JEFFERSON — The Jefferson school board approved a new insurance policy Monday that includes substantially strengthened cyber protections, yet still comes in at a lower cost than last year’s policy.
Meeting Monday night in the Jefferson High School auditorium, the school board heard from a representative from the M3 Insurance company, Marty Malloy.
Malloy said that Jefferson’s premiums would be going down, stating “We don’t see that often.”
The district’s basic premium package showed an overall decline of $7,494 from the 2019-20 school year, primarily driven by a decrease in the district’s worker’s compensation premium.
School officials recommended to the board that the district put some of these initial savings toward an increase in the district’s cybersecurity liability coverage by accepting a proposal from Lloyds of London.
“The annual premium of $6,876 would replace the $1,348 that we currently pay for significantly less coverage,” said Laura Peachey, director of business services for the district.
“With the increase in cybercrime as well as the increased use of online technology, additional coverage is recommended,” Peachey said. “If that change is approved, the overall decrease in premium would be $1,966.”
Malloy highly recommended the added cyber protections, saying that the worldwide move to more online schooling during the pandemic has created more potential “access points” for cyber criminals.
The biggest threat is that these criminals would access the Social Security numbers of children in a school district, a crime that could go undetected until those children became adults and tried to establish their own credit, Malloy said.
With employees working from their homes during these past few months during the pandemic, this has increased the incidence of these crimes as the same computer might be used for personal and work emails, creating vulnerabilities.
“We used to see one (cyber) claim per year, and now it’s one a month,” the insurance representative said. “This has been identified as the most significant emerging risk for school districts.”
He commended the Jefferson district for going with the more robust protections.
Donna Bente, school board president, said it was good to be able to provide these added protections while still seeing a decrease in annual insurance premiums of around $2,000.
Also on Monday’s school board agenda was one personnel matter.
With the hiring of Amie Hansen as a new cross-categorical special education teacher at Jefferson Middle School, the School District of Jefferson has just one staff position left to fill before classes begin in the fall.
Hansen, of Lake Zurich, Ill., attained her bachelor’s degree from the Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Ill., in 2016 and is trained as a learning behavioral specialist. She has spent three years teaching middle level (fifth- through eighth-grade) special education with Park Campus School.
She holds an Illinois teaching license and is in the process of applying for licensure in Wisconsin.
In other business, the board approved a revised pact with the JEDI program, the greater Jefferson County distance learning consortium.
The updated pact includes a decrease in the cost per student per semester for participation in classes, as participation is expected to go up during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“If COVID-19 cases go up and we have to go all-virtual again, I see an array of options besides JEDI to serve students,” Superintendent Mark Rollefson said. “JEDI is the right fit for some students,” he said, giving as examples those students who need remedial support and credit recovery, as well as some who need higher-level enrichment.
However, this program would not be the sole answer for the general student body if the district has to pivot to online instruction again.
“It is one tool that does fit a prescribed group of students with particular needs,” Rollefson said.
Also Monday, the board formally accepted more than $8,500 in donations from the past month to support families in need, district materials and initiatives, and coronavirus-related costs. The donations were directed at the high school, West Elementary School, the district as a whole, and needy families within the district.