More Chromebooks, security improvements planned for schools

By Douglas McCulloch | Jun 27, 2017

While this year’s new, computerized MCAS testing went flawlessly, the public schools’ technology staff still have an awaiting summer to-do list.

Speaking at the June 26 School Committee meeting, Chief Technology Officer Jonathan Gallishaw said that staff will spend the season upping physical and virtual security, installing more Chromebooks, and reorganizing network infrastructure.

At the intersection of technology and public safety, Gallishaw said new security cameras that link to the Dartmouth Police Department will be installed in each school, allowing dispatchers and first responders to utilize the system in the event of an emergency. Communications upgrades will also give first responders access to building intercoms to better improve emergency communications.

In virtual security, the district will install antivirus software and an extensive backup system that also saves emails and documents on Google’s file-sharing platform. It’s an effort to tackle ransomware – a special class of malware that locks files, documents, pictures, and videos unless the user pays a ransom to cyber criminals. A typical ransom is around $600 per computer, according to American software company Symantec.

“Ransomware is one of those things that keeps me up at night,” Gallishaw said. There’s no way to stop it, and backups are the best prevention, he said.

Staff will also work to sort networking closets, which have become cluttered and confusing to navigate as new connections and devices were added over the years, said Gallishaw. Server improvements are also on the agenda, as six will be decommissioned to provide a more centralized system, he said.

Additionally, lunchrooms will begin getting new point of sale machines, intended to replace aging registers that have reached their end-of-life, Gallishaw said.

In the fall, the district plans to bring an additional 340 Chromebook laptop computers online, bringing Dartmouth’s total supply to more than 1,000. The smaller laptop computers run Google’s operating system and use Google services, making them ideal for elementary and middle school students, said Gallishaw. New school websites and an online registration system are also in the works for next year.

While the computerized testing was the biggest accomplishment of the 2016-17 year, new hires supply the schools with with a diverse, professional skill-set that includes networking, computers, systems integration, and data, Gallishaw said.

“It was a rebuilding year for the department,” he said. “It’s not the most exciting part of the job because no one knows about it. It’s in the background.”

Over the past year, tech staff have also chipped away at upgrades to the district’s networking infrastructure. The wide-area network was revamped with wireless routers and special adapters that expand accessibility.

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