Hermon voters approve internet safety tests despite opposition from school department
Hermon voters on Thursday 35-10 approved a proposal to ask an outside company to test the security of the city’s internet network, a plan that pitted the city council against the local school department, which said the overhaul of the network it manages is not justified.
About thirty people, excluding city council members and city employees, attended the special city meeting held in the bay of the public security building. Two deputies from the Penobscot Sheriff’s Office were in attendance, as Hermon has a contract with the Sheriff’s Department to provide police coverage.
Several residents – who spoke before voting – expressed concern that the board and school board disagree, which has been and will continue to be detrimental to the community.
Patricia Duram, the former superintendent, urged the board to sit down with the school committee and discuss the board’s concerns. She said the $ 54,000 cost of the audit would appear to be very little money compared to the potential legal fees if the school department sued the city.
Several residents said internet security audits and tests are not unusual and occur regularly at the companies where they work.
School board member Stephanie Oiler said the citizens of Hermon can and should decide what’s best for the community and the students.
“Every job I’ve ever had, there has been an audit,” she said. “I don’t understand why there is opposition to an audit.
Sally Hartford pointed out that the school system and the municipal office share a network and collect and store information about residents.
“It needs to be audited to find loopholes rather than having a cyber attack,” Hartford said.
The question to test internet security was one of six in the mandate, but the only one that was controversial and passed by secret ballot.
In a letter to councilors read before the vote, Hermon School Superintendent Jim Chasse denied that the school’s network was vulnerable in a letter. He also said there was no irregularity in the ministry’s dealings with Nightscape Tech, a company founded by two school employees that provides technical equipment and advice to schools. It is also an Internet access provider for residents.
“Without any particular concerns expressed [in social media posts] to tackle, it looks like a fishing expedition, ”Chasse said in the letter.
Lawyers for the school service said it would most likely be illegal for the city to test the school service network without its permission, as the city and the school service are separate legal entities.
Councilor Charles Lever IV, who works as chief IT officer for the Bangor Housing Authority, raised questions earlier this year about Nightscape Tech’s relationship with the school department and network security practices.
Chasse, however, said on Wednesday that the school department had responded to questions from the board and had not received follow-up questions from the board.
Nightscape issued a statement Thursday afternoon through its attorney, Jeffrey Russell of Bangor, responding to many of the questions raised by Lever.
Nightscape worked with the Hermon School Department to provide Internet access to local residents using the school’s network, taking advantage of the network’s capacity during the hours when the school is not in session, according to the school’s website. the company. This collaboration seems to have evolved from a dial-up Internet connection offered free of charge to residents the year following the opening of Lycée Hermon in 1995.
The service, now via an upgraded fiber optic network, costs $ 9.99 per month for residents and $ 34.99 for small businesses, in addition to an installation fee of $ 99.99. Nightscape only offers its customers connectivity through Hermon.net, which has not been cost effective, the statement said. Over the past year, subscription revenues totaled less than $ 2,200 while expenses, including the purchase of network equipment, amounted to nearly $ 18,000.
“It was not a profitable business,” the statement read. “Nightscape Tech was actually subsidizing the school’s HermonNet network with revenue generated by other business customers.”
The company was founded, with the knowledge of the school committee, to act as a potential broker in the purchase of equipment for faculty, staff and students of Hermon and other school districts. Nightscape is subject to the bidding process followed by cities and school departments under Maine law.
By using wholesale purchases and low margins – to cover operating costs – Nightscape passed the savings straight to the school, according to the company. Many purchases were made through Ebay, Amazon, and auctions, saving the department a substantial amount of money over time.
“As a private business entity, Nightscape has been able to purchase technology, typically desktops, tablets, laptops and other hardware at a lower cost than what can be accessed through the traditional school department purchasing scheme. “, says the press release.
Hermon Council Chairman Steve Thomas said after the vote that he was happy with the vote.
“I look forward to working with the school committee to resolve our collective concerns,” he said.