News Item

Board Highlights (December 2019)

December 20, 2019

Notes from the December 18, 2019 Regular (Public) Meeting of the South East Cornerstone Public School Division (SECPSD) Board of Education

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Quarterly Operating and Financial Report

The quarterly finance report was presented to the Board of Education by Marilyn Yurkiw, Manager of Finance.  The data presented was reflective of revenue and expenses received and incurred up to November 30, 2019.  The Statement of Operations indicates that revenue of $20,100,381 was received up to November 30, 2019, while expenses incurred up to this period of time were $26,695,604.  The year to date expenses are 24.73% of the budgeted expenses which indicates the division is on track financially.  The projection shows an increase in revenue from budget of $157,075.  This is reflective of the actual enrollment grant adjustment along with the decrease to tuition revenue, based on current enrollment.  The only adjusted expense in the projection was a decrease for tuition expense of $73,204.  SECPSD has fewer students attending the program at Southeast Regional college and therefore that cost is lower than budget.  All other expenses are currently projected to remain on budget in all areas. 

Information Systems Report

On behalf of his department, Brian Belinsky, Manager of Information Systems (I.S.) brought a report to the Board which focused on security, data centre, disaster recovery/Azure backup and technology upgrades. 

He began by explaining, "We have a number of applications that are insightful for us in terms of working through keeping our data, students, staff and our network safe from intruders," with one being Microsoft Advanced Threat Analytics.  As well, over a year ago the division partnered with SS8 which is an appliance that generates and analyzes network data from internal communications over time, alerting on suspected insiders based on the pattern of key activities taking place over a computer network.  It also provides solutions to quickly identify, track and investigate suspects and devices of interest.  ThreatSTOP, also utilized by SECPSD, automatically blocks malicious IP and DNS connections and can stop threats from infecting the network, develop best-in-class threat intelligence, and help protect and safeguard Information Technology (I.T.), data center and VOIP infrastructure against the most current and active cyber criminals. Belinsky stated, "It takes a huge amount of memory and data on the firewall side but it doesn't affect us in terms of use of the internet.  It works constantly."  In addition, I.S. has Cloud App Security which provides rich visibility, control over data travel, and sophisticated analytics to identify and combat cyberthreats across all cloud services, as well as iboss which secures content filtering via user internet access on any device from any location on premise and in the cloud. 

The overview included a display of sample monthly reports and dashboards of the various applications in order to provide further detail of the work undertaken by the I.S. department on a regular basis to protect computers, networks, programs and data from unauthorized access or attacks that are aimed for exploitation. Drilling down to a simple tool, Belinsky threw in a quick demonstration on how to check if you have had your information compromised, by doing a self-check via https://haveibeenpwned.com/ and was pleased to know that his information has not been.

The Manager praised his very competent staff explaining that two Network Analysts and one System Analyst, together with himself, daily monitor and respond to threats and malicious activity within the security systems in the division, stating, "To do our best to mitigate security issues, the Information Systems department continues to review best practice and investigate new security solutions," while reviewing time, training and staff annually.  He noted that there are many ways an attacker can compromise a network and that his department continues to do due diligence in keeping up to date on security best practices, working with end users and providing I.S. staff time and resources on minimizing/mitigating compromises and issues.

The Weyburn situated data centre, which the Manager stated is "the brain of everything we do and holds our data and makes everything flow properly," was purchased in 2013, hosts approximately 70 virtual machines (VM's)/servers and has total storage capacity of 150 TB with approximately 80 TB in use, a reduced footprint since migrating email/data to the cloud.  He stated the divison's hardware will be at end of life in 2021 and that current support costs have increased due to age, with year seven being $75,000.

Belinsky explained that the division has three levels of backup with Azure being the fourth point.  In order to mitigate loss and disruption, SECPSD engaged with IBM to develop a disaster recovery strategy and working plan. IBM monitors the division's disaster recovery environment and configuration and provides quarterly live testing to ensure business continuity.  Through DRaaS/Azure Backup there are 21 critical systems that are protected in Microsoft Azure Cloud Infrastructure using the Microsoft Azure Site Recovery infrastructure, for example, Navision and Skopus.

Departmental ongoing work includes developing a plan with Sasktel for a secondary connectivity hub and sharing that hub information with IBM to complete the DRaaS plan. For 2019-2020 five schools are slated for technology upgrades: Arcola, Carlyle Elementary, Estevan Comprehensive, Gordon F. Kells and Wawota Parkland.  With respect to bandwidth, to address concerns regarding school connectivity and increased reliance on web based services, a business plan was created to outline base services with need for increased school and head end capacities. School connectivity upgrades are all complete, however, the division office is yet to be upgraded with a scheduled plan date set for January 3rd.  Further, I.S. plans to have all schools on the VoIP network and then to begin upgrading legacy VoIP equipment, or upgrade antiquated VoIP systems earlier based on need to update VoIP control system.  Similar to school computer equipment, I.S. aims to propose a plan to have all school network equipment in an upgrade schedule, extended over a seven year period to keep current with security updates and end of life cycles.

Correspondence

Board Chair Audrey Trombley brought to the Board's attention correspondence from the Saskatchewan High Schools Athletic Association (SHSAA) thanking Blake Johnson and his committee for hosting the 5A Girls Provincial Volleyball Championships at Weyburn Comprehensive School.  SHSAA noted that the attention to the student-athletes allowed for a very positive experience for all of those that were involved.

Articles by Norm Park

Articles submitted by Norm Park, contracted reported for SECPSD, are available at these links:

First Quarter, Information Systems, LGBTQ Questions

Upcoming Meetings

January 13/20Board Chair Council Teleconference
January 15/20Committee-of-the Whole Board Meeting
January 15/20Regular (Public) Board Meeting
February 6/20Board Chairs Council Meeting
February 7/20SSBA Trustee Academy
February 12, 2020Committee-of-the-Whole Board Meeting
February 12, 2020Regular (Public) Board Meeting

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For more information, please contact:

South East Cornerstone Public School Division

80A-18th Street N.E., Weyburn, SK  S4H 2W4

Telephone:  (306) 848-0080

Website: www.secpsd.ca

Email:  contactus@secpsd.ca

 

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