Mayor Richard Strick and City of Huntington Director of Public Works Adam Cuttriss attended the Huntington County Community School Corporation (HCCSC) Board of Trustees meeting on Monday, Nov. 22, to discuss receiving easement rights for the Erie Rail Trail Expansion Project.
HCCSC Superintendent Chad Daugherty explained that this is a $1.9 million project that includes expansion of the existing Erie Rail Trail near the Huntington University (HU) campus. The expansion would end at the Parkview Huntington Family YMCA. The project would also include road improvements.
“Part of this project also includes intersection improvements to both Gragg and Stults, as well as 500 North and Stults,” Cuttriss explained. “We’re looking at widening the intersections a little bit to create better turn radiuses there, installing the necessary inlets to improve drainage and taking all that into account while we are doing this. It’s been a project we wanted to do and it just made sense to bring that all together into one project at this time.”
Cuttriss said the last part of the project would include resurfacing 500 North.
Several entities will contribute funds to this project, but the City of Huntington is applying for the Next Level Trails grant program through the Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
Strick and Cuttriss came before the HCCSC board to seek approval of easement rights, which means the city would have the right to use land belonging to HCCSC. Because this path would be following 500N on the Crestview Middle School side, the city had to get approval of the board.
“The current step we’re at right now… is a request to authorize signature on a letter of intent to negotiate on the easements. That’s sufficient for us to be able to submit with the Next Level Trails grant program,” Strick said. “We’re fast approaching on that deadline and that’s an 80/20 funding opportunity for us. So it’s a great opportunity for us to really accelerate this project.”
Board Member Brian Warpup asked if the city would maintain everything as far as snow removal, repairs and signage for the sidewalks. Strick confirmed that the city would handle anything regarding the trail itself.
Warpup also asked if there was any signage that the city would require to have that trail there.
“Typically we wouldn’t do any additional signage than what we currently do with any of our other trails,” Cuttriss said in response. “Now, this being the location that it is with increased bus traffic specifically at certain times and that kind of a situation, all the signage would get looked at through our design process to determined if we need anything additional to bring awareness to the pedestrians in the area.”
Board Member Ryan Wall asked if the sidewalk would go in front of the brick Crestview Middle School sign because it was a tight space between the sign and the road.
Cuttriss confirmed that it is a tight space, but the trail would be placed there.
After more discussion, the board approved the letter of intent.
Now the city will apply for the Next Level Trails grant program. If they receive funds, the monies will be available for the middle of next year.
“By the time we then get the project bid out and everything, we’re looking into construction in 2023,” Cuttriss said.
In unrelated business, HCCSC Director of Technology Tom Ashley gave a presentation updating the board on HCCSC cybersecurity. Ashley is a member of the Indiana Department of Education Cybersecurity Task Force, so he gave a shortened version of the presentation he usually gives at conferences.
According to Ashley’s slideshow, the district board goal is to “develop a proactive plan that ensures safety remains a primary consideration throughout the corporation.”
“There is so much cyber security information out there that sometimes it’s sort of hard for people to digest,” Ashley said. “So one of our goals is to collect all the information, look at it, review it and then try to condense it and provide tools and resources for school districts that may not have a lot of background in cybersecurity.”
One aspiration Ashley discussed was to achieve a Trusted Learning Environment Certification.
“It entails the entire school district. It’s not just a technology department thing,” Ashley said. “A Trusted Learning Environment is all the way from the superintendent, business team, all staff, teachers, technology department… students even working together to have this goal.”
The next part of Ashley’s presentation was discussing why cybersecurity is needed and what their job entails.
“We have great data on our staff and our students, and everyone wants it,” Ashley said. “It is our job… to make sure that only the people that absolutely have to have it actually get it. People can be the strongest part of your security and safety plan, but very likely it’s often your weakest area. And so this is really something that we are communicating consistently throughout our faculty and staff.”
Ashley and his team “vet” applications, software and data requests from the entire district to ensure the safety of them through reading and analyzing the user agreements. Ashley says that even some that seem “very safe” end up not being safe.
Recently, a teacher wanted to use chess.com for their students for a legitimate reason. After the cybersecurity team went through the user agreement, they found that entering in this agreement could only be done by someone who was 21 years or older. This agreement would also open up the options of adult chat rooms, betting and unfiltered posts and images. There was also the potential of the website selling student information.
“Nothing wrong with the resource, but it is an adult site,” Ashley said. “There’s a lot of sites out there that look very safe, but it says right in the user agreement that you have to be 21 years or older to use it.”
Ashley also reported on a “phishing campaign” that the tech team recently completed. This involved sending fake e-mails to all HCCSC employees that had links or attachments to see how many would “click on this bad scam e-mail.” When someone in the corporation did this, Ashley received a report. He then sent an e-mail to them explaining “what they should have looked for and what they should have seen.”
In total, 74 employees clicked on one of the fraudulent e-mails. Ashley went on to say that the highlight of this campaign was that 74 employees translated to only 8.2 percent of the district clicking on a phishing e-mail.
Ashley explained that they will be continuing to do these phishing campaigns a couple of times a year.
“We don’t want to harass our faculty and staff for sure, but it is also very very good training,” Ashley said. “There are certain things that you could sort of do really quickly to know if it’s inappropriate.”
Ashley also said this would make it possible for them to give additional training to employees that appear on the reports regularly.
Ashley ended his presentation by giving some examples of HCCSC layers of protection. Some of those protections include endpoint protection, backup/disaster recovery, firewall, ISP and 24/7 monitoring and cloud hosted applications. The full presentation and list may be viewed on the HCCSC website.
After the presentation, Daugherty and the board members thanked Ashley for his work.
“With having close to 6,000 devices in the district with students and staff… it’s very important to keep our students safe and our staff safe, so I appreciate all the work you and your team have done,” Daugherty said. “There are a lot of other districts that have not been as fortunate as we have. And again, this is not perfect. It could happen to any of us, but just knowing some of those layers that you put into place for us… I appreciate that.”