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BOE pondering paperless information system

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

The Clayton County Board of Education is considering a move to a paperless system of distributing packets to board members, in an attempt to reduce paper costs and to be more environmentally friendly.

The board is scheduled to vote on switching to the eBoardsolutions system at its Jan. 5 business meeting, according to a version of that meeting's agenda, which was included in the board packets for the Dec. 15 work session.

The system will put the board's information packets online, which would eliminate the bulky informational packets that have to be distributed to board members days before each board meeting.

"It's going to help with all of the papers we have to use for printing our packets," said Board Chairperson Alieka Anderson. "Of course, we want to save trees and not have so much paperwork to deal with. I think it will definitely help us do our jobs more efficiently because we'll get the information sooner."

Presently, each board member receives a thick packet three days before each meeting. These packets are printed by the district and delivered by a courier service. They include executive summaries for each item on the agenda, copies of supporting documents, and resumes for candidates for school system job vacancies.

These packets tell board members everything about what they will be dealing with at an upcoming meeting.

Mark Willis, assistant executive director of the Georgia School Boards Association (GSBA) told board members on Monday that 160 out of GSBA's 180 member school boards use eBoardsolutions.

Willis addressed the board about eBoardsolutions because the online information company is a subsidiary of GSBA, according to its web site. Anderson said Clayton school board members were first exposed to the paperless board packet system at the GSBA conference held last month in Atlanta.

Willis also told board members the cost of the "full package" for eBoardsolutions would be "a little over $20,000 per year." According to the school system's Fiscal Year 2009 budget, the district's printing department spends $391,408 per year printing various materials for the school system, including board packets.

"You are stewards of the budget and you have to make decisions that are in the best interest of the district," said Willis, in his presentation. "Along with that responsibility, you have an obligation to be transparent with your stakeholders."

Much of the information that would be posted on the district's eBoard site would also be available to the public, making it easier for community members to follow the board's decisions. One feature pointed out to Clayton school board members on Monday was the ability to post the district's strategic plan.

A strategic plan is vital to Clayton County Public Schools, because the district has to revise the existing plan in order to regain Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) accreditation. Superintendent John Thompson told the board the district will utilize the public feedback gathered during the strategic plan development in 2007 to shape a new strategic plan.

Anderson said she felt a switch to the eBoard system would be beneficial to, not only the board members, but also the community, which has grown weary of the school system -- and particularly of the school board -- in light of the accreditation crisis.

"It will make it easier for us to be transparent with the community and let them know what we are doing, especially with the strategic plan," said Anderson. "It should be easier for the community to have access to some of the information."

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On the Net:

eBoardsolutions: http://www.eboardsolutions.com/