School board discusses security issues


April 27, 2023

The Wahkiakum School District Board of Directors heard about the new security system, the upgraded and more secure IT system, and the results of an assessment on the middle school at their meeting last week.

Paul Ireland, who is in charge of IT at the district talked about the state of the system, cyber security and how things have changed since their cyber attack two years ago. Their response was purely reactive before the attack, but their mentality changed after.

“That was a really miserable month, month and a half,” Ireland said. “There was a lot of desperate trying to recover.

Ireland has reframed his mindset to security first since then and they started to rebuild based on that principle.

“Complacency has no place here,” he said.

“We want a system that is accessible, reliable, secure, supportable, sustainable,” Superintendent Brent Freeman said. “That’s what we’ve accomplished. We know that we still have some work. Is it completely reliable? No.”

For some reason, they’ve been having daily outages for the last three weeks, after six months of stability and engineers are working to figure out the problem.

“This is a very expensive system,” Freeman said. “We benefited from the attack and were able to leverage a lot of insurance money to rebuild.

He said that, along with covid monies, made it possible for the district to cut six years off a remodel that had been planned earlier. One last piece of the planned system will go in this summer.

It will also put them in a position to replace components every 10 years, which Freeman believes will save them hundreds of thousands of dollars over the next decade.

Switching gears, Freeman said that the first phase of the district’s new security system was completed, and it includes cameras, locks, and ADA access.

“It’s a significant upgrade,” Freeman said, adding that they now have better control over the buildings themselves.

“My hope is that we continue to open ourselves up and allow community use,” he added. “Buildings are primarily for the kids, but we can monitor and keep people accountable, particularly when there is damage.”

He cited recent damage. Heavy amounts of weight were dropped on the floor damaging joists below, and a damaged backboard in the gym cost $2,000 to repair.

So Freeman plans to redo the usage form for groups or non-employees that have access to the schools, and suggested that users would have to put a $200 deposit down.

“It’s going to be a million dollar system when all is said and done,” Freeman said. “If you violate the rules, the money goes to the district.”

Director Paula Culbertson had concerns about keeping cash on hand and suggested that the district talk to the auditor about the matter, and asked that Freeman present the document before the board approves it.

Later, Freeman talked about an assessment the district received this year for the middle school, which is 28 years old. During the 2017-2018 academic year, the building had a rating of 87.79. This year it was 67.34.

Some components are still pretty good, Freeman said but some of the big things going on include the HVAC system and roof, the doors and gutters, and the brickwork and flooring.

“Most of it is satisfactory,” he added. “Nothing is in a failed state.”

Business Manager Sue Ellyson gave an update on an ongoing audit, which is expected to cost the district $21,400. She said it was going very well.

She said auditors were asking for a variety of documents concerning meeting minutes, professional learning development information, financial statement controls, fiduciary reporting, long term liabilities, payroll selections, special ed, the levy, and more.

Freeman said that enrollment has been stable this year, but the district will be losing 47 seniors this year, and a smaller incoming kindergarten class was expected, which meant it was possible they would be seeing a lowered enrollment next year.

The matter is always of concern, as enrollment directly affects the budget and Freeman said in response that the district would not be replacing staff as they leave.

In other news, the robotics team was back to talk about their success at the SeaPerch qualifier and their coming trip to the international competition in Maryland.

Ron and Ruth Kimmel who were instrumental in bringing the qualifier to Cathlamet, showed off a trophy they recently had made that will be given to the winner of the qualifying tournament each year.

The board approved Rob Garrett as head coach for the boys basketball program and Ross Lofstrom as the head coach for the girls basketball program. The board also accepted Matt Ohrberg’s resignation as the assistant boys basketball coach.


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