CPSB cybersecurity breach investigation handed over to DA

Published 8:35 pm Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Calcasieu Superintendent of Education Shannon LaFargue said progress has been made with the cybersecurity breach earlier this year.

At Tuesday night’s School Board meeting, LaFargue said the Calcasieu Parish Sheriff’s Office has officially turned over their findings to the DA’s office. In “encouraging news,” the investigation is now under the Department of Homeland Security, he said.

With federal help, the progress on the investigation has been accelerated and suspects have been identified, LaFargue said without identifiying the suspects.

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Lafargue confirmed that a chronological copy of the investigation will be released under the discretion of Homeland Security.

The fraud occurred earlier this year and was a result of compromised emails of several hurricane-related contractors.

The incident was strictly monetary, according to the School Board, and did not compromise the data of any student or employee.

An internal investigation was launched immediately, and the Calcasieu Parish Sheriff’s Office was contacted.

Tuesday’s meeting was the last one before the  beginning of the new school year and the board voted unanimously to expand the dress code policy to allow blue jean skirts.

Religious accommodations were considered when making this decision. Following the current uniform policy regarding skirts, blue jean skirts cannot go higher than 3 inches above the knee.

The meeting began with a presentation by Shavela Harvey, Calcasieu Parish High School Math Consultant.

Harvey spoke of the success of the summer program for uncertified mathematics teachers needing to pass the Praxis. This program was coined Project 51/65.

“Passing the Praxis can be quite the hurdle, especially in the STEM area,” LaFargue said.

Harvey expressed the importance of a program like Project 51/65. “The ongoing struggle for uncertified teachers and aspiring long-term substitutes to become fully certified is quite an ordeal,” she said.

She designed 51/65 during the spring of 2022 “as an effort designed to assist our current high school math teachers that have not yet achieved the required passing score” on the Praxis.

Harvey witnessed firsthand the struggles of uncertified teachers who found difficulty passing to Praxis. She said many uncertified teachers who are actively participating in alternative certification programs reach an impasse when it is time to take the Praxis.

51/65 consisted of 20 sessions from June 1 to July 22 that were taught by high-performing CPSB teachers. Throughout the program, the participants were taught necessary skills to pass the Praxis. Out of the eight teachers who completed the program and took the Praxis on July 22, six passed.

Lafargue and Harvey said there is plans to expand this program next year to include more teachers and subjects.

Also, announced at Tuesday’s meeting was the impressive growth among elementary schools during the 2021-2022 school year.

“In celebratory news, the CPSB finished in the top 10 among all school districts in the state regarding the amount of growth in scores 20/21 to 21/22,” said LaFargue.

Mastery and proficient scores in math and English both rose 3 points. Math scores rose to 30 percent, while English scores rose to 42 percent. Science mastery scores showed growth as well, increasing to 27 percent, which was 2 points higher than last year. Scores for social studies maintained a 25 perfect score.

Vincent Settlement Elementary School, A.A. Nelson Elementary School, and DeQuincy Elementary School all placed in the top 15 for one-year growth.

T.S. Cooley Elementary Magnet School placed fourth in overall performance in Louisiana.

“Considering what our district has been through, this is a testament to the commitment our educators and communities have to have in rising above all obstacles.”

The board also voted to broaden the criteria for the turnaround principal position at LaGrange High School.

The decision to update the requirement for the position was made after reviewing the suitable applicants. “As applications came in, we came to realize that many of the applicants who had served at the district level didn’t qualify because of our criteria,” LaFargue said. “We came to the realization that there were some suitable candidates that were completely off the table because of our criteria.”

The updated advertisement for the LaGrange turnaround principal will be released before the end of the week. Applicants who already applied and qualify under the updated criteria will be notified and given an interview.

District 11 Representative, Bliss Bujard, was not present at the meeting.