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New filter blocking emails at G-C

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GREENFIELD — The transition to a new spam filter has made communication with the Greenfield-Central School Corp. a little tricky over the past few days, but officials say they’re slowly getting the kinks worked out.

The school began the switch Sunday to the new Lightspeed Rocket system, which effectively erased years of trusted email addresses, said Greg Thompson, the corporation’s Technology Operations Director.

“Basically, it’s a clean slate,” he said.

That’s not unusual, but it has set in motion a new process for having an unknown address approved by the system, Thompson said.

Anyone emailing someone in the school district for what the system believes is the first time will receive a “challenge email” in response. That message asks the sender to reply in order to prove they are not sending spam.

“The idea is spammers are just machines; they’re not real people,” Thompson said. “They’re not going to read and respond.”

Once that response is received, the address is “white-listed,” and emails from it can be received by anyone in the district.

A parent who sent an email in a hurry, then logged off, could miss that challenge message, however, which would prevent the original email from being received.

It could also be caught by the sender’s own spam filter, leaving him or her unaware their initial message wasn’t received.

“It’s one of those things that we kind of have to shake the bugs out as we go through it,” said Thompson, who has manually added some addresses to the system’s list of trusted addresses.

Thompson said he is working on a form that will be posted on the district’s website to allow parents to report that their emails are not getting through.

One benefit of the new system is that it allows for reverse white-listing, Thompson added, meaning a person’s email address is automatically recognized as safe if they receive an email from someone in the corporation.

The corporation receives an average of about 35,000 emails per day, making an aggressive spam filter a necessity, Superintendent Linda Gellert said.

Data show on one day late last month, the school received 34,719 emails, and only about 2,900 were legitimate messages for teachers and staff, Gellert said.

“We’re fodder for everyone that’s marketing a product, educational and otherwise,” Gellert said. “We just kind of get on those lists. We can’t conceivably respond to 34,719 emails in a day.”

Teachers and staff receive a summary email once per day with a list of the emails that have been caught by the spam filter. They may then choose to add an address to their list of safe contacts, and that particular email will be delivered.

The new system also allows staff members to look at the server in real time to see what messages are coming in and being flagged as spam. Those emails are held for 14 days before being automatically deleted.

While there is still some adjusting to do, Gellert said she suspects those who regularly communicate with someone in the schools will quickly be added to the list of trusted contacts.

“It should level within the next couple of weeks, I would anticipate,” she said.

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