The Yankton School Board’s plans to approve next year’s budget at Monday’s meeting were thwarted by persistent problems caused by a mid-May cyber incursion that breached the school district’s servers, leaving massive data losses in its wake.
The 2019-2020 school budget hearing was postponed to the July 8 meeting in the hopes that the data will be available again at that time.
Neither the extent nor the expense of the breach has yet been calculated, but Superintendent Wayne Kindle did have some good news Monday night.
“Two years ago, we made the decision to take out insurance for this type of situation. We never thought we would use it, and here we are, two years later, using it,” he said. “We’ll have more numbers as we work through this, and hopefully in the next couple of weeks, we’ll get some reports back on how much data they were able to recover.”
In addition, a forensic investigation is being performed for the insurance company by a firm from Colorado to determine the cause of the breach, he said.
“As far as where we are at today, we have been able to recover all of our student data, which is really good news,” Kindle said. “We sent out information to our parents letting them know that report cards would be sent out.”
Individual network account folders are still inaccessible, but are being worked on by a Texas-based company, Kindle said. Files in the business office were mostly left untouched.
“Our email was down for nearly three weeks, so we weren’t able to receive email up until just the last four or five days,” he said, “Frankly, I am happy with where we are at, compared to where we thought we might be, at this time.”
Since the breach, YSD has added a new IT staff member.
“(He) came on board here a week ago and knew he walked into something that was a pretty big deal,” Kindle said. “We’ve had a couple of our own IT people working on it. Chris Schloss and Jon Andersen did a great job working with the firm in Texas and in Colorado.”
YSD is also working with a firm in Sioux Falls to address the data loss, he said. In addition, the state sent two IT specialists to help YSD restore its email system.
Kindle noted that parents have been patient and the community has been supportive of the process.
“I think we are just disappointed overall that somebody would do this maliciously to a school district, and we just hope it doesn’t happen to anybody else,” he said.
The board was able to pass a budget supplement Monday presented by YSD Business manager Jason Bietz that will ultimately be incorporated into the final document.
Webster Elementary Principal Melanie Ryken brought back the results of the Big Friend-Little Friend pilot project results from her school this year. The project involved pairing off select students with community mentors for quality time together at school once every week or two. The program was piloted at Webster and Stewart Elementary Schools during the second semester.
Mentors engaged with their student, aged anywhere from first through fifth grades, with activities such as picnic lunches, board games, shooting hoops or celebrating the little friend’s birthday, she said.
“The most heartwarming is that one of our students and her mentor discovered that they both like sewing and knitting, and they ended up making a baby blanket and donating that,” Ryken said. “With one student, we saw a dramatic increase in better behavior. She knew that in order to keep meeting with her big friend, she had to show respect and treat everyone right, and we had zero discipline issues with her in the second half of the year.”
Also at the school board meeting Monday:
• Ryken reported on how community partnerships with Webster students fared this year. Webster participated in the Meals on Wheels fund drive raising just under $1,100 in one week with a coin drive. Some of the students were able to visit the center for a tour and to serve a mid-day meal.
• Mrs. Heidi Savey’s fifth-grade class put on a Greek Market fundraiser again this year that raised about $130, which students decided to donate to the Yankton skate park.
• Todd Dvoracek, Yankton Middle School (YMS) principal, gave a year-end wrap up. He talked about YMS Recognition Day, which included awards for all grades, including academic awards and fun awards like the 6th grade “Messiest Locker” award.
• Dvoracek presented the newest yearbook and thanked YMS ELA teacher Michelle Andrews for her work with students on the yearbook every year. He also thanks the officers of parents group SYMS (Supporters of Yankton Middle School) for their help during the school year.
• School Resource Officer Preston Crissey gave a year-end report citing: 289 initiated calls for service, which include any interactions with students including DARE classes or speaking engagements, he said; 92 case reports, some were informational only; 22 arrests and 35 citations.
• Crissey said students were comfortable with his presence and came to him to report all types of problems — even outside school, he said. Issues he dealt with in the 2018-2019 school year included: truancy checks requested by faculty members, thefts, minor drugs, vaping, education of parents on cannabidiol, assaults, harassment, sex crimes, terroristic threats, accidents and cell phone crimes. He also attended a basic SRO class in Rapid City, which he said he found very helpful.
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