MURRAY – The Murray Independent School District Board of Education on Tuesday approved the second reading of updates to the Kentucky School Board Association policy and procedures manual to reflect recent changes in state law.

Superintendent Coy Samons said one of the more significant new laws enacted in the 2022 legislative session was Senate Bill 1, which makes major changes to the power of site-based decision-making councils (SBDMC). SB 1 stipulates that if there is a vacancy for a principal’s position, the superintendent chooses the principal for that building after consultation with the SBDMC. Previously, the SBDMC chose the principal. SBDMCs include elected teacher and parent representatives and were created by the Kentucky Education Reform Act (KERA) of 1990.

Samons said SB 1 also designates the superintendent as the person primarily responsible for each school’s curriculum instead of the SBDMC.

Board Chair Richard Crouch said House Bill 9 authorized public charter schools, but if a school district has fewer than 7,500 students, a public charter school may only be started with a memorandum of agreement (MOA) with the local school board’s approval. If a district has 7,500 students or more, an MOA is not required to start a charter school.

“In other words, this law applies to Jefferson County, Fayette County, Boone County, Kenton County and Warren County,” Crouch said. “So it applies to basically the largest school districts in the state, and probably a few of those large districts (have) some underperforming schools where, in my mind, it makes sense for parents to have the opportunity to create a public charter school.”

Crouch said House Bill 563 – sometimes referred as the “open borders law” – actually passed in 2021, takes effect July 1 of this year.

“Prior to that law, if a student resided in one district, there had to be an agreement between the two districts if the student wanted to attend in another district,” Crouch said. “House Bill 563 opened the borders, if you will. A student who is out of district who wants to attend another district (is allowed if) the district they want to attend has the capacity – and capacity is determined by the district – so there will be some transfers. There no longer has to be a written agreement between the two school districts in order to facilitate the transfer. Basically, state funding follows the student under the new law.”

Samons said some of the new laws take effect July 1 and some take effect July 14. Board member Gayle Rogers said that while she couldn’t speak for the rest of the board, she did not receive any kind of inquiry from state legislators asking what the school board or principals thought of the proposed changes.

Austin Swain, MISD’s director of information technology, gave his technology report to the board. Swain said state law requires the IT director to report to the board on compliance with best practices by Aug. 31 each year. The Kentucky Department of Education annually updates the guide districts follow, and Swain said the guide focuses on three major areas: protection and prevention, preparation for notification and notification.

“I’m solely going to focus on protection and prevention because that’s what we do on a daily basis,” Swain said. “If we get to No. 2 or No. 3, then we’ve had a security breach and we’re probably having a pretty bad week, and we would like to avoid that at all costs.”

While Swain said nothing is perfect, the district is required to take “reasonable security measures” to guard against the foreseeable loss or exposure of personal information. He said the district’s current standard password policy is for staff members to use pass phrases instead of passwords because they are easier to remember and less likely to be compromised. Multi-factor authentication is also used for staff with access to sensitive information when they are logging in off-campus, he said.

Swain also talked about steps the district takes to try to prevent staff from falling for phishing email scams.

“Our email simulation campaign sends out occasional fake emails that would simulate what an attacker would send,” he said. “We try to express to people (we’re not trying to catch people clicking on a link they shouldn’t). It’s just simply a simulation so they understand what attackers are trying to do and how they’re trying.”

Swain said staff generally do a great job of avoiding clicking on questionable links, only failing the simulation tests about 6% of the time. However, while most of the simulations are generic in nature, one test was done recently that specifically targeted MISD by name, posing as a local store offering discounts. In that case, 25% of staff clicked on the link, he said.

“We are the weakest link in the chain, so it’s important that we understand what these hackers are trying to do our network,” Swain said.

In other business:

• The board approved the district  technology plan for 2022-25.

• The board met in executive session to discuss possible acquisition or sale of property. No action was taken.