To: Michael Green
From: Steve Rippl
Date: September 16, 2021
RE: Tech Department Report
It’s great to have our district starting out the year in what looks like a more normal fashion after all the disruptions of last year, we certainly hope it can be sustained. With all the groundwork done, last year we in tech do feel ready for pretty much all eventualities now but hope it doesn’t come to that.
Our summer was a busy one. We took the approximately 800 Chromebooks that had gone out to elementary students, and went through them all, cleaning, updating, repairing as needed, and swapping out aged-out devices. Student Chromebooks have now all gone into computer carts, one cart in each classroom. Our elementary schools now enjoy 1:1 technology access (rather than having to wait until a shared cart is available), and should a class or more need to quarantine, the devices are on-hand for the students to take home.
We also deployed new devices for the incoming 9th grade. When they were issued devices last year we deliberately gave them older models that would age out now, to slot them into our new cadence of one device in middle school, and one for their high school career. We also upgraded hardware in the middle school testing labs and library and cycled aging UPS batteries and network equipment (switches).
We pushed out more security upgrades for our backend systems, but perhaps the biggest jump in our security profile was enforcing 2-step authentication for our teacher Google accounts. This had already been enforced for some time for admins, tech, special services, counselors, and nurses, but teachers also handle sensitive information that needs to be kept secure. That rollout went smoothly, overall it is a very little extra inconvenience for our staff. In the few areas where there have been issues (visiting staff not having cell phone reception at Yale for example), we have found easy workarounds.
As contradictory as it may sound, putting more and more of our data in the cloud is a good security tactic, as long as it’s done under the right conditions. Organizations like WSIPC (who run Skyward for us) and Google have far more resources to put towards keeping their servers secure than we do, and as long as privacy is ensured and access is controlled (via things like 2-step authentication) the data is safer there than it would be housed locally in a small school district! And it serves to distribute risk, not having “all the data in one basket” as it were.