The Convergence of Cybersecurity & Student Safety in K-12 Schools

March 31, 2021


Episode 7: The Convergence of Cybersecurity & Student Safety in K-12 Schools

For district IT admins, K-12 cybersecurity is becoming more tied to student cyber safety. Districts continue to increase their use of cloud applications, such as Google Workspace and Microsoft 365, to keep students and teachers connected. Over the past year, as the use of these applications in school has rapidly increased, the overlap between cybersecurity and student safety within these apps is now more apparent to district IT admins.

Cybersecurity and student safety have been overlapping since well before the COVID-19 pandemic began. However, the pandemic and remote learning accelerated how quickly the two have come together. District IT admins and their teams are now on the front lines of detecting student safety signals in their cloud environments, while also protecting against the cybersecurity threats districts may experience in their Google and Microsoft 365 apps.

In this episode of The K-12 Tech Experience podcast, we’re joined by Neal Richardson, the Director of Technology at Hillsboro-Deering School District in New Hampshire. Throughout the conversation, we explore the increasing convergence of cybersecurity and student safety in schools, and what it means for district IT teams moving forward.

Continue reading on to learn more about Neal and Hillsboro-Deering, and hear the rest of our conversation by subscribing to The K-12 Tech Experience podcast. Click the ‘subscribe’ button found in the episode player to find the podcast on your favorite listening platform.

JK: Let’s start off here by having you share more about yourself, your career so far, and some background on Hillsboro-Deering School District.

NR: I’ve been doing IT for 20+ years now. I’ve been in the high-tech field, manufacturing, education — so I’ve got a good understanding of how everything works together. I didn’t get into cybersecurity initially, but got into education about 15 years ago and have worked for a couple different districts.

We have about 1,100 students at Hillsboro-Deering, which is smaller than my previous district but the challenges are still here. My biggest accomplishment that I’m most proud of to date is in 2019, I was recognized by the SANS Institute as a difference maker in cybersecurity.

JK: Since the start of the school year, how was the transition to remote learning?

NR: From an IT perspective, the transition hasn’t been that terrible. From a learning and continuity of education perspective, that has been a real challenge. We never have enough time to provide training to all of our teachers. Then to force us into a remote situation was really a challenge.

Trying to ensure that they have enough skills and exposure to what we’re asking them to do, as well as to try and keep everything safe and secure. It’s a real challenge.

JK: Is Hillsboro-Deering School District operating as a 1:1 district now, or BYOD?

NR: Since the pandemic, we’ve completed our 1:1 initiative. We were 1:1 on students-to-device ratios, but only let our high schoolers take devices home. We did open that up to allow all students to take their devices back and forth.

Listen to the rest of our conversation with Neal below, and make sure to subscribe to The K-12 Tech Experience wherever you listen to your podcasts, so you never miss an episode!