Culpeper Star - Exponent
Wednesday, June 29, 2016 4:51 pm
Culpeper County Public Schools Superintendent Tony Brads provided several benefits to utilizing BoardDocs, a paperless, online agenda solution, for the Culpeper County School Board before Monday’s work session.
In a recent memo, Brads listed the following as endorsements for implementing the new system: saves time, improves policy management, transparency, reduces the need for staff intervention and provides comparative information.
After Brads fielded questions from the school board, it voted 6-1 to approve the new system. There’s a one-time $1,000 start-up fee and a special subscription rate for Virginia School Board Association members of $10,200 annually, according to Brads.
School board chair Nate Clancy said board members voted in favor of it, following in the footsteps of Culpeper town and county officials and other local school districts.
“I think it will streamline a lot of the work that administrators did previously and will ensure all of our documentation is online in a timely manner and easily searchable for staff and the general public. It looks quite easy to use,” explained Clancy.
School board vice chair Betsy Smith said although she doesn’t know much about BoardDocs, she understands how it will help the school board save money, time and operate more effectively.
“It will make our meeting documents easy to access. I am definitely in favor of making information easier for our citizens to access. Our county and town administrations already use BoardDocs; we will be uniform in our information processing, said Smith. "Change is never easy, but once we make the transition, I'm confident it will be to our benefit.”
School board member Elizabeth Hutchins was the lone opposing vote.
“I think the $10,000 each year for BoardDocs would be better spent in other places. I find our system to be much more user friendly. I have used BoardDocs through Virginia School Boards Association and I do not care for it. I do not believe that it is more efficient than our system,” said Hutchins.
The web-based system currently used by the school division is free.
Before Monday’s decision, Brads said by using BoardDocs, board clerks, superintendents and administrators would save time when putting together, distributing and modifying agendas and supporting documents.
“Typically, BoardDocs sees the amount of time used in this process reduced between 50 to 75 percent. Also, savings will occur from reduced paper and copy costs,” said Brads.
According to Brads, the school division’s policies are currently in PDF files on the school division’s website, but by implementing BoardDocs, the move would improve policy management.
“They are not easily searchable. Files are stored on a computer or a group drive. Then we have to manage copies as we edit, pass them along, PDF them, upload them, etc. BoardDocs policy management will give us a single point of update in an easily searchable interface for all stakeholders,” Brads explained in his memo to school board members. “You will know that the policies you are looking at online are truly the most up-to-date version because BoardDocs becomes your single point of management and update for your policies. We can have a working version and history as well, in one place, with tools available to help manage timely review and update of policies on an ongoing basis.”
Brads said that BoardDocs also offers transparency.
“Yes, our agendas are on the website, but they are not intuitive to search from the public perspective. There is a search tab on the website but it searches the entire site without drilling down to a specific meeting or agenda item,” he said. “With BoardDocs, we can easily share supporting documents within the context of the agenda. All information easily accessible and in one place.”
Brads explained that with half of Virginia school divisions using BoardDocs, it is a great way to see what others are doing about key issues, policies and budgets.
“Also, BoardDocs allows school divisions to see what the others are doing across the nation from one convenient location,” he added.
Brads also mentioned how BoardDocs would reduce the need for staff intervention as well.
“For example, when Freedom of Information Act requests are made or when staff/board needs information — making information available and easily searchable for everyone drastically reduces the amount of time that staff must spend helping other staff, board, the public and media find information from past meetings. The interface is very easy to use,” he added.
Brads also explained how BoardDocs would help the Culpeper school division when it comes to comparative information.
“With half of Virginia school divisions using BoardDocs, it is a great way to see what others are doing about key issues, policies, and budget. Also, BoardDocs allows school divisions to see what the others are doing across the nation from one convenient location,” he shared.
Brads also mentioned that with the BoardDocs subscription, training is included and instructors would visit Culpeper to teach employees how to use it and return if anyone else needed assistance.
Should the school division decide to discontinue use of BoardDocs, CCPS own the data.
Rhonda Simmons can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (540) 825-0771 ext. 125.