Cyberattack concerns scuttle digital tests

HUDSON–Property sales, an internet “attack” and next year’s budget received attention at the Hudson City School District (HCSD) Board of Education meeting January 21.

The district wants to sell the building and grounds of the J. L. Edwards School on State Street, which it closed in 2018, and CBRE Realty is handling the sales effort. CBRE representatives Daniel Simpson, an associate broker specializing in commercial real estate, and Alexandra Rizzo, a new sales associate, addressed the meeting. Both said they were excited to be working on the sale.

“JLE lends itself to a conversion use,” Mr. Simpson said and cautioned, “It’s a puzzle, finding the right buyer to fit in. It needs money to make it work. About five acres come with the property, but unfortunately they’re mostly slopes and wetlands. It’s rare to find someone who says it’s okay as is.”

When a school board member asked how long it would take to sell the property, Mr. Simpson estimated, “Normally, we’re looking at a 12-to-24-month sale,” though a buyer could turn up unexpectedly at any time.

He said that this is “a good time to be a seller.”

HCSD is also giving land to the state for the Empire State Trail, which will run in front of Hudson Junior and Senior high schools on Harry Howard Avenue. The State Department of Transportation has offered the HCSD $26,925 for the land, district Superintendent Maria L. Suttmeier reported, based on what Ginger Benedict, the HCSD’s attorney for real estate, told her. On that strip of land, the state will be responsible for “hazards and liabilities,” but the district “will have to shovel” it after snowfalls.

In the digital realm, internet problems have inconvenienced the HCSD since last spring, and “it has been determined that we had a DDoS attack,” Dr. Suttmeier announced.

The initials stand for distributed denial of services. The federal Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, a part of the Department of Homeland Security, describes a denial-of-service attack as occurring “when legitimate users are unable to access information systems, devices, or other network resources due to the actions of a malicious cyber threat actor.”

Dr. Suttmeier told the meeting last week, “Our firewall is working,” protecting the HCSD’s system. But the system’s defensive “actions” are taking capacity away from its other activities. As a result, the network “jams,” she said, adding, “internet service is intermittent. Sometimes suddenly we don’t have access to the internet.” This has caused “a lot of frustration, among faculty and staff.”

She said that “the FBI is investigating,” but there are “no easy solutions.”

One result, said April Prestipino, assistant superintendent for school improvement, is that “we’re not attempting computer-based tests this year. We can’t take the risk.” The state’s goal is eventually for all students to take the tests by computer, and in 2018 HCSD had some grades take some tests using

computers. But this year, like last year after the problem started, the plan is for all HCSD students to take the tests with pencil and paper.

On the 2020-21 school year budget, Business Administrator Sharifa Carbon outlined steps taken so far, while previewing steps to come. Ms. Carbon plans to leave the HCSD in February for a position in the New Paltz School District, and her designated successor, Jesse Boehme, attended the meeting.

“The governor is proposing an overall 3% increase in school aid,” though how this will affect the HCSD is not yet known, Ms. Carbon reported.

According to the latest information, the limit on how much the district may increase its tax levy over the rate for the current year (called the “tax cap”) will be 1.81%. This is the first time in five years that the district’s tax cap has been under 2%, Ms. Carbon noted.

Addressing another issue affecting school finances, district officials are “talking about a small new capital project for the high school library and administrative offices,” Dr. Suttmeier reported.

Also at the meeting:

• The board accepted March 27 as the official retirement date for Superintendent of Buildings and Grounds George Keeler. For several months, he has been working with and breaking in his intended successor, James Boyle. Mr. Keeler was recently named Fire Coordinator for Columbia County.

•Dr. Suttmeier reported that Mr. Keeler “says they’ve solved the problem” of where to put the baseball dugouts’ gates. And “the softball dugouts are in the process of being built”

• Camp Invention information for this summer is available, Ms. Prestipino reported. The week-long camp is for students entering 3rd through 6th grades. For Camp Invention, HCSD students get their tuition discounted and have to pay a reduced amount of $130 for the camp

• The graduation rate for the cohort who entered high school in 2015 (class of 2019) was 80% for the whole HCSD and 81% for Hudson High School, according to just-released state data.

The next meeting of the HCSD Board of Education will take place Tuesday, February 4 in the Hudson High School library. It begins at 6 p.m. with a community budget workshop, followed by the regular meeting.

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