The Pocahontas County Board of Education had an in-depth conversation with the IT department and teachers at its April 12 meeting over whether or not to pass a BYOD – Bring Your Own Device – policy and allow staff to connect their personal devices to the school system’s network.
The discussion was prompted by a letter from the Marlinton Middle School faculty senate in which teachers voiced their concerns that the school would not be prepared in case of an emergency.
Although the schools have landlines in the classrooms, staff is issued two-way radios and there is access to laptops, the teachers said they feel safer knowing they can use their cellphones to call 911.
In response to the concerns, director of technology Ruth Bland and IT staff Kristi Hamons and Jimmy Chaney gave a presentation laying out the pros and cons of having a BYOD policy.
“There are quite a few legalities that we have to go through to be able to do this if we’re going to do it en masse,” Bland said. “It’s quite expensive. So what we have done as an IT team is we’ve gathered all that information for you.”
Bland said that at this time, the maintenance and administrators are already permitted to use their personal devices on the network and there is a separate channel for law enforcement to connect to the network when they are at the schools. This is in place at all schools except Green Bank Elementary-Middle School, where WiFi is not allowed.
Hamons used a PowerPoint presentation to give the board a better understanding of what goes into a BYOD policy.
The advantages are:
• The district saves on device costs. Instead of purchasing devices for staff, the staff can use their own.
• Staff convenience. A spouse or family member could relay a message to a teacher without interrupting the school day by calling the school.
• Increased engagement. The staff could program lessons on their own devices and use them in the classroom without worrying about connectivity issues.
• Familiarity. Individuals are more familiar with their own devices and are more comfortable using them.
The disadvantages are:
• Security to the network. When you add devices to a network where student data is stored, there is a possibility of a breach.
• A malicious app can be installed on the phone. If an app is downloaded onto a cellphone and it has a virus or ransomware hidden inside it, that can leak into the network and get into all the devices connected to it.
• Unacceptable use by a third party. If a staff member’s phone is on the school network, a third party – spouse or child – can see what the phone has access to, including student data.
• Local exposure. Without filtering software, the IT staff cannot see what is leaving the device to join the network and vice versa. This can also cause a breach.
Hamons said that with all the advantages and disadvantages in mind, it is possible for the board to have a BOYD policy, as long as the staff is educated on how to keep the network safe.
“We want you to know what is involved with this happening,” she said. “We want you to know what we would need to make BYOD work if you did vote to do that. To keep our network secure; to keep our student data safe, this is what we would need to make that happen:
• A separate secure network for devices. It is possible to add a network that would keep the devices separate from the other network used by computers at the schools. That way, if a virus does get into a cellphone, it would only infect a portion of the network.
• Contacting the West Virginia Department of Education to do a bandwidth assessment to ensure the network has the capability to host all school computers, student laptops and personal devices.
• A mobile device manager or filtering software. To meet state and federal guidelines, filtering is required for all devices on the network.
• Educate the staff on the new policies and procedures. There are currently nine policies in place that concern the use and non-use of personal devices in the schools.
• Board employees would have to contact the WVDE to ensure having personal devices on the network does not affect the e-rate funding.
The board thanked the IT department for the presentation and information. The board voted to not take action on the BYOD policy at this time, and will discuss it further before making a final decision.
• Superintendent Terrence Beam gave an update on the Grow Your Own project which is a partnership with Glenville State University to provide college courses to high school students who are interested in becoming educators.
On May 5, at 5 p.m., at Pocahontas County High School and representatives from Glenville will hold a meeting with parents and students who are interested in learning more about the program. Beam explained that the target is sophomores and juniors, but that all interested students may attend.
Beam also shared the service personnel and teacher of the year nominees and winners. Service personnel nominees were: Cindy Landis, Tabbie McCoy, Sarah Hedrick, Lora Sue Miller and Lori Wayne. Miller was named the service personnel of the year.
Teacher nominees were: JoAutumn Goldizen, Nicole Dilley, Kathy Mason, Denise Sharp and Erin Baldwin. Sharp was named teacher of the year.
• Math teachers in the m3t Local Improvement Team gave an update on the progress of the team’s work with students. See next week’s edition of The Pocahontas Times for a full article about the program.
In miscellaneous management, the board approved the following:
• Child Safe Kit literature to be sent home with families of Pocahontas County Schools at no cost to the school or families. Kit allows families to record vital information should a child ever become lost or be abducted.
• Annual Memorandum of Agreement – West Virginia University Cooperative Extension Service and the County Extension Service Committee, with the Pocahontas County Board of Education, for the 2022-2023 school year.
• Neola policies.
• AP courses to be offered at Pocahontas County High School for the 2022-2023 school year: AP Calculus, AP Computer Science Applications, AP Computer Science Principles, AP English Literature “Composition,” AP Environmental Science, AP Physics, AP U.S. Government and Politics and AP Spanish.
• Dual Credit courses to be offered at Pocahontas County High School for the 2022-2023 school year: College Algebra, College Statistics, College English 101, College English 201, Introduction to Surveying, College Communications, College Psychology, College Micro Economics and College Sociology.
• Forestry instructor Scott Garber and up to five students to travel in the forestry van driven by a school bus driver, on a day trip, April 26, to Dabney S. Lancaster Community College in Clifton Forge, Virginia, to tour the forestry department. An additional stop will be to the West Virginia Great Barrel Company in Caldwell. Trip funded by PCHS forestry department.
• Parent and community volunteers for the 2021-2022 school year.
In personnel management, the board approved the following:
• Requested transfer of Diane Delfino as half-time itinerant teacher of special education/autism at Hillsboro Elementary School to half-time Title I teacher at Hillsboro Elementary School, at state basic salary based on degree and experience, effective for the 2022-2023 school year. Term of employment is 200 one-half days.
• Employment of Janessa Bell as cafeteria manager at Hillsboro Elementary School, at state minimum salary, effective April 25, for the remainder of the 2021-2022 school year. Term of employment is 32 days. Term of employment shall be 200 days each year thereafter.
• Resignation of Holly L. Beverage as custodian IV/sanitation plant operator at Pocahontas County High School, effective June 30.
• Requested transfer of Julia A. Shiflet as assistant principal/assistant career and technical education director at Pocahontas County High School to director of child nutrition and food service/ truancy diversion specialist, at state basic salary based on degree and experience, plus equity, effective July 1, for the 2022-2023 school year. Term of employment is 261 days.
• Requested transfer of Gregory D. Morgan as teacher of music at Green Bank Elementary-Middle School to itinerant teacher of music at Marlinton Elementary School and Hillsboro Elementary School, at state minimum salary based on degree and experience, effective for the 2022-2023 school year. Term of employment is 200 days.
• Permission for the superintendent to post and fill positions prior to board approval, effective April 13 through October 11.
The next board meeting will be Tuesday, May 3, at 6 p.m. at the board of education conference room.