The Huntington County Community School Corporation’s Board of Trustees met for a relatively short meeting on Monday night to discuss cybersecurity and other issues.
Much of the first half of the meeting involved HCCSC Director of Technology Tom Ashley, presentation on tech safety and security. Superintendent Chad Daugherty called Ashley a “leader” in the field of cybersecurity.
“This has kind of come to the forefront when you’re looking at ransomware and those things...” Daugherty said. “There was [another Indiana district] that had to shut down all of their technology and had the FBI called in because of ransomware.”
Ashley discussed the goal of creating a Trusted Learning Environment, a cybersecurity framework for schools.
“It entails the entire school district. It’s not just a technology department thing,” Ashley said. “A Trusted Learning Environment is all the way from the superintendent, the business team, all staff, teachers, technology department, students all working together to have this aspirational goal.”
School districts have “lots of data that people want,” Ashley said, making them a “great target” for hackers.
“It is our job to make sure that only people that absolutely have to have [the data] actually get it,” Ashley said. “People can be the strongest part of your security plan, but very likely it’s often your weakest area.”
One specific example Ashley mentioned was website user agreements. He said that his department has to be sure that websites are compliant with the same regulations that the school is required to follow regarding student privacy.
Ashley said that earlier this year he sent out fake phishing emails to district staff and faculty.
“We sent emails to all of our employees. We had 74 people click on these bad scam emails,” Ashley said. “When you clicked on something, an attachment or a link, you might have got a message saying, ‘Oops, you did something not good there.’”
Afterwards, he sent emails to people who clicked explaining what they should have looked for to notice the warning signs of phishing. The rate of falling for the phishing test was lower than other schools, Ashley said. At HCCSC, only 8.2 percent of people clicked, half of the average of 16.9 percent.
Ashley also mentioned other ways HCCSC protects its data, including software on district computers. Additionally, he said that two-factor authentication will likely be “coming soon” to the district.
Daugherty updated the board on the latest COVID-19 numbers across the district. HCCSC has seen an increase in positive tests, with 17 new staff members and 34 new students testing positive for the virus between Nov. 5 and Nov. 19, as well as a corresponding increase in students and staff being quarantined. Despite the uptick in cases, Daugherty said that there will be no changes to HCCSC’s COVID protocols.
Finally, Mayor Richard Strick and Huntington Director of Public Works Adam Cuttriss spoke to close the meeting about the Erie Rail Trail expansion project. A portion of the extended trail would require HCCSC to donate their easement rights, so the board voted for a motion to approve a letter of intent to make that donation in order to allow the city to move forward with the Erie Rail Trail project.
Christmas in the City will return to Huntington this Saturday after a year in which many traditional events were canceled or downsized because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Barbra Sprinkle, owner of Brick House Grill and organizer of this year’s Christmas in the City festivities, said that this will be her fourth year planning the event. Sprinkle said that last year’s event was a much more muted affair as a result of the pandemic.
“Last year all we had was a drive-by Santa, and we handed out Christmas books in kind of a drive-by form,” Sprinkle said. “People couldn’t actually stop and visit with Santa personally.”
This year, however, Santa Claus will be back to take photos with families on the main floor of the Huntington County Courthouse.
“It’s really, really going to be beautiful in there,” Sprinkle said. “Frederick’s Photography will also be there. They will be taking pictures of each family with Santa and then posting it for free on their website for families to download and have for free.”
The company will post the photos on Facebook after the event, Sprinkle said. That portion of the event will take place from 3-5 p.m. Earlier in the day, there will be other attractions for children and families to participate in around downtown Huntington.
“In the morning is donuts with Santa at the Historical Museum. Then, after that, around 3:30 [p.m.] there will be live reindeer downtown, a petting zoo, pony rides and then some crafts for kids to participate in, storytime for kids to listen to some stories being read, and lots of different characters,” Sprinkle said. “Different storefronts will have some different characters for them to go in and out of and visit.”
The Fiber Alchemist, Enhanced Lash & Beauty, A Little Sweet Spot and the Huntington Arts and Entrepreneurial Center will be among the different locations that will have costumed characters on Saturday.
The grand finale of the day’s events will be the tree lighting at 6 p.m.
“Around 5:30-5:45, Santa Claus will actually be coming from the courthouse,” Sprinkle said. “He will go up St. Mary’s church and hop on a fire truck, and then the fire truck will come down to Rotary [Centennial] Park for the tree lighting. Santa will have a megaphone and greet the families that are at the tree lighting and talk to them and then count down to the tree lighting.”
Sprinkle said it brings a smile to her face to “provide something fun for families and kids to enjoy and get really in the spirit” in organizing Christmas in the City.
We can’t even have kids at the Brick House [Grill] except in the summer when we have the patio open. For me it’s not about that,” Sprinkle said. “It’s not about getting my business more business. It’s about doing something amazing for the community and letting them know how important it is to come together as a community.”
The U.S. is facing its second Thanksgiving of the pandemic in better shape than the first time around, thanks to the vaccine, though some regions are seeing surges of COVID-19 cases that could get worse as families travel the country for gatherings that were impossible a year ago.
Nearly 200 million Americans are fully vaccinated. That leaves tens of millions who have yet to get a shot in the arm, some of them out of defiance. Hospitals in the cold Upper Midwest, especially Michigan and Minnesota, are filled with COVID-19 patients who are mostly unvaccinated.
Michigan hospitals reported about 3,800 coronavirus patients at the start of the week, with 20 percent in intensive care units, numbers that approach the bleakest days of the pandemic’s 2020 start. The state had a seven-day new-case rate of 616 per 100,000 people Monday, highest in the nation.
In the West, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Utah and Montana also ranked high. Some Colorado communities, including Denver, are turning to indoor mask orders to reduce risk, a policy that has also been adopted in the Buffalo, New York, area and Santa Cruz County, California.
The statistics in Michigan are “horrible,” said Dr. Matthew Trunsky, a respiratory specialist at Beaumont Health in suburban Detroit.
“We got cold and moved indoors and have huge pockets of unvaccinated people,” he said. “You can’t have pockets of unvaccinated people who don’t want to be masked and not expect to get outbreaks, not expect to lose parents, not expect to lose teachers.”
During a recent office visit, he encouraged a patient who uses oxygen to get vaccinated. The patient declined and now is in the hospital with COVID-19, desperately relying on even more oxygen, Trunsky said.
He said he continues to encounter patients and their family members espousing conspiracy theories about the vaccine.
“We’ve had several people in their 40s die in the last month – 100 percent unvaccinated,” Trunsky said. “It’s just so incredibly sad to see a woman die with teenagers. Especially with that age group, it’s nearly 100 percent preventable.”
In Detroit, where less than 40 percent of eligible residents were fully vaccinated, Mayor Mike Duggan said hospitalizations have doubled since early November.
“We have far too many people in this country that we have lost because they believed some nonsense on the internet and decided not to get the vaccine,” said Duggan, a former hospital executive.
Despite hot spots, the outlook in the U.S. overall is significantly better than it was at Thanksgiving 2020.
Without the vaccine, which became available in mid-December 2020, the U.S. a year ago was averaging 169,000 cases and 1,645 deaths per day, and about 81,000 people were in the hospital with COVID-19. The U.S. now is averaging 95,000 cases, 1,115 deaths and 40,000 in the hospital.
Airports have been jammed. More than 2.2 million people passed through security checkpoints on Friday, the busiest day since the pandemic shut down travel early in 2020. On some recent days, the number was twice as high as Thanksgiving a year ago.
Sarene Brown and three children, all vaccinated, were flying to Atlanta from Newark, New Jersey, to see family. People close to them have died from COVID-19.
“I’m thankful that I’m here, and I’m not in heaven, and I’m thankful for my family and that God helped me survive,” said Neive Brown, 7, who got her first dose.
More than 500,000 Americans have died of COVID-19 since the last Thanksgiving, for an overall death toll of over 770,000.
“We would encourage people who gather to do so safely after they’ve been fully vaccinated, as we’ve been saying for months now,” said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “I do think that this is very different because we actually have the tools to prevent the vast majority of cases.”
Dr. Eric Topol, head of the Scripps Research Translational Institute, said his optimism is tempered by the delta variant’s ability to jump from person to person, especially among the millions who are unvaccinated or are due for a booster.
“That equals very high vulnerability,” Topol said.
Denver’s public hospital, Denver Health, is sending people elsewhere because of a lack of beds. Staff members were exhausted from treating COVID-19 patients and others who had postponed other medical needs, chief executive Robin Wittenstein said.
“Our system is on the brink of collapse,” she said.
Arizona reported at least 2,551 COVID-19 patients in hospitals, far below the peak of last winter but still reason for concern. Officials said beds were limited.
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Huntington’s annual Christmas in the City celebration in downtown Huntington will take place from 3-6 p.m. Afterwards, the Christmas tree lighting ceremony will be held at 6 p.m.
The Huntington County Community School Corporation Board of Trustees has the authority and responsibility to appoint an individual to serve as a trustee to the Huntington City-Township Public Library Board. That appointment is for a four year term that will begin Jan. 1, 2022 and will end Dec. 31, 2025. Applicants must reside in the district and have lived in the district for two (2) years previous.
The HCCSC Board of Trustees is seeking applicants for this appointment, and interested applicants should send a letter of interest including pertinent qualifications to the Huntington County Community School Corporation, Attn: Cindy Gray, 1063 E 900 S, Warren, IN 46792. Letters should be received by 4 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 29.
“Integrity is doing something when no one is watching,” Huntington North High School sophomore Max Fusselman said.
Fusselman is one of 102 students participating in the Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps program at Huntington North under the guidance of Chief Warrant Officer – Retired Bobby Blair.
JROTC is a high school elective program whose mission is to teach students citizenship, leadership, character, and community service. The core values are at the heart of JROTC, whose creed emphasizes working to better the cadet’s family, school, and country.
One portion of the JROTC program is the ‘Raider’ competition, athletic competitions held at JROTC programs around the country.
“We are supposed to work as a team and our times reflect as a team,” Fusselman said. “I wanted to get that person up with the team so we could finish together as a team and not be spread out along the course.”
Fusselman remained behind his other teammates to help a struggling teammate, an act of integrity that makes him stand out. Just a sophomore, Fusselman already knows what he wants for his future. He plans on attending college in Florida and pursuing a career in law enforcement focused on Fish and Wildlife.
One of the first students to enter the program, Fusselman was identified as having potential to be a good leader. He was chosen for the fifth period JROTC, also known as the ‘Command Period,’ because of his physical abilities and his academic scoring.
Blair started this program in 2018 because there was a need for children to be better citizens in the community. On Mondays and Fridays, the cadets concentrate on a physical fitness program based on the curriculum of the high school. Tuesday and Thursdays, they concentrate on the Guidance Curriculum provided by the JROTC Command. On Wednesdays, they concentrate on marching.
Blair believes that too many students associate community service with being in trouble when it’s about doing good things for the community. This is a great way for them to collect a minimum of 120 hours to set themselves apart.
Fusselman thinks he has some good qualities that make him a good leader. He said he’s not good at everything, but he feels like he is good at talking to people and feels like the classroom is a safe place to talk things out.
Outside of school, Fusselman said that he enjoys listening to Christian music and attends Central Christian Church. He plays tennis and enjoys the Raider Competitions. He said that math is the most difficult subject for him, and that he enjoys studying history.
Blair said that he is grateful for students like Fusselman who come in everyday and put their best foot forward, not only in the classroom, but also in extracurricular programs and the community as a whole.
“Max is one of the students who is always stepping up to help in the community,” Blair said. “Max is aware of the importance of getting those recommendations for college. Colleges look for students who have good grades, leadership ability and what they have done for their communities.”