School board adopts budgets, hears report of cyber attack
July 22, 2021
After fielding visitors’ questions about funding, the curriculum committee, and whether masks will be mandated at school in the fall at the Wahkiakum School District Board of Directors meeting on Tuesday night, directors held a special hearing for the 2021-2022 budget, and Superintendent Brent Freeman gave an official statement about a cyber event that occurred in May.
Budget Manager Shelby Garrett summarized the annual budget process.
Using one of the tools provided by the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction or the Educational Service District, Garrett said she enters several figures to determine revenue, including last year’s enrollment, food counts, grant numbers, and special education percentages. Then she builds the expenditures based on information like how much funding the school will get from grants and the levy, how much the district spent last year and more.
When all the numbers are generated, she uploads her work to the OSPI site, which helps her find errors, if she has any, and allows her to make edits. When she is satisfied with her work, she sends it to a “genius" at ESD 112 who looks it over. He gives her a bit more guidance, and if she agrees, she makes more changes.
Once her guide at ESD 112 approves, Garrett said, the budget then goes before the school board to be approved, and finally to OSPI to be approved.
Garrett then went over the numbers for the 2021-2022 year and noted that the district was looking at a $175,000 decrease.
The board approved the 2021-2022 budget of $8,363,533 for the general fund, $88,200 for the ASB fund, and $83,000 for the transportation vehicle fund. There was no money allocated to the debt service fund or the capital projects fund.
Freeman read a prepared statement about the cyber attack that the school district has been quietly dealing with since late May.
“We had a cyber event here in the district,” Freeman said. “On May 23, we discovered a network issue that impacted the availability of certain systems within our computer network. In response, we immediately took our systems offline in an attempt to prevent additional systems from being affected. Our response efforts affected the accessibility and capabilities of our network district-wide.”
“Since our discovery, we commenced an investigation and response with the assistance of an outside cyber security firm, and we have worked tirelessly to restore, rebuild, and secure our network,” Freeman said.
Working quickly, they were able to bring back the Chromebook network on the morning of May 24, so teachers did not miss a single day of teaching.
Experts were on site and working remotely to help the district recover and restore their devices, and they worked methodically, Freeman said, to determine the scope of the incident.
The district has since recovered their networks and is nearly back to full operation.
“Paul Ireland is working to minimize data loss and provide users with as much historical data as possible,” Freeman continued. “These restoration efforts will continue throughout the summer. Our investigation is completing and although we determined that an unauthorized person accessed a portion of our systems, we do not currently have evidence that any personal data was accessed and no sensitive records were accessed.
"Further, based on the nature of the unauthorized access, we do not have any reason to believe that the unauthorized person’s intention in accessing the system was to steal any data. We will update you if the investigation changes this conclusion.”
“Finally,” Freeman said, “I would like to dispel any rumors that we made a ransom payment. We did not.”
The public meeting was closed for an executive session to discuss personnel issues.