluence] created, so that was the first indicator that they had wiped everything. And then once I got on I was just kinda shocked.”

Though Stern was initially very upset at the loss of her files, she eventually came to accept it as a lesson learned.

“I mean now, when I type something up on Google Classroom, I copy and paste it to my other email, Google Drive, because I don’t wanna lose that stuff.”

Kalachek echoed these sentiments, as she herself had a similar incident a year ago when “two years of work” was deleted when Confluence wiped her account.

“It’s still annoying, but it teaches you about the importance of backing stuff up and not to trust school computers, and always put stuff on a thumb drive,” she said.

With student and parent concerns spiraling the school, Confluence was quickly made aware.

“It was a mistake,” said Dr. Louise Losos, Executive Director of Curriculum and Assessment at Confluence Charter Schools. “Everyone involved feels just awful about it.”

It began in early July, when the management of Confluence Google accounts switched hands to an instructional technology team, who processed them in a routine checkup. They found, however, that the accounts were in disarray, with “three to four thousand more accounts than there were people.” In order to fix the problem, all Google accounts were wiped and the students reuploaded to the server.

“The mistake was made in not downloading all of those documents,” said Losos. “We underestimated the impact of the getting rid of the documents.”

As soon as students began contacting their teachers, and later the administration, Confluence jumped to recover the documents – immediately finding ninety-eight out of the three hundred lost.

“Any time the student comes to either Mrs. Irving, or Mrs. Bell-Moore, they let them know, and they go and try. They can’t guarantee because if you have a folder, and it’s saved to that folder, [we] can’t get that back. But if you had shared it with a teacher, we can get that back.”

Procedures are also being put into place, to prevent any future repetitions of this event.

“Say, six months after you’re no longer a student with us, your account will be completely deactivated…and you will be notified that this is the policy.”

Dr. Losos assured students that Confluence is actively working to recover as many documents as they can, and will continue to do so for as long as it takes.

“We’re doing our best to recover what we can and we’re going to, moving forward, make sure we don’t repeat the same thing.”

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Confluence wipes all students’ Google accounts