"Paperless" Packets Save Money, the Environment
In one Arizona district, packets for bimonthly school board meetings used to take days and reams of paper to prepare. Now the district is presenting and archiving that information online. The move has freed up at least two days a month of an employees time, copy machines are lasting longer, delivery is easier, and of course, paperless packets are helping the environment.
Since November 2007, the Tolleson (Arizona) Union High School District has saved money, thousands of sheets of paper, and days of labor by the superintendents secretary -- and helped keep the planet a little greener -- by adopting paperless packets for its governing (school) board.
The board packets, which include a meeting agenda and background information about topics, used to stack up to between 100 and 250 pages per copy -- and the district made 20 copies every two weeks for board meetings. Then the copies had to be put in notebooks and delivered to board members.
Now the pages are scanned into a computer file and appear on a Web site accessible by board members and administrators.
It has been a wonderful concept; it has saved reams of paper, said superintendent of schools Dr. Kino Flores.
After seeing a display on paperless presentations at the National School Boards Association conference, Tolleson officials tried out a system called Visual Board Books. After the trial period, the district went out to bid and selected Endexx.
Its a huge market and the market penetration [for online board packets] is low at this point, said Cullen Whitmire, vice president of operations and technology for Endexx. There are about 14,000 school boards in the U.S., and less than 5 percent penetration.
Another company that offers a similar service is Emerald Data Solutions.
To create a visual board book, documents are scanned into portable document files and posted on a secure Web site. Board members and administrators are notified by e-mail when the packet is available online, and can access the site using a password. Packets also can be easily updated or amended by scanning and uploading a new document.
Each board meeting packet is archived on the site. Using key words, school officials and board members also can search for a particular issue themselves. Before this, I had to search through the paper copies, said Karen Morse Eubanks, the administrative assistant to the superintendent and governing board.
Morse Eubanks does keep a paper copy of the packet in her office and other copies can be prepared by request. A paper copy also is available at board meetings. To her knowledge, no member of the public has complained that the packet has been moved online, she added.
Its a great tool, said Mike Watson, president of the board of governors. I can see in the future more school districts going in that direction I had been advocating for something like this. It was incredible. Each board packet took up almost a ream [500 sheets] of paper.
Probably no one is more pleased with the transition to Visual Board Books than Morse Eubanks. She estimates going paperless is saving her about two days a month of copying, collating, and assembling packets.
This has probably cut the governing board part of my job in half, Morse Eubanks told Education World. It was taking me a day-and-a-half to two days a week to get packets ready before every meeting. This frees me up to do other things.
Over the course of a year, education officials estimate that the paperless packets could save the district about $4,500 per year, based on the estimated cost of $1,710 to produce paper packets twice a month for ten months. The program costs $70 per month for each person using the system, so the annual fee for the district is $12,600.
And the governing board secretary is much happier -- you cant calculate the value of that, Morse Eubanks joked. [Also], the copy machines last longer; were saving money on gas and wear and tear on cars, and of course, were not killing as many trees as we used to. Its nice to know that in our own little way were making a difference.
Tolleson officials would like to further reduce the districts need for paper by shifting more documents and functions online, Watson told Education World.
Were trying to put as much information as possible online, he said. Most households are connected to the Internet. Its a more efficient way to communicate. We have the whole board policy book online. We would like to move other information -- not just the board minutes, but job applications as well.
Article by Ellen R. Delisio
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