How Technology Has Affected the Role of School Board Administrators

Getting certified as a school board administrator may not have prepared you for the sheer volume of tasks for which you are responsible. The cost of a mistake is high: Professional reputations, student grades, confidentiality, compliance with regulations and balanced budgets all rely on your consistency and precision. Technological developments can now make this overwhelming job more manageable. Software automates many of the processes that once required vigilance and manual processing, while removing the danger of human error.

  1. Ensure ADA compliance. The right software can lift from your shoulders the burden of tracking fast-changing Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) rules of access for public-facing websites. You need not monitor updates in Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) – such as how WCAG Level I differs from WCAG Level II or which specifications are currently required – as opposed to recommended. Nor must you keep abreast of the many cognitive, manual and sensory deficits that must be accommodated. It’s a lot to keep up with.

Board portal software can keep you on track without sapping your time. Many software vendors claim to provide compliant templates, but overconfidence is rampant. BoardDocspartnerswith the Office of Civil Rights and stays updatedas regulations are being developed. Their programmers create an up-to-date, fully compliant platform on which to build a website that is accessible to all.

  1. Ensure compliance with open meeting laws. You have to post meeting notices and agendas in designated spots by set deadlines. This once meant running around town thumbtacking paper printouts on public buildings. It still means that, but now it’s also possible to reach more people in less time at less cost. Board portal software enables you to post those meeting documents on your public-facing website. Anyone with internet access can see them there.

The benefits of this shift have been surprising. More young adults are attending meetings for the first time, as the online format meets them where they live. District residents who are homebound can also find them. Because of this success, some states now require online posting, and others are likely to follow suit.

Posted minutes become more “open” than ever before. Not only can people now find them online with the click of a mouse, but leading software even lets you post video footage of meetings alongside the minutes. It doesn’t get more transparent than that.

  1. Ensure compliance with open records laws. Keeping binders of public records in the basement of the town library satisfies the letter of the law. Suspicious journalists or researchers with lots of time can pore over the legislation, minutes, maps, RFPs, budget spreadsheets and other documents that constitute public records.

With technology, you can make those records easy to access and more useful once they are found. Top-of-the-line board software lets you store them all in an online archive. (The best brands don’t even charge more for heavy volume, which is likely for a school board administrator.) The cherry on the top: These records are fully searchable by keyword through a meta-search that cuts across all files in all formats.

  1. Manage board and committee materials with precision and security. You juggle multiple audiences as you implement board policies with superintendents and committee chairpersons – at great risk. Some of your readers need to see highly sensitive information that FERPA and HIPAA forbid you from spreading farther. Even one isolated case of carelessness could create a crisis.

Technology can eradicate that risk. Software can sort the recipients of your communications according to their role. Only those entered in the system as “executives” will receive a version of a document containing protected information. “Administrators” and “the public” will receive a scrubbed version of the document. Those roles are set one time (until someone retires or transitions), so there’s no danger of copying an email list with an extra name on it by mistake – or of relying on particular staff who “just know” who should get which version of a document.

  1. Track internal documents sent to committees. Traditionally, you would manually track every document that is sent to every committee – tracing it through edits, deliberations and approvals. With BoardDocs Plus, you no longer play traffic cop on the Autobahn. As the “superpublisher,” you can delegate document management to committee chairs (“publishers”) or their assistants (“administrative publishers”). As the superpublisher, you can view everything that takes place, but you are not personally delivering evolving versions of documents through every stage of the process.
  2. Streamline collaborative editing for board members and administrators. When multiple parties contribute input to a shared document, all hell breaks loose. Hernando marks up “Draft 1,” writes remarks on it and emails the new version to everybody as “Hernando’s comments.” While he’s doing that, Alexa alters “Draft 1” and names her document “Draft 2.” The third commentator does not realize that Hernando’s version does not reflect Alexa’s comments, so he creates a “Draft 3” that excludes one contributor. Now what should the fourth editor do? The more contributors, the greater the chaos.

Technology keeps things straight while relieving you of the dreaded job of switchboard operator. Board portal software with collaborative editing instantaneously refreshes the one shared version that everyone sees online as each contributor makes her remarks. It even keeps track of who-said-what by color-coding comments according to author. It’s not just easier; it’s better.

  1. Manage approval trees. Some documents need to be signed off on by officials in a particular order. Software can simplify the process. Just enter the names of committee members, board members or other officials who must provide an electronic signature. The software sends it to the names listed, in the sequence in which their names were entered. So, the second name on the list gets the document only after the first name on the list has signed off on it, and so on down the line. Each person approving the document can see who has signed off and who has not yet seen the document. All of the recipients can see a final deadline for the entire process.
  2. Organize accruing records. As you oversee board or staff annual evaluations, you may wish you could snap your fingers and pull up all of the relevant documents from the previous 12 months – a reprimand, say, or words pointing out specific strengths. With BoardDocs Plus, it’s easy to build that file throughout the year, so that you really do just “snap your fingers” when you need to pull it all together. As the daily grind goes on and on, you can simply tag files “audit” or “evaluation.” When it’s time to create a report for the year, one click will pull up all of those files. You’ll create a more complete set of records with far less work and no anxiety whatsoever.
  3. Purchase with power. As you make the many purchases that you must, the right software can actually provide you with insider knowledge of what others have paid. Subscribers to BoardDocs Plus can access RFPs, MOUs and contracts that other K-12 administrators have placed in a designated database. A meta-search by keyword brings up thumbnails of records from districts buying the same product or service across the country. Bargaining power is now yours to enjoy.
  4. Bolster public engagement. The school board launches many programs, and it’s your job to promote them. The average American spends a whopping 10 hours per day online. With a web presence, you can catch their attention more easily. You can also offer programs in nontraditional formats (like a PechaKucha event) to pique their interest. Vancouver had the best-attended public “conversation” in its history when it used new media to stir up enthusiasm.

If you struggle to manage the vast volume of duties that face you as a school board administrator with the laser precision that they require, help is here. Technology can do much of it for you, eliminating the risk of human error. From purchasing to negotiating to facilitating internal communication, software can help you do your job more effectively in less time.


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