Journal-News (Dayton, OH)
By Bob Ratterman
Thursday, Dec. 12, 2013
OXFORD — Talawanda Board of Education meetings are not paperless, but they could be eventually and are already using less paper, thanks to the use of BoardDocs, an on-line eGovernance initiative.
Superintendent Kelly Spivey said BoardDocs will save taxpayer dollars and the environment while making district documents more easily accessible to residents. Board agendas and minutes are the initial items being posted there, but district policies and procedures will be moved to the site.
The district instituted BoardDocs at last month’s board meeting, which allowed the agenda to be in front of board members electronically as well as projected on the screen over their heads for the public to follow along. There were still paper copies of the agenda in the room, but Spivey said BoardDocs is already cutting down on paper usage.
She admitted one of those paper copies was on her desk.
“Any time you try something for the first time, there is a comfort level that comes with experience. I think the majority of the board is comfortable,” Spivey said. “I had both in front of me. There is always a fear the Internet will go down. We just have to get more comfortable. I look forward to getting that experience and get a confidence level to implement this full time.”
BoardDocs was developed in 2000 for a Georgia school district and hundreds of governing bodies have adopted the system nationwide since then.
Once the district staff has migrated all the policies and board meeting information to the system, it will be easy to call them up during discussions and with projections on the screen, allow the public to see them at the same time as board members.
BoardDocs is accessible to anyone at any time through the Talawanda district website so that residents can preview meeting agenda, review meeting minutes and look at supporting documentation for board items.
Spivey said they would not likely generate the meeting minutes actually during the meetings, but it is possible with the system.
A major paper- and time-saving factor to the use of BoardDocs is preparation of the meeting agendas. The system has an internal access for administration and board members. As the agenda is being prepared ahead of public release, that access will allow board members to review potential agenda items and contribute more easily to the preparation, rather than by phone or additional paperwork.
Spivey said she and former superintendent Dr. Phil Cagwin began investigating BoardDocs about five years ago. They decided to hold off but she decided earlier this year the time is right.
“Not everyone was tech-minded. “We were not ready. Now, I wanted to re-present it,” she said. “As I make the agenda, board members can go in and make comments before it is released to the public. It will save time and money and be more efficient.”
Spivey said BoardDocs will enable the district to maximize the effectiveness of board meetings with increased transparency, providing a basis for better and more open communication with the public, while dramatically increasing productivity and saving thousands of dollars annually.
BoardDocs will increase the amount of time board members have to review agenda information, enabling them to better prepare for meetings. Under the old paper system, the meeting packet could not be distributed until every document had been prepared, submitted and approved. Once all the documents were submitted, staff members would typically spend two days assembling the documents into packets before distributing them to the board.
All documents associated with the meeting are automatically archived and can be accessed by meeting date or by using the system’s comprehensive search feature.
The Talawanda School District will also use the BoardDocs technology to publish its policies and procedures online for the public to easily view. Previously, paper versions of policy manuals were distributed and maintained throughout the organization. Now, by publishing them online, all interested parties can have access to the most current and historical meeting information immediately. Online distribution will also drastically reduce the expense of distributing policies and procedures.
Through the MetaSearch feature, members will also have access to best practices from other organizations that are using the system, allowing them to gain important knowledge about initiatives other governing bodies have considered and implemented.
Staff members who will be putting items into the system took part in a three-day workshop in October in preparation while board members and other staff members had an evening workshop to train them for their use.
The new eGovernance features can be accessed via the organization’s website at www.talawanda.net. Go to the “Board of Education” tab and a pull-down there will take you to BoardDocs. For questions regarding the new eGovernance initiatives or for instruction on how to utilize BoardDocs, visit the website or contact June Grubb at 513-273-3104.