School districts 'not prepared to handle' cyberattacks, Friday Institute director says

Phil Emer tells EdScoop TV about his efforts to modernize school business systems and his concerns about the E-rate process and cybersecurity.

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At the Friday Institute — the education research and innovation center housed on North Carolina State University’s campus — Phil Emer has his hands full with a massive, six-year project to modernize school business systems, including finance, payroll, HR, reporting and licensure.

“There’s a lot of impact in exciting the school districts about moving … to more modern, data-driven, business-process-driven systems,” Emer, the director of technology planning and policy for the institute, tells EdScoop TV. “There’s definitely a good bit of excitement if not a bit of trepidation as well.”

Amid the planning and execution of this project — which is mandated by state law — Emer says he is also thinking a lot about E-rate. In fact, he thinks the entire E-rate process needs to “fundamentally change” — an idea he acknowledges may not be popular among many district IT leaders. And Emer says he is looking at how best to equip technology directors, school districts and states to handle cybersecurity threats.

“We’ve certainly seen in North Carolina a pretty substantial uptick in schools getting attacked directly, typically through targeted phishing kinds of attacks, but most school districts certainly in North Carolina have not been prepared to handle that,” he says.

Learn more about what Emer's working on and his priorities at the Friday Institute for the coming year:

What kind of impact are you seeing from that project so far?

What advice would you offer to others considering this type of project?

What edtech issues do you feel are most important for educators or technology directors to pay attention to this year?

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