Ransom worm virus hits White County school system


School Supt. Dr. Jeff Wilson

CLEVELAND, Ga. – White County School Superintendent Dr. Jeff Wilson said the system’s computer program was attacked by the ransom worm virus Monday.

The school system’s IT staff believes the attack could have originated somewhere in eastern Europe.

“Our tech guys reported something strange was going on Monday morning,” Wilson said. “Their quick work avoided what could have been a major crisis. Only two or three of our software programs were affected. The good news is that no student or staff data was compromised. They did not go after financial data or social security numbers.”

Wilson said the system has a very good firewall but added that this is the same virus that got into the NASA and CIA systems: “So, they are very good at this.”

Wilson added, “Typically, you would have to be in our system to break into our system.”  The attack, he speculated, could have been facilitated by a student or teacher who needed to access information from home, allowing the hackers to open up an outside window into the system.

As of Wednesday, the system’s IT Department was working to correct the problem.

“We’re still investigating ways to prevent this kind of attack. We’re working with Georgia Emergency Management Agency’s (GEMA) forensic people. They are extremely interested in this kind of attack,” Wilson said. “They told us there were several other systems in Georgia that have been hit.”



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School Board Works on Balancing Budget


CLEVELAND, Ga. — The White County School System is about one month and $11 million away from a balanced Fiscal Year ’18 budget.

School Board members held a preliminary budget hearing Thursday which revealed schools have estimated expenditures of $65,411,417 in FY ’18 and estimated revenue of only $54,239,323. A second budget hearing is set for May 25 at 6 p.m.

In the meantime, Board members will work on ways to balance their spending plan.

The good news is the School System has a healthy fund balance, expected to grow to $17,370,434, by June 30, the end of the fiscal year. Board members can make up the shortfall from the fund balance. A second, less desirable solution, would be to ask taxpayers to make up the entire difference in the form of a millage increase. A more likely scenario would be to remove some money from the fund balance and ask for a millage increase to make up the rest.

The Board will approve the final budget, review the millage rate, schedule and advertise the budget and millage rate public hearings if necessary on June 29.

During Thursday’s meeting, the Board approved:

  • An agreement to pay North Georgia Physicians Group to provide an athletic trainer on a three-year scale of $8,000 during the next school year, $10,000 (2018-‘19) and $12,000 (2019-’20);
  • The formation of a wellness committee, consisting of the superintendent or his designee, school system and community representatives from areas designated in federal law to participate in the development, implementation and periodic review of school wellness policies;
  • A White County High School Senior Night field trip to Six Flags on May 5, and an away match in July for the White County High School volleyball team to Panama City Beach, Florida, to compete against two local schools;
  • An amendment to the employee and student smoking policy;
  • Construction of cases and an area to honor White County Veterans at a cost of approximately $ 20,000;
  • Formation of a Spanish National Honor Society at White County High School.






Talton, Sartain, Garrett Honored by School District


CLEVELAND, Ga. –Heather Talton was recently named Teacher of the Year in the White County School District and will now compete for Georgia Teacher of the Year.

School Superintendent Dr. Jeff Wilson said, “She is just an unbelievable teacher for our special needs students. She has an incredible amount of patience in working with both students and parents to ensure they get what they need and develop the life skills. It is a difficult population to work with and she has been super.”

The process for naming the teacher of the year begins with each district school making nominations. A committee made up of personnel directors from other school districts then interviews the finalists to avoid any chance of favoritism.

After the interview, the Teacher of the Year is chosen and is then eligible to compete for Georgia Teacher of the Year. The winner will then be announced in January.

Talton is married to Pete Talton, a drama teacher at White County High School. They have two children, Silas and Wesleigh.

Kim Sartain was chosen as White County Employee of the Year and Donna Garrett was selected as the system’s Bus Driver of the Year,

Sartain is the nurse at JP Nix Elementary. “Kim does a wonderful job taking care of our sick and injured students and helps promote a healthy life style for our students and staff,” Wilson said. “We are blessed to have a wonderful nurse like Kim serving our kids.”

Donna Garrett has been a bus driver for 26 years for the White County School System. She drives for JP Nix.

“Donna has safely transported our kids in White County for more than 26 years. Donna is the first school person a child sees in the morning and the last school person a child sees in the afternoon. Donna is loved and respected by all her children and often goes beyond the call of duty to make sure that her kids have everything they need. Donna is well deserving of this honor.”



White County Educators Oppose Amendment 1


CLEVELAND, Ga. –- Educators in county after county are working hard to educate Georgia voters about an issue they will be asked to decide in the November election. Amendment 1 asks voters: “Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow the state to intervene in chronically failing public schools in order to improve student performance.”

“Who in their right mind would oppose that,” White County School Superintendent Dr. Jeff Wilson asked Tuesday.

But critics warn that when something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

If passed, Amendment 1 would allow the state government to take control of any school that fails to score at least 60 on the College and Career Readiness Performance Index for three consecutive years and puts them in an Opportunity School District (OSD).

Wilson and others say that effectively muzzles parents and teachers and subjects schools to the control of a politically-appointed state school board and superintendent.

While no White County schools are in danger of being placed into the OSD, Wilson and White County School Board members have unanimously condemn Amendment 1.

“When has the state government ever taken over anything and made it better,” Wilson asked. “This goes completely against local control of our schools.”

Dawson and Lumpkin County School Boards have passed resolutions expressing their opposition to Amendment 1.

Wilson said the state of South Carolina experimented with something similar recently.

“A few years ago a private for-profit company came in and ran failing schools and after a couple of years they gave up,” he said.

“It seems like every day more and more power is going to the state government. We have a state board of education that is appointed and not elected. For me, not being able to elect anybody at the state level is a big concern.”

Another concern is the cost to taxpayers.

Wilson said if the state takes over a school it will have to hire teachers and provide a building. The state will provide some of the funding but not all. Local taxpayers will have to provide the rest.

Wilson said he is afraid the bill will pass overwhelmingly unless voters educate themselves on the issue.

“My fear is there isn’t anything we can do to stop it,” he said. “I believe it will pass overwhelmingly because of the innocent-sounding wording. Who in their right mind would oppose that?

He said he has tried to get the word out in White County by speaking to many community groups.



Dawson County: No Decision Yet on Transgender Students


CLEVELAND, Ga. — White County schools officials have not made a decision yet on how to respond to the federal guideline handed down last week by President Obama’s Justice and Education departments regarding the use of school bathrooms by transgender students.

School Superintendent Dr. Jeffrey Wilson said he just received the guideline on Monday.

“We’re looking at all our options, but no decisions have been made,” he said. “Right now, we’re working on next year’s budget and haven’t had time to discuss it.” The school year ends in two weeks and it’s unlikely a decision will be made before then.

The guideline states that transgender students must be allowed to use the restroom and dressing room that matches their gender identity. While the directive does not have the force of law, systems that do not comply could face lawsuits or the loss of millions of dollars in federal funding.

Wilson said White County receives about $4.5 million a year in federal money. “That’s a lot of money and I’m not sure how much of that the taxpayers are willing to pick up.”

Wilson added: “I wonder if there is a way to do this so that nobody loses their dignity. I do care about all kids and I think if one is struggling with their identity I’d like to help them. I don’t want to see them get beat up over it.”

Wilson said he visited schools in Europe and saw how they handled the problem.

“What they have done is to construct individual stalls inside every bathroom completely surrounded by walls so that people can go into the stalls and still maintain their own individual privacy,” he said. “The sinks are outside the stalls. I’m the father of girls and I don’t care if they wash their hands alongside the boys.”

Wilson said the issue could be discussed at the next Board of Education meeting, but more likely will wait until the budgeting process has concluded.


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