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Cyber High Coming to Huntsville

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Officers of Redstone Federal Credit Union presented a donation of $3 million at a fundraiser for the Alabama School of Cyber Technology. In addition, Redstone Arsenal is located near the school grounds and military leaders are discussing a potential ROTC program focused on cybersecurity.

Modern businesses and governments depend on data security for survival. And as cyber threats continue to become more sophisticated, there’s a crisis-level shortage of cyber professionals qualified to address those threats. That’s why Alabama is launching its new Alabama School of Cyber Technology and Engineering (ASCTE), a public, residential high school based in Huntsville and open to students from across the state.

The new high school, created by state legislation SB212 and signed into law by Governor Kay Ivey in April 2018, is scheduled to open in August 2020. It will be the state’s third magnet school, joining the Alabama School of Fine Arts in Birmingham and the Alabama School of Mathematics and Science in Mobile.

With Huntsville’s concentration of high-tech and engineering professionals, the school is a natural fit.

“We like solving challenges in the Rocket City,” says Claire Aiello, vice president of marketing and communications at the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber of Commerce. “Local companies have expressed a need for these workers, and we are answering the call to help Alabama supply more cyber systems and engineering professionals to this very needed specialty.”

The Business Case for a Cyber High School

Alabama doesn’t need a technology magnet school because its current high schools are failing. On the contrary, “public schools in Alabama are performing at unprecedented levels,” says Matt Massey, president of the new school and former superintendent of Madison County Schools, a graduate of Citronelle High School in Mobile County and Troy University. “This is not because our public schools aren’t working. The need is because we’re facing a crisis of cyber threats in this country and Alabama wants to start earlier to help fill those needs.”

Cybersecurity has become increasingly important for industries of all types. For instance, while enemies of the state historically attacked governments and government offices, “they are now going after the industries that are important to the country, such as financial networks and utility networks,” Massey says.

Matt Massey, president of the Alabama School of Cyber Technology. Photo by Dennis Keim

As a result, companies such as Alabama Power and its parent, Southern Company, have expressed interest in partnering with ASCTE to help develop the next generation of cyber professionals. As new businesses and government entities relocate to Alabama, many have shown interest in partnering with ASCTE as well, Massey says, because the need for qualified cyber and engineering professionals is widespread.

Globally, 82 percent of employers report a shortage of cybersecurity skills, and 71 percent believe this talent gap causes direct and measurable damage to their organizations, according to McAfee research. Currently, there are 4,400 unfilled cybersecurity jobs available in Alabama, and more than 300,000 in the United States, Massey says.

School Building from the Ground Up

Alabama’s solution to the cyber workforce challenge will be the first school of its kind in the United States. Creating something completely new is exciting and promising for future generations and for the success of security of the country, but it’s also challenging, Massey says.

ASCTE’s four-member executive committee meets monthly, and its 19-member board of trustees meets quarterly to make decisions and keep the process moving. Plans are to open the school in a temporary location beginning in August 2020, and to move into a permanent location by 2022.

Decisions about the number of students will depend on the level of interest, but Massey predicts that ASCTE will start with about 150 students in ninth and possibly tenth grades, and that it will grow to about 350 students in ninth through 12th grades, when it reaches full capacity.

Fundraising is an important part of the process, and many high-tech companies are lining up to donate. Huntsville-based companies such as Davidson Technologies and Torch Technologies have made large donations, and at the 2019 Paris Air Show, accounting firm Deloitte gave $100,000 to the school’s foundation.

Massey, who came on board in June 2019, is in the process of hiring his leadership team and will begin hiring teachers in the coming months. Once teachers are hired, the team will work together to develop the school’s curriculum. While some high schools focus on cybersecurity, ASCTE will be unique, because it will include the engineering piece of the puzzle.

“We’ll be teaching students to implement cyber protections throughout the engineering process, designing products and programs with cybersecurity in mind throughout,” Massey says. “Cyber protection is traditionally seen as the icing on the cake, added when a product or program is already developed. But instead of icing on the cake, our students will learn to bake cyber protections throughout the whole process. That’s the long-term solution, to engineer with cyber protections.”

Students at ASCTE will have a wide range of options for high school experiences and work opportunities after graduation. For instance, as the FBI relocates a large piece of its headquarters to Huntsville, there will be potential opportunities for students to gain experience in digital forensics for law enforcement. With close proximity to Redstone Arsenal, ASCTE and military leaders are discussing a potential ROTC program focused on cybersecurity. And a variety of high-tech employers in the Huntsville area are interested in working with students and providing hands-on educational opportunities.

“Our students will be exposed to internships, co-ops and field experiences throughout their high school careers,” Massey says. “Many will go on to college, but our high school curriculum will also offer a gateway to industry, and some local industries will be interested in supporting them through college. We’ve got industry that is knocking our doors down because they want our students in their company. Our students will have lots of options.”

Reaching Students Across Alabama

Those students will represent a cross-section of Alabama’s population, Massey says. While all students will go through an application process, school leaders are committed to securing a student body that will represent all regions of the state.

But ASCTE won’t just welcome applicants from across the state; it will also work with public school districts throughout Alabama to ramp up their own cyber and engineering courses.

In fact, that task is a requirement according to the legislation that established the school. It requires the magnet school and its personnel to “assist teachers, administrators and superintendents across the state in replicating cyber and engineering studies in their own schools.”

Massey looks forward to helping boost cyber technology and engineering instruction across Alabama. “We can’t solve this problem just with our own students,” he says. “Our goal is for this school to serve as a flagship school for the state.”

Student applications are expected to be available in January 2020, with selections made in March before the school opens in August.

Learn more and stay updated with news about the school at ASCTE.org.

Nancy Mann Jackson and Dennis Keim are freelance contributors to Business Alabama. Jackson is based in Madison and Keim in Huntsville.

Homeschooling Enterprises are Growing in Alabama

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Erin Wainwright, second from left, owner of Erin’s Gulf Coast Homeschool Adventures, turns a class over to the experts at Humming Star Alpacas, in Baldwin County, for a lesson in fiber arts. Pictured are: Jamie Horstman, Wainwright, Kim Bowen, Noah Couch and Emilia Westphal. Photos by Brad McPherson

In the early 1980s, parents were sent to jail for educating their children at home instead of in schools. Today, an estimated 30,000 families in Alabama belong to homeschool church and private schools and homeschool co-operatives, according to Christian Home Education Fellowship (CHEF), soon to be Alabama Homeschool.

“That is probably a low number,” says Erin Wainwright, of Erin’s Gulf Coast Homeschool Adventures. She cites the 3,000 families in Mobile alone.

According to Wainwright, there are multiple reasons for homeschooling in Alabama. In her case, special needs. Her daughter suffered from anxiety, and learning in a safe surrounding allowed her to mature into a more confident student. A lack of resources, such as in a rural area, is another reason. The number one reason, she hears, is bullying, which in today’s world is 24/7, with social media and other technological portals.

While the image of homeschooling is a parent with children isolated at home, the opposite is true. While parents still teach, there is a new world of online resources, such as Wainwright’s daughter studying writing with a live teacher and other children on computers across the U.S. She learned French from a French national living in Russia. Co-ops have risen offering clubs, teams, proms and other occasions for socializing — the lack of which has been a main criticism of home learning.

Instead of being just the primary teacher, home school parents today are becoming managers of their child’s education.

Wainwright is one of dozens of educational providers for homeschool families. Walking through the Homeschool Fair and Convention at the Wynfrey Hotel in Birmingham, booths are filled with instructors for music, martial arts, science, reading and writing, field trips, Spanish, dancing and many more.

Matthew Brown, a Ph.D. biologist who formerly taught in the University of Alabama at Birmingham Medical School, teaches at two co-ops. Between the two organizations, he teaches 200 students per week in five to six classroom periods per day. His subjects include physical science, biology, chemistry, human anatomy, marine biology, physics, geometry, trigonometry, forensic science, health and first aid. He is working on ways to video his classes so he can sell his classes online.

“I got started 16 years ago. We lived in a rural county that had mediocre schools, and we wanted to see if we could do better for the kids,” Brown says.

In the beginning, his wife, a UAB nurse, taught their two children (they now have 5) the traditional 3 Rs. When both children scored on high school level at age 10, the Brown’s decided to continue through high school. After his research grant was completed at UAB, he decided he was tired of being “chained to the lab bench” and struck out as a high school science teacher for homeschoolers. His oldest daughter, an education major graduate, now works with him in his teaching/tutoring business.

It is typical of homeschool co-ops to recruit instructors such as Brown, who points out that few public schools employ teachers at his education level. Brown is paid per student, anywhere from $50 to $225 per semester. Fees are collected from the parents, who write a check and send him a 1099.

Wainwright provides activities and field trips for Mobile homeschoolers. She began by offering a free service to homeschoolers by organizing trips to an Alpaca farm, or a state park or to the Dauphin Island Sea Lab. Her husband pointed out that earning income from her long hours could help the family’s bottom line. Today, she charges $8 per month, per family, for three activities per month. Her co-op serves 179 families, who last year experienced 49 events and 68 field trips. Her field trips include lesson plans for the parent-educator. For example, a water park visit included water testing, chemical evaluations and math designs.

Jamie Horstman looks on while Jaxon Horstman works on his craft project.

While Wainwright started with field trips, she has expanded to partner with local colleges to offer classes such as Greek mythology, U.S. history and American literature. College professors teach 16 weeks on a subject that costs $150 per class per student.

While most groups are limited to the state, Clarissa Winchester specializes in traveling lessons: from Disney cruises to trips to Washington, D.C. and even abroad. Based in Birmingham, Winchester launched Field Trips R Us Homeschooling in 2013 and soon realized she needed to become a certified travel agent. With a reputation for good educational family trips, she has garnered a following of 3,400 families across the nation.

A homeschooler since 2004, Winchester found a dearth of field trip experiences for the homeschool family. While it is still a free service, with no added charges or membership fees for her services, her business may change with the increase in homeschool families.

“I never dreamed of doing this. Homeschooling has gone mainstream and the community has expanded to demand more services,” says Winchester.

There are three ways to homeschool in Alabama, according to Debbie Landry, of CHEF. In 1982, the Legislature passed the church school bill, allowing homeschoolers to come together in what is called a “cover school.” Lately, the private school bill allowed even more leeway for groups to form private schools within the separation of church and school. And a certified teacher can start a school for tutoring.

Landry started homeschooling in 1989 with her husband, who at the time was the administrator at the newly formed Crossroads Christian School, based in Community Presbyterian Church, in Moody. Her husband moved on, leaving his wife to administer and teach Homeschooling 101 to prospective members. The school serves more than 500 students from 270 families that pay $35 per month for 12 months a year. They serve a metro area from Blount to Talladega counties.

The Crossroads school provides resources such as Brown’s science classes. Every Friday, they hold classes at the church, including fine arts, choir, ballroom dancing, plays and math. They offer what many consider rites of passage for students: yearbooks, class photos and a prom. They also have clubs: key club, honor society and 4-H.

Most importantly, a cover school records, keeps and reports grades and transcripts, for life — the permanent record school children always dread to hear about. When college applications require records for homeschool students, Crossroads provides them.

“We help people keep up with what texts were used, which people want to know from homeschoolers. I tell them, ‘You can’t turn in grades on a napkin!’” says Landry.

Cover schools do not designate a curriculum. In her 101 class, Landry points out a small portion of the many options for study on every subject imaginable. One of the challenges of modern homeschooling is choosing texts from among the many.

Hundreds of educational providers around the state serve the homeschool community. Nature centers, such as Burritt on the Mountain in Huntsville and the Louise Kreher Forest Ecology Preserve in Auburn, offer special homeschool field trips, as do museums, libraries, theaters and colleges.

As homeschool numbers grow, so will the businesses sprouting up to serve them.

Verna Gates and Brad McPherson are freelance contributors to Business Alabama. She is based in Birmingham and he in Mobile.

Behind the Scenes at Huntsville Startup Glimpse K12

Glimpse K12 co-founders Nicole Pezent and Adam Pearson located their company in Huntsville. They got their startup in a venture capital accelerator in Silicon Valley. Photo by David Higginbotham

Glimpse K12 co-founders Adam Pearson and Nicole Pezent started working together in the ed tech industry more than a decade ago, when Alabama-based Chalkable (then STI), a company offering web-based education data management solutions to K-12 schools, acquired Learning Earnings, a startup that Pearson co-founded in 2006. As the two worked on integrating Learning Earnings into Chalkable and partnering with school districts throughout Alabama, they repeatedly saw the challenge districts faced tailoring their budgets to ensure that money spent on curriculum and professional development was being put to its best use.

“There were problems we couldn’t unsee,” says Pezent, referring to the lack of information shared between accounting departments, curriculum and the student demographic.

When Chalkable was sold to Power School in 2016, Pearson and Pezent decided to found their own company. “We really wanted to help [school districts] by providing tools that allow them to look at student outcomes in the context of what they did to generate those outcomes,” Pearson explains. With that information, a district could then assess its classroom investments and take corrective measures as needed to ensure that future expenditures would have maximum impact on student achievement.

“No school system has as much money as they need to solve all the problems that they face,” says Pearson. “So, we figured, since we can’t print more money, we can help them understand which expenditures may not be as effective as others, so they can divert those resources to more effective activities.”

Pearson and Pezent started Glimpse K12 in 2017. The company’s AIM platform creates a curriculum map that lays out resources, products and tools that are being used throughout a district. Those components are then organized into impact areas and aligned with objectives, goals and costs, providing a foundation for analyzing and managing an education Return on Investment (eROI).

“Basically, the platform allows us to pull out data from different systems that are sort of siloed in the district,” Pearson explains. Those silos include financial accounting, student demographic information and student achievement data. “Traditionally, the problem has been that the accounting systems don’t have the concept of a student, right? And vice versa, you know, student achievement and student demographics platforms don’t have a concept of cost for activities.” Over the course of a year, AIM connects those dots and provides a student outcome analysis and eROI insights that pinpoint where spending is effective.

Pearson says it takes about 30 days to set up the software and provide user training. During this phase, districts can identify the issues they want to focus on, such as the correlation of a specific activity and a certain student demographic. For example, working with the Morgan County school district, Glimpse K12 was able to identify that when a curriculum platform was used with fidelity — in this case, 45 minutes a week — they saw double the growth in student achievement, compared to students who weren’t exposed to the resource as much.

“And that established a good best practice for them,” Pearson says. “They could put that information back out into the district and say, ‘Look at the data. When we use this activity, it’s helping students succeed.’ That was a big success story.”

“In training, we talk about the annual process districts go through identifying what spending was ineffective, so that they can re-allocate those resources,” he continues. “Most of the time we’re redirecting those funds to something that may bear more fruit for the students.”

“We really want to get to the redirecting of spending,” Pezent adds. “Because of the way their budgets work, they’re not in the business of banking a lot of their funds; they have to spend them in certain increments or by a certain deadline.” If a district is looking to spend less, Glimpse K12 can certainly identify areas where less-effective resources can be eliminated. Otherwise, “we want to make sure that we can tell them when they’re dispersing funds to other areas that they can rest assured it will directly impact their students in a positive way.”

Glimpse K12 currently has over 50 clients across Alabama and the Southeast. Its software developers, data analysts and sales team members are split about evenly between Madison County and the rest of the state and region, with Pearson and Pezent working out of its Huntsville headquarters. Pearson, who is from Huntsville, and Pezent, who relocated from Mobile, were both drawn to the area’s talent pool.

“We could have been based out of San Francisco,” Pearson says. When Glimpse K12 was in development, they applied for funding from Y Combinator, a venture capital accelerator based in Silicon Valley that has helped launch more than 2,000 companies, including Dropbox, Airbnb and Reddit.

“Ten thousand companies worldwide apply every year, and we applied and were accepted for the winter session in 2018.” Startups attend a three-month training cycle in Silicon Valley that works with them to expand their business goals and connect them with investors. It also strongly encourages participants to stay in Silicon Valley and continue to tap into its many resources. Y Combinator “is a great experience, and it would have been a really great opportunity,” says Pearson, “but we wanted to see if we could build a successful business in our home state.”

“We talk to superintendents all the time who want to make sure their students graduate and go to college and come back and build industry where they’re from,” Pezent adds. “And that’s something that was close to us. When you see that progress, that’s what you want to do, too.”

Pearson and Pezent encourage other area entrepreneurs to take advantage of programs like Y Combinator to expand their access to West Coast capital and business connections that may be useful to them. “We try to do that as much as possible: broaden the outlook. You feel like that’s a different world, and you get there and you realize it’s the same world, just a different location.”

Remaining in Alabama hasn’t hurt the company at all, and it’s beginning to get inquiries from school districts across the country. “We’re in a big growth phase at the moment,” says Pearson. The company already has its sights set on expanding beyond the Southeast in 2020, viewing population centers on the East and West Coasts as areas of big opportunity. They’ve also had a lot of interest from the Midwest, where Pearson sees a lot of similarities in the challenges faced as those in the Southeast. And, he points out, when the Glimpse K12 platform is nationwide, Alabama will be known for its genesis.

Katherine MacGilvray and David Higginbotham are freelance contributors to Business Alabama. She is based in Huntsville and he in Decatur.

Auburn Leads the Way in Business Ethics

Auburn opened a second business building, Horton-Hardgrave Hall, on September 13. At the ribbon cutting are, from left, Dean Annette L. Ranft; SGA President Mary Margaret Turton; Provost Bill Hardgrave, one of the building’s namesakes; Trustee Raymond J. Harbert, namesake of the college; Trustee Jimmy Samford and Interim President Jay Gogue.

Auburn University’s Harbert College of Business has become the first in the nation to require its graduates to complete a business ethics class and pass an independently administered certification in ethical leadership.

The certification program, which includes six modules on topics such as ethical decision making and the role of leadership in managing and preventing conflicts, is conducted by the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy’s Center for the Public Trust.

“The new requirements are designed to better prepare young professionals to handle the ethical dilemmas they will face in their careers,” the university said in announcing the new requirement.

Alfonzo Alexander, ethics and diversity officer for NASBA and president of the Center for the Public Trust, says Auburn is “the first university in the country to require its business school graduates to complete ethical leadership training and attain independent certification.”

“Ethical conduct has always been a key component of the accounting profession — in fact, it is a core competency for all business leaders,” said Alexander. “The development of this new curriculum and certification serves the growing need to educate our young professionals to meet the critical demand for ethical conduct in today’s challenging business environment.”

Says O.C. Ferrell, who is Auburn’s James T. Pursell Sr. Eminent Scholar in Ethics: “Students need to understand their ethical responsibilities in an organizational culture and how to develop the skills necessary to motivate and manage those who report to them later in their careers.”

“Ethical conduct is an important component of an Auburn education,” Ferrell added, “and this initiative is the latest in an ongoing effort to equip our business students with the tools they need to be successful throughout their careers.”

$1.9 Million Grant Shapes Employer-Driven Training

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Calhoun Community College’s Math, Science and Computer Science building on its Huntsville campus, which was opened in 2016.

Calhoun Community College recently received a five-year $1.9 million U.S. Department of Education Title III grant to create a Pathways to Success program for workforce development training.

The program will provide a framework for Calhoun’s transition from fragmented, a-la-cart scheduling to a structured, employer-driven model that includes work-based learning components in associate of applied science degree programs beginning at the high school level.

According to Debi Hendershot, dean for Planning, Research and Grants, over the past decade, the area Calhoun serves has experienced significant growth, with an influx of high-tech defense and manufacturing companies, as well as the opening of the FBI Tennessee Valley Regional Computer Forensics Laboratory, housed on Redstone Arsenal. This economic growth rate has resulted in low unemployment rates and a shortage of skilled workers in cyber security, networking and industrial maintenance.

“To address this shortage, Calhoun has increased enrollment in dual enrollment career/technical programs, established a Career Services Department and opened a new Math, Science and Computer Science building on the Huntsville campus to expand academic programs in nursing, welding and computer information systems,” Hendershot said.

The Pathways to Success program will include work-based learning, which bridges theoretical knowledge and hands-on practice, as well as enhancing graduate employability.

“We are fortunate to have implemented a dedicated career services department three years ago and are especially thankful to our current 40-plus co-op partners who offer work-based learning opportunities to students in a variety of majors,” Hendershot said. “This grant will allow Calhoun Community College to streamline education with experience to increase the overall value for our students, while creating a talent pipeline for local employers in this time of economic growth.”

The grant is part of the U.S. Department of Education’s mission to promote student achievement and preparation for global competitiveness.

Joe Burke, Calhoun interim president, said, “We are so thankful to the U.S. Department of Education for its investment in support of Calhoun’s efforts to not only prepare the future workforce but to also provide our students with affordable yet high-quality education.”

Why Phenix City Schools are Standouts

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Gov. Kay Ivey joins Phenix City School Superintendent Randy Wilkes (to her left) and faculty and students for a tour of the Dyer Family STEM Center.

When the Alabama Department of Education handed out its third annual batch of report cards to Alabama schools on Friday, October 18, one of those most proud to carry it back to the people at home was the Phenix City School System.

Since the time the state of Alabama began requiring the State Report Card system of accountability, Phenix City schools have gone from a D to an A, and it’s a measure that is echoed in other achievements, including graduation rates well above the state average and a STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) curriculum that is system-wide and one of the best in the state. The graduation rate — as measured by federal standards — has gone from 51 percent for 2009-2010 to 97 percent for 2017-2018, which compares to a national average of 87 percent.

Wealth of the community is certainly not the reason for this level of achievement. Phenix City has a per capita income 20 percent below the state average, with almost 19 percent of the population below the national poverty level.

The apparent reason so many students stay in school is the richness of what the schools offer. Beginning in kindergarten, Phenix City students are completely immersed in STEM education. All elementary schools have a SMARTLab, with 6th and 7th graders receiving instruction in virtual science, coding, digital media and engineering laboratories. Students participate in 12-week courses of coding/robotics, engineering and digital media. High school students have 11 academies to choose from, including health occupations, advanced coding and television production. Every student, grades 6-12, has access to a take-home electronic device. Central High offers 24 advanced placement and dual enrollment courses.

Randy Wilkes has been superintendent since 2014 and was named 2018 superintendent of the year by the Alabama Department of Education. We asked him to name three prime reasons why Phenix City’s schools have excelled.

“Everything started with professional learning — over $1 million annually invested by teachers in 75,000 hours of learning activities created for our students to address their needs,” says Wilkes. “Our teachers don’t get off June and July.”

Another important contribution to improvement, says Wilkes, came from recruitment of teachers. It begins with getting the story out in the media. “Telling our story has created a desire to work for us.” And it culminates each year with a recruitment tour of the city and its schools, aimed at the best of recent college graduates.

“In April on a Saturday every administrator and supervisor meets with recruits right out of college and shows them our schools and wines and dines them, and the magic school bus takes them on a tour of apartments and shopping areas and hospitals, and they have a nice big meal, and after lunch we have speed interviews — one of the recruitment tactics we’ve learned in the last few years.”

Big too was the boost that came from the local community, culminating in $1.1 million in private donations raised in less than two years by the Friends of Phenix City Schools. One result of that initiative was the Dyer Family STEM Center at Phenix City Intermediate School, which benefited from a $150,000 donation from Gil’s Auto Sales.

Private fundraising is necessary, says Wilkes, because local taxpayers are already giving all they can. “We already have a high millage rate, 28.5 mills. That’s pretty significant when you consider the median household income is not that great. You would be putting more tax on people who can barely afford to get by.

“In terms of funding per pupil, we rank 120th among the 138 school systems in the state. We spend a little more than $8,000 per pupil, compared to $13,000 for Mountain Brook and $10,000 for Opelika.”

Biggest Gift in Auburn History Christens New Engineering Center

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Auburn University tomorrow dedicates a new, $44 million academic building for engineering students, the Brown-Kopel Engineering Student Achievement Center.

Construction of the center was made possible by a $30 million gift from John and Rosemary Brown, which was announced as part of an overall $57 million gift — the largest in university history — in April 2015.

The new facility, comprising 142,000 square feet of space to support engineering studies, creates greater opportunities for collaboration among students and faculty. Located in the heart of campus, it is designed to serve students from all engineering disciplines and incorporates high-contact initiatives through student recruitment, scholarships, curriculum advising, tutoring, career development, corporate relations and international experiences.

Site preparation for the project began in December 2016 with the demolition of the Engineering Shops and L Building. This project completes the third phase of more than $85 million in new construction and renovations for the College of Engineering.

The dedication ceremony will take place Friday, Sept. 13, at 3:15 p.m.

Houston County Schools Weigh Cybersecurity Contract

The Houston County School System began considering a cyberscurity contract proposal Monday, in response to a major malware attack in July that delayed school openings and required reprograming and replacement of hardware.

“We’re losing the cyber war, and Southern schools are a target, because they know our systems aren’t up-to-date,” The Dothan Eagle reported a company officer told the school board. “It is the current state of culture. Schools are a major target,” said Brent Panell, CEO and co-founder for ControlAltProtect, based in Birmingham.

School Superintendent David Sewell said the cyber attack did not include ransomware but was costly, owing to loss of equipment and overtime in working on servers and computers.

Board Chairman Vince Wade told the Eagle the board will have to find funding if it decides to adopt the cybersecurity firm’s proposal.

“We are on a mission to change what’s happening in Alabama, because frankly, our cyber security sucks,” Panell told board members.

Panell presented a quote for a 24-month contract for $10,800 per month for phase I and $2,000 per month for phase II.

He told the Eagle his company’s intention was to offer “a low-cost introductory offer to the schools is to get its foot in the door to cater to schools statewide, and get the attention of the Alabama State Department of Education.”

Google Networks Decatur Schoolchildren

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National trade publication Government Technology recently featured Decatur City Schools’ all-in commitment to computers: “Technology Changes How Students Learn in Alabama School.”

The benchmark the magazine celebrates is the school system meeting the goal of its “One-to-One” program, supplying every student in grades 4-12 with a school-issued computer they can use for educational purposes in school and at home.

The goal was actually achieved last year, but last year there was a mix of computer brands, with some students getting Notebooks and others Chromebooks. This year, they’ve gone all Google.

Emily Elam, the school system supervisor of technology, said teachers district-wide use Google Classroom, the Google-promoted learning network that allows teachers and students to share content and participate in discussions.

The Decatur City Schools this year used $968,573 in one-time money from the state to buy enough touchscreen Chromebooks to outfit those middle school students who had been using Notebooks.

The district’s $3.2 million technology budget this year is the largest in the school system’s history, said system Chief Financial Officer Melanie Maples.

Since 2011, the system has spent almost $14 million on computers and infrastructure upgrades.

A Cure for Alabama’s Nursing Shortage

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Wallace State Community College’s Department of Nursing Education and the University of Alabama at Birmingham are partnering to give Wallace State students a path from an associate degree to a bachelor’s degree in nursing.

The new program will take nine semesters to complete. Students are required to complete four semesters of academic coursework before applying to both Wallace State and UAB in advance of the fifth semester. Classes for the last five semesters would be completed concurrently at the Wallace State-Hanceville campus and online through UAB.

It will begin with the class admitted in the spring 2020 semester; applications are currently being accepted through Sept. 1, 2019. Admission will also be available in fall 2020, with applications accepted from March 1 to May 15, 2020.

Wallace State is the first community college to launch this ADN/BSN partnership program with UAB, referred to as the UAB Nursing Community College Partnership Joint Enrollment Program. Wallace State also has a joint Admission Agreement for general undergraduate admission with UAB.

“We constantly strive to provide the best opportunities for our students and our communities,” says Dr. Vicki Karolewics, president of Wallace State. “This agreement acknowledges our longstanding partnership with UAB, and a dedication to excellence and innovation by both nursing departments. It will open doors to advancement for our students and be a boon to a workforce in need of nurses.”

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