Cumberland Valley School Board approves resources for digital learning

Phyllis Zimmerman for Sentinel

The Cumberland Valley School Board this week agreed for CV schools to use a “digital citizenship foundation resource” for students of all grades, while giving the district a nod to join a task force consortium on Cybercrime from the Capital Region Intermediate Unit.

After some discussion Monday night, the school board voted 8 to 1 for the district to launch Common Sense Media as a “grassroots resource for K-12 digital citizenship” this school year at no cost to the district.

Some board members initially said they wanted more time to consider the proposal, with Michelle Nestor voting against. Council chair Heather Dunn, however, said a presentation from the district curriculum committee on the proposal has been available online for principals to consider since September 9.

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“I have reviewed all of this thoroughly. I am hesitant to table it tonight because it puts it back another month for our students. We will already be out of the first grading period (of the 2022 school year -23) by then. I think we’d be doing them a disservice if we delayed this any longer,” Dunn said Monday.

The approved program was first reviewed by a committee of 28 district teachers, principals and supervisors and then approved by the district’s curriculum committee on Sept. 9, Chris Smith, director of technology and innovation, said Monday. of the district.

According to the nonprofit organization’s website, Common Sense Education “supports K-12 schools with everything educators need to empower the next generation of digital citizens” through a program “helping students to take ownership of their digital life”.

Digital citizenship deals with teaching online skills, including media balance, online privacy, digital footprint, cyberbullying, as well as information and media literacy.

According to a presentation from the curriculum committee, the topic for the elementary level curriculum this month is “Privacy and Safety,” while the next scheduled topic for middle school students is “Cyberbullying, Digital Drama, and Hate” for weeks. November 28 and December 5. For high school students in the district, “Digital Footprint and Identity” is scheduled for October 10.

Smith said the program also features a family engagement portion that the district will “provide resources for.” Superintendent David Christopher said the district now schedules monthly school classes using his schools’ curriculum “about six months out of the year.”

Cybercriminality

Also on Monday, the school board agreed to have the district commit to a five-year membership in the Capital Area Taskforce Protecting Against Cybercrime consortium at an annual cost to the district of $23,000. CATOAC is currently waiting for a total of four or more school districts to “sign up,” Smith noted.

According to Monday’s meeting agenda, the consortium, managed through the Capital Region Intermediate Unit, will provide the district with “a regional intrusion detection system, disaster recovery solution and backup, and an annual vulnerability assessment”.

Smith added Monday that the district plans to seek related funding from a new federal grant program.

“Cybercrime is on the rise and has recently seen a spike in education, and it’s up to the districts to deal with it so far. We have systems in place now, but it will give us additional resources…There is nothing else like it in the state or in other intermediate units,” he told the commission on Monday. school.

“It would bolster our current cybersecurity efforts and replace some of the services we currently contract.” Christopher told The Sentinel on Tuesday. “It will help us greatly by adding specific functions to our cybersecurity programs, such as adding an intrusion sensor which would cost CVSD more than the price of consortium membership per year. The consortium will evolve and it is likely that CVSD will be able to save substantial funds over the next few years by reducing the number of services that we have to manage entirely in-house,”

During public consultation at Monday’s meeting, Resident Jason Snyder asked district officials if the CATOAC Consortium “will cover all personal devices that are impacted (by the district’s Blockski (student monitoring software)) on which ones you refused to investigate?”

Blocksi was the center of public anger at a school board meeting last month after the district launched learning devices awarded to district students in grades 5 through 12 earlier this year. Parents said the software, used to monitor students’ online activity in classrooms, infected several personal devices in students’ homes.

Although district officials did not respond to Snyder’s comments about Blocksi on Monday, Christopher said last month that Blocksi “offers a variety of solutions to help with classroom management, internet filtering and study safety. Blocksi complies with all privacy laws and is not illegal spyware or malware. In fact, Blocksi helps CVSD comply with the Children’s Internet Protection Act.”

Staffing Update

Finally, the Cumberland Valley School Board on Monday approved trustees’ request to fill up to 18 additional professional positions in the district for the 2023-24 fiscal year “to support projected enrollment growth.”

Christopher said Tuesday that the district plans to add positions for next “based on our growth history, as well as based on the openings we anticipate.”

“We’re growing about 250 to 300 students a year,” he continued. “Last year, we hired over 80 professional staff, including over 30 additional staff and approximately 50 replacements for staff who retired or resigned. The 18 staff members (approved on Monday) give us a good head start on hiring for next year and also allow us to help prevent vacancies during the school year.

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