NORWALK, Conn. – Upgrades intended to maintain Norwalk Public Schools’ cyber security are among the items planned in the Board of Education’s 2018-19 capital budget request.
NPS fends off 500-600 attacks on a typical day, Director of Technology and Innovations Ralph Valenzisi said at last week’s Board meeting, while explaining a $1 million request for district technology.
Cyber security is “going to be an issue,” Board member Bruce Kimmel said. “Better sooner than later, no matter how you cut it and it’s not cheap. Cutting corners and all that can be a disaster.”
The Board is set to vote on $15.7 million 2018-19 capital budget request and a 5-year capital plan totaling $94 million at Tuesday’s meeting. The 5-year plan includes $44 million in 2019-20 for the construction of two new schools, with repairs planned at existing schools every year.
As previously reported, $7.5 million would be allocated for repairs at Cranbury Elementary School and $5 million would be allocated for work at Norwalk High School, under the plan, which also features $275,000 for priority work at Kendall Elementary.
Board members have commented that Cranbury and NHS parents have been vocal about the need for repairs. There is nothing in Tuesday’s Board packet to describe what might be done at Kendall.
Fox Run would be tentatively planned for $2 million of work in 2019-20 under the plan up for approval, while Nathan Hale Middle School would be planned for $1.4 million of work and Naramake Elementary School planned for $850,000.
An idea for a $4 million “reskinning” of Norwalk High School has been shelved in favor of a $400,000 repainting, Chief Finance Officer Thomas Hamilton said last week.
Board Chairman Mike Barbis noted that the “reskinning” would require maintenance and water might get behind it. If the school is painted every 10 years, it’s basically the same amount of money, Board members said.
The Norwalk High Marching Bears would receive $94,000 for new uniforms, under the plan, which will be considered by the Planning Commission, Finance Director Bob Barron, Mayor Harry Rilling and the Common Council.
The band’s uniforms are more than 10 years old and are worn and tattered, Hamilton said.
The $1 million for district technology includes $987,000 for “purchase of new and replacement technology, including computers, tablets, smart boards, network infrastructure and curriculum related initiatives,” and $54,000 for two blended learning classrooms at two high schools to allow students to “work in a 21st century learning environment and reduce the amount of study halls,” the capital budget form states.
Kimmel asked if there is an evolving plan for cyber security. Valenzisi said yes.
“If you really look at all of the research that’s out now, higher ‘ed’ and K-12 education is probably the number two industry that’s being hit by cyber-attacks at the moment. Number one is healthcare and this isn’t going to change over time,” Valenzisi said.
Replacing old equipment is the best way to stay ahead of the threats, he said.
“It’s the same thing with personal stuff, keep yourself patched, keep it up to date, make sure that you’re doing what you need to be doing and don’t let those things fall because that allows for threats to kind of enter any of your devices,” Valensizi said.
The capital budget request includes funding to replace axis points and switches, while the operating budget may include a new employee just to deal with Wi-Fi and security.
The operating budget factors in a “very different antivirus software” that needs to continue, he said, explaining that NPS switched to Cylance this year.
“It actually manages on a very different level,” Valenzisi said. “It doesn’t just fix the end user machine, it predicts and looks at your whole environment, and looks for those types of issues. Whether it’s email phishing or whether it’s people trying to get into your system.”