Smyth Co. School Board Makes Plans to Go Paperless - Marion, VA
SWVA Today - Southwest Virginia News and Community Resource
Published: May 11, 2010
By Dan Kegley, Staff Reporter
Each month and sometimes more frequently, Smyth County School Board members receive from the central office a packet of reports and other information to help them prepare for and participate in upcoming board meetings.
These packets can be an inch thick and weigh a pound and a half. Board member Jerry Catron asked about just one multi-page report in his packet during the meeting Monday, “How many trees died for this?”
That’s one question being addressed by the school board as it moves in a couple of months to paperless meetings.
At 16 times a year, for regular and additional meetings, the packets sent a few days ahead of meetings to the board’s seven members and prepared for two journalists comprise some 30,000 pages annually, said Superintendent Dr. Mike Robinson.
Paper, copier toner, and employees’ time to make copies and deliver the packets to the board members runs to $3,800 a year, Robinson said.
At the board’s approval, Robinson next month will use a secure online service called BoardDocs to publish the board packets. He will also print the presumably last set of paper packets to ensure a smooth transition.
BoardDocs’ website said it employs a simple word-processor like interface for document loading, and a simple interface for users to access the documents.
At an annual fee of $2,700, the service will save the school board a projected $1,100.
“I think my numbers are conservative,” Robinson said. “I think our actual savings will be way more than $1,100.”
While the move will save money and a few trees, the bulk of each packet’s content will be available to the public on the Board Docs site, providing “a higher level of transparency with the community,” Robinson said.
Not available for public consumption now, as allowed by law, or online will be documents pertaining to some legal, personnel and student discipline issues.
BoardDocs was developed by Emerald Data Solutions Inc., “a privately-held Georgia corporation that has been providing technology services to public and private organizations since 1989,” its website said.
“Our past clients include BellSouth, Turner Broadcasting and the State of Georgia, among many others.”
The company literature said the service was developed in 2000 for Marietta City, Ga., schools. “Since its national introduction in 2002, more than 350 organizations” have gone paperless, and seven to 10 subscribe each month.
“Our unique, state-of-the-art solutions increase transparency in governance, save taxpayers money and have a positive effect on the environment. In fact, BoardDocs has dramatically reduced the need for paper agenda packets in school districts, city councils and corporate boards across the country, eliminating tens of millions of pages that were being printed annually,” the company literature said.