Esky schools get cyber security funds

ESCANABA — Escanaba Superintendent Coby Fletcher updated the Escanaba School Board on the Marshall Plan for Talent program Monday night. The program was created last summer by former Gov. Rick Snyder.

“He wanted to provide money to groups across the state that would come together and do innovative things to promote growth in Michigan,” Fletcher said. “Our district joined with a consortium focused around cyber security … Many of us in the Upper Peninsula signed on.”

The first round of grant funding did not include cyber security. In a second round of funding, the cyber security consortium received $2.5 million to share. Escanaba will use its portion of the funding on a K-12 focus on cyber security, by adding cybe rsecurity classes into the technology itinerant currently taught at the elementary level. The secondary level would then have some cyber security courses added to its curriculum. The courses would tie in with courses at Bay de Noc Community College and Northern Michigan University.

“It’s a neat opportunity for our students. We can offer something new, innovative and cutting edge,” said Fletcher.

He noted cyber security is something that can be operated from the U.P.

“Someone could do cyber security for South Korea from the Upper Peninsula,” said Fletcher. “The goal is to develop the industry here. We’re taking this year to plan things out.”

The plan was signed into law in June 2018, and the state set aside money for Michigan’s public high schools. Escanaba applied last fall with the Northern Michigan University cybersecurity group and the Michigan Technology group. The Michigan Technology group was called the Michigan Alliance for 21st Century Talent, STEM in nature.

In other business, the board:

– approved the first reading of the NEOLA Policy. Before the school year starts the board has to become compliant with some of the changes that have occurred in Michigan legislation.

“This is the first reading, so we’re not adopting anything tonight,” said Fletcher.

Secretary Kathy Jensen was concerned a policy change the state law made allows substitute teachers under the age of 22 years old to work.

“Classroom management is a huge issue for substitute teachers, particularly at the high school and junior high levels,” Jensen said. “I would recommend that the policy we adopt not do this exactly as written, rather have a caveat where they have to be 22 years old to substitute in the junior high and high school.”

Vice-President Bob Chaillier agreed with Jensen’s point. Fletcher said it could all depend on the situation, and he would check with others before the next reading to decide how it can be written in policy.

Fletcher said school districts are having problems filling needed substitute positions. The state made a couple changes in requirements to help school districts attain substitute teachers easier.

– started discussion on ways to collect outstanding debts.

– received a report from Fletcher that showed how five or six sections of sixth grade could move into the high school. By using Power School schedules, he showed how many hours each room will be used per day during six periods. The study was for information gathering.

– approved the hiring of Sondra Becker as secretary at Lemmer Elementary

– discussed negotiations of principal contracts in closed session.

The next Escanaba School Board regular meeting is Monday, Aug. 19, at 6 p.m. in the courtyard room at the Escanaba Upper Elementary. President Dan Flynn and Trustee Jim Beauchamp were absent from the Committee of the Whole meeting Monday night.