Monroe City Schools has completed its replacement of every desktop computer in the school system in light of a cyber-attack in July that afflicted several school systems.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation, or FBI, investigated the cyber-attack but has not yet reported any results of the probe to the school system, according to Darren Ducote, the school system’s management information systems, or MIS, director.
“They never reported anything back,” Ducote said. “Truthfully, it’s probably not going to say anything.”
That would be the case because hackers previously would try to steal data but now they seek to lock up computers or networks until the owner pays a certain amount of money to unlock the system, according to Ducote.
After the cyber incident in July, Gov. John Bel Edwards issued the state’s first emergency declaration for a statewide cyber incident.
The matter surfaced during discussions at the Monroe City School Board’s finance committee meeting on Monday. School Board members serving on the finance committee include Brandon “B.J.” Johnson, Rick Saulsberry, and Sharon Neal, who chairs the committee.
“No data was actually compromised,” Ducote said. “We were able to restore from a backup that we had. We were very fortunate and better along than other districts that had the same issues.”
School Board member Betty Cooper was present for the meeting, though she is not a member of the committee.
“You said no data was compromised? What about the emails from board members?” Cooper said.
Ducote explained that all information was contained within the school system’s data center, and no server information leaked outside the network.
“No emails were compromised, no data was compromised, it was just locked up,” Ducote said.
The school system’s servers have been reformatted, computers replaced, and classroom computer equipment tested to ensure it was operational, Ducote said.
Following Ducote’s exit from the meeting, Superintendent Brent Vidrine asked the finance committee to consider recommending a salary increase for Ducote.
On another front, School Board members voted to recommend using general fund revenues to award a stipend to faculty and staff who win the state Department of Education’s Louisiana Teacher of the year or Principal of the Year awards.
Initially, School Board members discussed using sales tax revenues from the superintendent’s project fund until it was noted the sales tax revenues were dedicated funds.
The discussion appeared to stem from Wossman High School Principal Eric Davis’ recent honor: he was named the 2019 Principal of the Year. Later, the School Board discussed awarding Davis $20,000 as a pay bonus.
“No, this has never happened in our history,” Vidrine said. “It’s a great honor for our teachers to win.”
When asked whether the School Board would continue this practice indefinitely, Vidrine said, “It only happens if we win.
“We’ve only won twice in 50 years,” he added.
In response to questions about awarding a stipend, Vidrine pointed out that the School Board’s legal counsel, Monroe attorney Doug Lawrence, wrote the resolution awarding the stipend.
“This is not binding,” Vidrine said. “If the funds are not there, they don’t have to do it.”
Johnson argued that a resolution was not enough but should be established as a policy, so the stipend would be permanent.
“That sounds like we’re trying to do something for a quick fix now,” Johnson said. “That’s not right. If we doing this, the money need to be somewhere. The money need to be somewhere. That makes it sound so suspect.”
Vidrine voiced agreement with Johnson.
The School Board is expected to discuss the matter further.