Arlington Public Schools says around 40 more employees have been victims of a data breach that compromised employee tax information.
That’s in addition to the 28 employees APS said were affected last week.
APS said an unknown party or parties were able to login to APS’ secure data system, STARS, via use of “personally identifiable information… from an unknown source.”
Employees were given the latest update on the data breach Wednesday afternoon, said Assistant Superintendent Linda Erdos.
APS is taking steps to better secure its systems, employees were told.
In addition to the steps we took last week to contract with cybersecurity experts to assist with our on-going investigation, we have put in place several more precautions to protect all employees’ personal information.
1. We have changed the STARS password for all accounts that may have been compromised.
2. We have disabled the “self-service password reset” feature in STARS. Now, if you need to reset your password, you need to call the Help Desk at x2847.
3. We also have added a new requirement for logging into STARS with a device that is outside of the APS network. The system will now require you to provide your APS network username and password first before you can log into STARS.
With the help of the outside organizations and experts that we have hired, our entire team in the Department of Information Services continues to focus on the ongoing investigation. In addition, we have obtained the services of an outside cybersecurity expert to advise us on additional steps that can be taken to further ensure our network security. We have also contracted with an outside organization to perform regular security audits of our network in the future.
Shortly after our first article on the data breach was published last week, a tipster told ARLnow.com that the problem was bigger than APS had admitted.
What the ‘announcement’ did not say was that multiple APS employees have been informed by the IRS in the last two weeks that fraudulent returns for 2015 have been filed with their name and social security number along with that of their spouses and children, information beyond W2 information. This is beyond the supposedly 28 employees breached by the exposure of their W2s.
Here’s what the same tipster said earlier this week.
In a follow up to your story of a week ago. In addition to the 28 employees, there are over 90 APS employees who have been impacted by a data breach with many having fraudulent tax returns filed using their names and social security numbers along with their dependents.
Said APS: “We will continue our investigation of the most recent event and update everyone if we obtain additional information.”
(Updated at 3:20 p.m.) More than two dozen Arlington Public Schools employees have had their social security numbers and tax information compromised in a data breach, according to a memo sent to APS employees Monday.
The breach exposed the W-2 tax forms of 28 APS employees, the school system said. APS issues around 7,000 W-2 forms to employees annually, according to Assistant Superintendent Linda Erdos.
The breach occurred on a third-party server and there is no evidence that APS’ own systems were compromised, the memo says. However, APS has notified the FBI about the incident.
More than 40 companies reported attacks that compromised employee W-2 data during the first quarter of this year, according to news reports.
The memo to employees is below.
Recently, the staff in our Information Services Department was notified that files of W-2 tax forms for 28 APS employees were discovered to have been stored by an unknown party on an out-of-state organization’s server that had been hacked.
After reviewing the circumstances and the contents of the 28 files, at this time we believe that the W-2s were generated individually through the “employee self-service” feature of our STARS ERP system. We have not found any indication or evidence at this time to indicate that this represents a breach of APS the data systems. Currently, we believe that this is a limited incident.
Human Resources staff has contacted the 28 staff members directly to inform them of this discovery, and to provide them with some guidance to help them address the situation.
We have heard recent news reports that this has happened to other individuals in our region and throughout the country, particularly right now as we are at the conclusion of the federal tax filing period. Therefore, APS is taking several steps that are in line with our standard data practices. They will also assist us with our continued investigations, and will help to ensure that our data continues to be protected.
- First, we have contacted the FBI and notified them about this incident.
- We have also contacted the AT&T Cybersecurity Unit and they are performing a complete threat assessment for all of our APS systems.
- Finally, while we will continue to collaborate with the FBI and all parties who are investigating this incident, we have also hired Dr. Naren Kodali, who is an information security expert, to consult on our APS data security systems. Dr. Kodali is a highly-qualified and well-known professional in the field of cyber-security as well and is a professor of Information Security at George Mason University, and has also served as the Dean of Computer Information Systems at other universities.
In addition, as a precaution, we are providing all APS staff with recommendations of best practices that everyone should take to safeguard your personal information online, both at work and at home. Those tips have been posted online in the Staff Central section of the APS website.
Arlington Public Schools will be taking some steps soon to address a rocky outdoor play area at Claremont Immersion Elementary School.
As we reported Tuesday, parents complained about the condition of the fields around the Claremont playground, posting photos of bare, rocky ground and other hazards.
Unlike a previous effort, this time around parents appear to have succeeded in getting the school system to take action.
“After several Claremont parents and I contacted APS about the schoolyard conditions at Claremont Immersion, APS responded within 24 hours,” Melissa Schwaber told ARLnow.com. “They indicated that they are already working on some short term fixes to the schoolyard, while also working with Arlington County Parks and Recreation to identify more sustainable long term solutions.”
“I was gratified to hear such a positive response so quickly from APS, and am optimistic they will follow through on these commitments,” Schwaber added.
APS spokesman Frank Bellavia said school facilities staff plans to remove the rocks, plant new grass and put down mulch in a portion of the field, in addition to extending one of the playgrounds by adding mulch. So far, there’s no estimate for when that work will take place.
McKinley Elementary School, in Arlington’s Madison Manor neighborhood, will open the next school year 131 percent over capacity due to construction delays, school officials told parents this week.
McKinley is in the midst of a $22 million expansion project that was approved in 2014. The expansion will add 241 seats to the school, which opened this school year with a capacity of 443 and an already-burgeoning enrollment just north of 600 students.
APS is adjusting school boundaries to move students from Glebe and Tuckahoe elementary schools, which are both also well over capacity, to McKinley this fall. The idea was to balance capacity utilization across the schools, taking advantage of McKinley’s expansion.
There’s only one problem: the expansion, which was to wrap up this summer, is now not expected to be completed until November or December. And APS is moving forward with its boundary adjustments regardless, bringing a projected student body of 712 to McKinley in the fall.
In a presentation to parents and the community, APS said its contractor encountered a number of unexpected problems, including the discovery of an underground spring, old building footings and undocumented utility lines.
Those problems are delaying the expected substantial completion of “Phase 3” of the expansion project — a three-story addition with a number of classrooms and other facilities — until late November.
To bridge the gap, over the summer APS will be re-installing a “six-plex” classroom trailer complex that it had removed over spring break, to allow for the installation of an underground storm water management system. APS was able to meet capacity needs without the trailers thanks to the completion of “Phase 2” — a one-story addition with four new classrooms — over the winter.
A few concerned parents have emailed ARLnow.com about the construction snafu, concerned about APS proceeding with the boundary changes. However, APS’ numbers show that capacity utilization will actually be slightly lower even without the Phase 3 addition.
McKinley was 136.6 percent over capacity when it opened last fall, according to APS. It is projected to be 131.1 percent over capacity when it opens this fall, thanks to a 100-student boost in capacity via the completed expansion work.
Once classes move into the three-story addition over winter break, the school will be 104 percent over capacity: a capacity of 684 for 712 students. That compares to the projected 112.4 percent capacity level at Glebe Elementary and 107.5 percent at Tuckahoe Elementary.
“APS believes that moving the students from Tuckahoe and Glebe to McKinley as planned this fall provides the best continuity of instruction and relieves crowding at both Tuckahoe and Glebe,” Assistant Superintendent of Facilities and Operations John Chadwick told ARLnow.com.
Parents are also concerned about a lack of recreation space for students at McKinley. A new gymnasium won’t be ready until Phase 3 is completed and the fields around the school are now not expected to be restored post-construction until April 2017. This fall, physical education classes will take place in a trailer in the school’s parking lot.
An open field next to Abingdon Elementary School in Fairlington is now being used by the school’s relocatable classroom trailers, ahead of an expansion and renovation of the school.
The trailers were recently relocated to the field, next to a playground and on top of a paved loop that’s often used by those learning to ride a bike. About a dozen trees around the field have also been cut down.
According to a construction bidding document, part of the field will also soon be used as a temporary parking lot.
The changes are connected to the expansion and renovation of Abingdon, which was approved last year and is expected to wrap up in 2017.
“The relocatable classrooms have been moved onto the site in preparation for the upcoming construction project,” said Arlington Public Schools spokesman Frank Bellavia. “The existing field will be used for relocatable classrooms and temporary classrooms and then restored at the end of the construction project.”
“In accordance with the approved Use Permit and as agreed upon by the County, some trees were removed prior to the start of construction, prior to April 1 and before birds and animals start nesting in them,” Bellavia added.
(Updated at 4:55 p.m.) George Mason University’s Arlington-based law school has been renamed after the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.
GMU agreed to rename the law school, based in the Virginia Square neighborhood, after receiving two donations for a total of $30 million, the largest combined gift in university history. Of the $30 million, $20 million came from an anonymous donor, via the Federalist Society, and $10 million was donated by the Charles Koch Foundation.
GMU’s Board of Visitors voted in favor of the new name this afternoon, the Wall Street Journal reported. Scalia, a McLean resident, passed away in his sleep on Feb. 13 while visiting a Texas ranch.
After the jump, the press release from George Mason University announcing the new name.
Miller will be joining other K-12 teachers on a team at the Ice Cube Neutrino Observatory in Antarctica. The team will be researching high-energy neutrinos.
Miller will “experience first-hand what it is like to conduct scientific research in some of the most remote locations on earth,” and will then be able to use that experience to help engage her students back in Arlington.
“While on field expeditions, teachers and researchers will share their experiences with scientists, educators, communities, and students of all ages through the use of Internet tools such as online teacher and researcher journals, message boards, photo albums, podcasts, PolarConnect real-time presentations from the field, and online learning resources,” noted a press release. “After the field experience, teachers and researchers will continue to share their experiences with the public and create instructional activities to transfer scientific data, methodologies, and technology to classrooms.”
The expedition is being managed by the Arctic Research Consortium of the U.S. (ARCUS) and funded by the National Science Foundation;
As Arlington Public Schools continues to grapple with ever-increasing enrollment, the school system is continuing to add relocatable classroom trailers to over-capacity schools.
Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy included $2.6 million in his proposed budget for the purchase of relocatable classrooms next school year. As the trailers are parked outside of schools, there is increasing concern about the loss of open, recreational space.
At Arlington Science Focus School, near Virginia Square, the PTA recently expressed concern that two additional relocatables, slated to be added next school year, would have to be placed on the school’s blacktop — thus resulting in the loss of a recess and phys ed area. (Four relocatables are already placed on a field outside the school.)
The PTA, working with APS, came up with a solution already at place at some other schools: a “six-plex” modular school unit that houses six classrooms and a common space, not unlike this one. The consolidated unit would cut down on the amount of open space taken up.
There are already five “six-plexes” in Arlington: two at McKinley Elementary and one each at Claremont, Oakridge and Taylor elementary schools.
APS spokesman Frank Bellavia says the school system works with schools, parents and neighbors to figure out the best way to place relocatables at schools. But the need for the modular classrooms, he said, points to the need for APS to continue building new schools and school additions expeditiously.
“We work with school leadership and the neighboring community to find the best location for the relocatables,” Bellavia said. “This is why we need more seats for more students.”
After the jump: the letter from the Science Focus PTA to parents.
Photo via Google Maps
Arlington Democrats will have four School Board candidates to choose from at an endorsement caucus in May.
The “unassembled caucus” — also referred to as a “firehouse primary,” with an instant run-off voting process used to determine the winners — will be held over two days:
- Thursday, May 19 from 7-9 p.m. at Drew Model School (3500 23rd Street S.)
- Saturday, May 21 from 11 a.m.-7 p.m. at Washington-Lee High School (1301 N. Stafford Street)
There are two School Board seats in contention, one of which is up for grabs with the retirement of School Board member Emma Violand-Sanchez. The candidates vying for the Democratic endorsement are:
Prior to the caucus, a candidate debate will be held at the Arlington County Democratic Committee monthly meeting at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, April 6 at the Fairlington Community Center (3308 S. Stafford Street).
While a school budget battle rages in Fairfax County, Arlington Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy quietly rolled out his budget proposal last night.
Murphy’s budget, which he presented at Thursday’s School Board meeting, calls for a 3.9 percent spending increase over the 2015-2016 school budget. That compares to the 6 percent increase sought by Fairfax County Public Schools, which is also experience growing pains from increased student enrollment.
The proposed, $579.4 million budget includes $10.8 million to handle a projected 4.5 percent growth in student enrollment next school year, $9.6 million for a staff “step increase” in salary, an extra $3 million for infrastructure maintenance and $750,000 for the launch of Arlington Tech, a new environment-and-engineering-focused technical education program at the Arlington Career Center.
Also included: $4.4 million for various instructional and student support initiatives, like new social studies textbooks, an additional substance abuse counselor and three next elementary-level gifted program teachers.
Most of the budget — 59.3 percent — goes to teacher and staff salaries. Murphy said the school system found some “efficiencies” this year by changing some of its salary and health care options for new employees.
APS is expecting enrollment to grow by 1,135 students next school year — it currently stands just above 25,000 — and to exceed 30,000 by 2021. The money in Murphy’s proposed budget would fund new teachers, new instructional materials, two new school buses and includes $2.6 million for new trailer classrooms, called “relocatables” by APS.
Class sizes would remain the same under the proposed budget. The cost per pupil will increase, from $18,616 this year to $18,893.
There is no increase in budget this year for the APS’ 1:1 technology initiative, which provides laptops for each high school student and iPads for students at lower grade levels starting in second grade. The technology rollout will be complete in 2017. From FY 2018-2020, the instructional technology budget is expected to rise a cumulative $9.3 million, due mostly to enrollment growth and the renewal of APS’ technology lease agreement.
Murphy’s budget this year projects a $1.9 million deficit between revenues and expenditures, despite the use of $11.3 million in one-time reserve funds. Thanks to prudent budgeting, administrators said, APS currently has $65.2 million across its various reserve funds.
Debt service amounts to 8.1 percent of the proposed budget — $46.7 million. That’s a slight, 3 percent increase over the current fiscal year. Administrators said that even though APS continues to take on new debt to build and renovate schools, it’s benefiting from the retirement of older debt. APS will begin its capital improvement planning process in June. By law, debt service may not exceed 10 percent of the APS budget.
While declining to make direct comparisons to Fairfax County, Murphy thanked Arlington County leaders for being “committed to maintaining excellence” at APS and credited the county’s diversified tax base — which is evenly split between commercial and residential — for helping to keep the school systems’ finances stable.
“Here in Arlington we believe in public education,” he said. “We have the support of the entire community.”
In terms of budgeting, “the strength of our tax base here and how we manage our money is, I think, our biggest strength,” said Murphy.
“We are very fortunate to live in a community that is committed to providing students with an exceptional public education,” Murphy said in a statement. “As enrollment continues to rise significantly, we want to maintain the assets that have made us an outstanding school division, including dedicated and highly-qualified teachers with small class sizes, healthy and safe spaces that nurture student learning; addressing the individual needs of the whole child; and providing multiple pathways for students to achieve success.”
Following public hearings, the School Board will reveal its proposed budget in April and adopt its final budget in May.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids have local undocumented immigrant families on edge, fearful to send their kids to school, according to an email sent to parents by Arlington Public Schools.
In the email, Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy says he’s “concerned” about reports of raids targeting adults and children who have recently fled Central America. Murphy says APS strives to provide a welcoming learning environment for all students.
“In 1982, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that public schools may not deny access to any child, whether present in the United States legally or otherwise,” Murphy writes. “More recently in May 2014, the Secretary of Education and Attorney General reaffirmed this ruling and provided guidance to all public school leaders to ensure public school access for all children, regardless of their immigration status.”
“I want to reassure all of our families that children in our care will be safe,” said Murphy. The full email is below.
Dear APS Families and Staff,
I have been concerned by recent news reports about raids to deport adults and children who have fled violence in Central America and recently migrated to the United States. Because of these actions by members of the Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents, Arlington Public Schools’ (APS) teachers, administrators and Board members have heard reports that some families in our community are fearful to send their children to school. I want to reassure all of our families that children in our care will be safe.
APS is committed to providing an excellent public education to every school-aged student residing in Arlington County. In 1982, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that public schools may not deny access to any child, whether present in the United States legally or otherwise. More recently in May 2014, the Secretary of Education and Attorney General reaffirmed this ruling and provided guidance to all public school leaders to ensure public school access for all children, regardless of their immigration status.
As educators, the staff of Arlington Public Schools has always acknowledged our legal and, more importantly, our moral obligations to provide an education to all students who live in our community. The School Board’s Vision statement reaffirms our commitment to all children by affirming that we are, “a diverse and inclusive school community, committed to academic excellence and integrity. We provide instruction in a caring, safe and healthy learning environment, responsive to each student, in collaboration with families and the community.” In addition, the School Board has adopted as one of our Core Values to “value all students, staff and families in our diverse, inclusive school community.”
All of us are deeply committed to providing instruction in a caring, safe and healthy learning environment that is responsive to each student.
We believe that the diversity of Arlington County is one of our community’s most significant assets, and we value and will continue to support all of our students and families.
Dr. Patrick K. Murphy
Arlington Public Schools
Ahead of tonight’s potentially disruptive snow, Arlington Public Schools has cancelled all evening activities.
The National Weather Service has issued a warning for icy road conditions today from 5pm to 11pm and encourages everyone to adjust their travel plans during this time. As a result of the forecast for rush hour this evening, all APS Late Athletic Buses as well as all APS evening activities are cancelled for today. Tonight’s Summer Activities Fair is also canceled and will be held next Friday, Feb. 19. The APS Extended Day Program will close at the regular time, but parents are encouraged to pick up their children earlier if possible.
The cancelled activities include athletic events, like tonight’s scheduled Wakefield High School basketball games and senior night.
Also tonight, Arlington County community centers will be closing at 5 p.m. That and other cancellations from the Arlington Dept. of Parks and Recreation:
- The Summer Camp Fair scheduled at Thomas Jefferson Community Center tonight at 6 p.m. is canceled.
- All community centers (joint use and standalone) will close for the evening at 5 p.m.
- All Enjoy Arlington classes, 55+ classes, trips and nature center programs in all buildings with start times of 4 p.m. or later are canceled.
- All Sports activities, leagues and instructional programs are canceled for this evening.
- DPR Elementary and Teen After-school Programs will close at 5 p.m.
- All other events and activities scheduled after 5 p.m. this evening are canceled.
- All synthetic fields are closed for this evening.
- Powhatan Springs Skate park closed after 5 p.m.
The snow is currently not expected to start falling in Arlington until around 8 p.m. From the Capital Weather Gang:
— Capital Weather Gang (@capitalweather) February 12, 2016
The number of PreK-12 students enrolled in Arlington Public Schools is expected to surpass 30,000 in 2022 after steadily rising for years, according to APS in its newly released enrollment report.
School officials say 25,238 students were enrolled as of Sept. 30, 2015, the first time since 1969 that APS has reached the 25,000 student milestone. By 2017, the school projects 27,491 students will have enrolled, an increase of 4.5 percent over the previous year. And steady growth continues from there: The school says its student body will grow by at least 2.5 percent until the 2021-2022 school year, when it’s expected to surpass 30,700 students.
According to APS, the total number of enrolled students “has risen at an unprecedented high growth pattern since 2008.” Since fall 2005, the number of students has grown by more than 6,800 students, an increase of about 37 percent.
Growth will likely slow to 1.7 percent by 2023 and continue to wane thereafter, APS adds. By 2026, the school’s student body is projected to grow only by 0.6 percent and reach an enrollment total of 32,807.
Overall, the school expects to add nearly 7,600 students between now and 2026.
Though all other alternative projections put the school over 30,000 students by 2024 at the latest, APS says it’s possible that the number of enrolled students could shrink instead of grow by that time. One projection says the school could lose 1,181 students between 2021 and 2025. But the school cautions that such alternative projections “are not statistical confidence limits, but instead represent judgments made by planning staff as to reasonable upper and lower bounds.”
Among the factors used to project school enrollment was historic birth rates in Arlington County, which are used to project the number of future incoming kindergarten students.
An average of 2,800 live births per year were recorded in Arlington between 2004 to 2008. Between 2009 and 2013, a period APS refers to as “the wave,” about 3,100 births on average were recorded each year. As children born during “the wave” grow up, they’re expected to crowd schools as they advance through elementary, middle and high school.
In response, APS has in the past undertaken several actions to mitigate school crowding, like hiring 387 new teachers last summer and utilizing trailer classrooms.
Among the steps being taken by APS to add more capacity for the growing student body are adding an elementary school at the Thomas Jefferson Middle School site, expanding Abingdon Elementary in Fairlington and building the new Stratford Middle School while moving the H-B Woodlawn Secondary Program to Rosslyn.
Graphs via APS Enrollment Report
The so-called backpack mail for parents of elementary and middle school students is being phased out in favor of an electronic system, following a successful pilot program, according to APS spokesman Frank Bellavia.
The system, called Peachjar, is specifically designed for schools. It sends electronic flyers to parents’ email inboxes, thus cutting costs and staff time that would otherwise be spent making paper copies and distributing them.
The new system is being rolled out to all elementary and middle schools “over the next few weeks,” Bellavia said.
Families can request that they keep receiving paper copies and paper flyers will be posted on school bulletin boards. Otherwise, there are a number of options for electronic delivery.
“Parents can access the flyers via weekly email notifications they receive, by checking the school’s website, or accessing flyers on the APS Mobile App,” said Bellavia. “Families like the Peachjar option because electronic copies stay online for at least 30 days, and are linked directly to the organization’s website where they can access more information or directly sign up for programs electronically, which is more convenient than keeping track of paper copies and following up on advertised services.”
The pilot program took place at six elementary schools and one middle school last fall and of the families surveyed about it, 86 percent said they wanted to keep the new system instead of returning to backpack mail, according to APS. Nonprofit organizations and PTAs also participate in backpack mail and APS received an enthusiastic response from them.
“More than 100 nonprofit organizations who participate in our backpack mail program were surveyed, and only one respondent indicated a desire to return to backpack mail,” said Bellavia. “APS, schools and PTAs can use the service for free, and nonprofit organizations pay a nominal fee that is less costly than making copies, to distribute their flyers electronically to families. Our PTAs are excited about the service because they can use it for free to distribute their flyers, saving time and the expense of printing paper copies.”
“This program supports the APS commitment to its core value of sustainability, and many families, community members and staff have urged APS to find a paperless (environmentally friendly) alternative to backpack mail,” Bellavia noted.
High schools do not have backpack mail and thus are not slated to get the new system. After the jump, a video about Peachjar.
Arlington Public Schools students are off today due to a scheduled teacher grade preparation day. It’s the eighth consecutive weekday off for APS students, who’ve enjoyed one snow day after another since Thursday, Jan. 21.
Care-free snow days, however, could eventually become a thing of the past.
APS is likely, in the near future, to consider the idea of having students “telecommute” from home when school is cancelled. They would do so from their school-issued computers — APS is in the process of outfitting every high school student with a Macbook Air and every second- through eighth-grader with an iPad.
Once every second-grade student and up has a laptop or iPad, teachers could assign homework, reading and online lessons remotely and students could complete it from the comfort of their own homes. Theoretically, at least — some policy changes would be needed, particularly when it comes to expectations for teachers. There’s also the question of whether all APS teachers and families have internet access at home.
“For students, it will be explored in the future once all students have devices,” said APS spokesman Frank Bellavia, in response to an inquiry from ARLnow.com. “For teachers, this will require some policy changes which will probably be discussed in the future as well.”