Why Cloud Application Security in K-12?

March 17, 2021


Episode 6: Why Cloud Application Security in K-12?

Most school district IT teams understand the importance of securing their networks and on-premises data. However, district IT teams are not as up-to-speed when it comes to securing the cloud applications used by most schools today.

Cloud apps, such as those within Google Workspace and Microsoft 365, contain sensitive district data that is created, stored, and shared by students and staff. It’s important that school districts have the appropriate security measures in place to monitor and secure the activity happening on the inside.

In this episode of The K-12 Tech Experience podcast, we’re joined by Rory Peacock, the Deputy Executive Director of Technology at Education Service Center Region 11 in Texas, to discuss the changing cybersecurity landscape in K-12 school districts. We also discuss more about the cloud application security layer within a school district’s technology stack and why this layer is so important for district’s today.

Learn more about Rory and ESC Region 11 by listening to the rest of our conversation down below. Subscribe to The K-12 Tech Experience on your favorite podcast platform, by clicking the ‘subscribe’ button found in the episode player on this page.

JK: How about we start off today’s episode with you sharing more about yourself, your career so far, and some background on ESC Region 11.

RP: I started out as a classroom teacher at a very small school and I’ve also been a teacher at a very large school. I’ve always had a knack for technology and, before the service center, I ended up as a technology director at a very fast-growing school district. I then had a couple stops in the private sector doing some application development and a few different things throughout that time as well.

I’ve been here at the ESC for about five and a half years. We’ve seen a lot of success, a lot of successful projects, but we’ve also faced a very large-scale cyber attack just a few months into me taking over this position. The key in both situations—whether it’s success or in an attack—is we take what we learn from it to make the best decisions moving forward.

That really lends itself in the role here at the Service Center, where we support lots of schools and lots of professionals in the K-12 sector. Within the 76 schools we serve, our smallest is 30+ kids and then our largest has over 80,000 students. That presents a challenge because no matter the size, they are all on the hot seat for a potential threat.

JK: Since the start of the 2020 school year, how has the transition to remote and hybrid learning been? Not only for ESC Region 11, but also for the school districts it supports?

RP: That transition I think is going to depend on who you ask. It’s a crazy time right now! I will say that locally here at the Service Center in Region 11, it’s gone fairly smooth overall. With our range of services, we have a lot of staff who are typically working on-location in some capacity at the schools.

About two years ago, we started a big transition, where we started providing the technology tools and support to mobilize the workforce. Who knew by doing this that it was going to pay off 20 times over once this pandemic set in.

As far as the schools, that’s been a challenge. We have some of the best school leadership in the state, in this region. That’s softened the blow, but no one was ready for what we started facing [in March]. I think schools are getting a lot of criticism from a lot of different angles, but hats off to them right now. They’ve shown a ton of flexibility, persistence, and adaptation. Their ability to pivot nearly on a daily basis, because honestly they don’t know what their classes are going to look like tomorrow, so hats off to them.

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