By Jeremy D. Wells
Carter County Times
The Carter County Board of Education began their regular meeting on Monday by recognizing East Carter Middle School teacher Toni Gorrell, for being named Kentucky’s 2022 History Teacher of the Year. That recognition came with a cash prize, as well as access to classroom resources, and Gorrell now moves on to competition on a national level, superintendent of schools Dr. Paul Green explained.
But the items the board really wanted to focus on were the district’s tax rates. Specifically the property tax rate, which the board moved to decrease by one cent, down from just over 48 cents per $100 valuation to 47 cents per $100 of property valuation. With building materials, and therefore property values, going up – especially property values related to any recent improvements or repairs to homes – the board thought the best move for taxpayers was to reduce the tax rate. Finance director Andy Lyons explained that because property values are up the reduction won’t have a significant impact on the district’s bottom line, but, he explained, it will provide some relief to property owners who have been hard hit by recent inflation.
The motor vehicle tax rate was left at the same rate as previous years, also at 47 cents per $100 of vehicle valuation.
In other action the board heard from technology director Barrett Bush on security updates to the school system’s network and login systems, including the roll out of multi-factor authentication (MFA) for all staff.
While the MFA restrictions were initially only required for select office staff, Bush explained, after seeing login attempts from hackers originating from Ukrainian and Russian IPs recently he “panicked” and turned on MFA for all staff.
That process, which Bush explained he had orignally planned to roll out in later waves, had gone “relatively smoothly,” he said.
He also discussed strong password options, noting that teachers are now encouraged to come up with a pass phrase rather than a password. Not only is the phrase easier to remembers, he said, it makes staff accounts more secure and harder to hack.
Bush also discussed student firewalls and content restrictions. While these are sometimes frustrating for students and faculty who are trying to research a topic, he said, the district’s system is set up to block access by default when it doesn’t recognize the source for a site.
“Our goal is to keep our children safe,” Bush said. If that means he has to block students and teachers from accessing certain content by default, then adding those exceptions as necessary, he said, that’s the way he’d prefer to handle it.
Board member Chris Perry also asked about any expected staffing shortages the district might be facing in the coming school year. But personnel director Ryan Tomolonis said those issues have all been taken care of. He said some of the unfilled roles will be filled by retired teachers, and other long-term substitute teachers, who have committed to keeping classes functioning as normally as possible.
Before adjourning, the board also discussed bids for the geotechnical exploration related to site acquisition. The board moved to award the contract for those geotechnical services to L.E. Gregg Associates, geotechnical engineers. This move is one of the next steps involved in evaluating possible build sites for a new consolidated high school building and vocational center.
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