Thursday, December 03, 2009
By Brian David
The Moon Area school board is going paperless -- for board meetings, anyway.
The school board Nov. 23 approved subscribing to the Web-based service BoardDocs LT, which will create agendas and board packets, record votes, automate the creation of minutes and store board records, for $2,700 per year and a $1,000 setup and training fee.
"I've been here since January, and already I have two file drawers full of board documents," district technology director Chris Hatty said.
Mr. Hatty said he researched several paperless meeting software packages before choosing BoardDocs. He said he liked it because it is cheap and relatively simple, while offering strong search functions and storage capacity.
"Most of the systems add complex computerized-meeting systems," he said. "This is really just a paperless agenda."
Moon Area joins several other districts, such as Chartiers Valley and South Fayette, in going paperless. Chartiers Valley implemented the BoardDocs service in October 2008.
Mr. Hatty said Moon Area's system most likely would pay for itself partly by saving paper but more by saving the time of the clerical staffers who print and assemble the materials distributed to school board members.
Board members' concerns focused on privacy and security.
"What if someone's password is compromised?" board member Nick Pollack asked.
Mr. Hatty said he would look into additional security options, such as matching passwords to specific computers, so passwords would work only on the machines used by board members.
He also said that while the agenda and most of the packet material would be online for public access, other documents in the packet could be kept private, for board members only.
Mr. Hatty also noted that the system's search function would let board members look at the policies of any other school district using it, a helpful tool when creating and updating school standards.
He also said the middle school could provide a cart of laptops for board members to use for meetings until computers can be obtained.
Paperless school board meetings originated about a decade ago.
In the North Hills School District, former superintendent John Esaias said he was inspired in 2002 to change his board's reliance on paper by an article in Electronic School's online magazine about the Katy Independent School District in Texas, one of the first, in the fall of 1999, to use electronic agendas.
With more than 32,000 students, the Katy district in suburban Houston was motivated by a desire to improve communications among the superintendent, school board and administrators at its 29 campuses.
Brian David can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-722-0086.