Pickerington Times-Sun

District goes electronic with school board information

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The Pickerington Local School District Board of Education has gone paperless in a move district officials say will increase transparency for the public.

At the school board's first meeting of the year Jan. 13, district administrators announced hard copies of agendas would no longer be on hand.

The move was part of a transition to provide board agendas, as well as documents related to contracts and policies, via BoardDocs, an "online governance solutions" service.

In addition to agendas and corresponding agenda items being projected onto video screens during the meetings, the service allows for access to board-related business via the Pickerington Local School District website: www.pickerington.k12.oh.us.

District officials also said board agendas, documents and other information can be obtained through smart phones, tablets and other wireless devices during meetings.

"The biggest thing, again, is ease of use and the transparency to the community and constituents being able to see our agenda, and really everything that's going on," said Rob Walker, district superintendent.

"I see the board is also kind of modeling that behavior (for students and teachers).

"I think there's a definite correlation there in the board wanting to step forward into the 21st century and become a little more technology-oriented."

According to BoardDocs.com, its service was launched nationally in 2002 and its virtues include cost-saving technology that also reduces staff time, improves government effectiveness, increases transparency and helps the environment.

It was developed and is marketed by the Atlanta-based Emerald Data Solutions.

Local school board members and district administrators still were getting acclimated with the service Jan. 13, as evidenced by difficulties experienced recording board votes and transitioning from items on the agenda.

However, Walker said those issues will be resolved through greater use and familiarity, and BoardDocs "provides tremendous access to our community."

District Treasurer Ryan Jenkins said he currently doesn't have estimates for how much the district will save in printing and paper costs, but BoardDocs will save the district money and improve storage and accessibility of school board documents, which are public records.

"What is more important about BoardDocs is that it will bring much needed efficiencies in board document management," Jenkins said.

"BoardDocs items are all indexable and searchable, making records retention and responding to requests for information much easier," he said.

"In fact, that is where (the district) expects the most efficiencies in costs -- fewer personnel hours spent on copying, filing, indexing, etc., and more efficient and accurate records filing and production.

"(It) also allows the public unfettered access, via the public BoardDocs site, to documentation," Jenkins said.

Currently, the district is under a one-year contract for BoardDocs services.

Jenkins said there was a $1,000 setup fee, and there is a $9,600 annual, recurring charge.

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