School board uses high tech to learn paperless system By David Lias
Plain Talk In a special meeting bursting with high technology, the Vermillion School Board learned of a practical way to begin conducting its meetings with hardly a shuffle of paper. Board members listened to a verbal presentation given by Artistides Ioannides, president of Emerald Data Solutions, Park City, UT. Ioannides' presentation accompanied an Internet presentation he beamed to Superintendent Mark Froke's laptop computer. The image on Froke's computer screen was then beamed on the wall of the board's conference room so they could follow along as Ioannides described how his paperless system works. The name of Ioannides' product is BoardDocs. It has been developed for school boards, local governments, private and public boards to help alleviate the task of assembling, printing, distributing and revising agenda items and policies. BoardDocs allows local governments to process agenda items, supporting documents, policies and procedures, and also determine who has access to each document – such as board members and staff, or the general public. It also gives local governments, like school boards, last minute revisions, and the ability to redistribute the materials in mere minutes. Ioannides estimates that, should the Vermillion School Board decide to try his product, the clerical staff could eventually put the information together needed for school board members in approximately 75 percent less time than the current paper only method. There are two versions of BoardDocs currently being used by 300 school districts across the country. Should the Vermillion School Board decided to try out the system, it likely will adopt the simpler, less expensive version. That version includes a $1,000 start-up cost, and an annual fee of $2,700. The more expensive version has a $1,000 start-up cost, and a $12,000 annual fee. Ioannides said the general public residing in the school districts being served by BoardDocs has been pleased with this technological service. "Most of the public response has been very popular – from both the public and from the press," he said. "It seems there is big push throughout the country for openness and transparency, and this system provides that, especially if you share all of the documents you can legally share proactively." The public, he said, loves to have access to important pieces of information regarding the operation of their school districts. Other advantages include "a green element" – by using computers to display data rather than reams of paper every month, BoardDocs is more friendly to the environment. Board members seemed generally pleased with what they heard as they concluded the meeting. Before making a decision, however, they want to wait until Froke has a chance to see if there are other companies offering paperless meeting systems.