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July/August 2013

Technology and school boards
By Brian Zumpf

Brian Zumpf, a policy consultant who works in IASB’s Lombard office, answers the question for this issue.

Question: How can school boards use technology to improve the operation and efficiency of their work?

Answer: Technology is helping to make time and resource intensive work-products of the school board, namely, the board meeting packet, and a distributable version of the board policy manual, easier and more cost effective to create and update.

Technology has also made it possible for school boards to increase the transparency around their work, and through the use of the Internet, make the board packet and policy manual available in a form that is easily accessible to the community. IASB has selected to offer its members BoardBook©, for electronic board packet preparation, and School Board Policies Online, for online policy manual publishing, because they offer the features we feel are important to boards and their communities, while remaining an affordable option for our member districts. Similar services exist in the marketplace, though many are not developed specifically with school boards in mind, and those services features and costs can vary greatly.

Districts can find administrative labor cost savings in the reduced time it takes to prepare the board meeting packet electronically. And once board members are comfortable without a printed packet, there can be additional cost savings in materials (paper, ink and delivery). With Boardbook© it is possible to create and post online a board meeting agenda and a board packet for the public, another packet with additional information only to be seen by the board, and a third packet intended for use by administrators. Electronic file attachments can be easily incorporated into the board packet and the entire packet, including attachments, is numbered into one cohesive document and converted to a PDF format, which is easily downloadable to a variety of devices and can also be printed for a physical copy.

One of the easiest ways for school boards to make their actions more transparent to the public is to publish their policy manual online, so that the board’s governance directives are readily available for all to see.

With School Board Policies Online, the district’s current policy manual is converted into an electronic format that can be viewed and searched on the web. School Board Policies Online’s search function, which shows how many instances of a word or phrase appear in each policy, makes it easy to determine where the information that is important to the searcher will be found. Web links are also created to any legal references within the manual that are accessible to the viewer. Active links are also created within the policies to any policies with which they cross-reference. School Board Policies Online also has an archiving feature, which preserves the prior versions of the district’s policies for later reference, and it can be used to publish the district’s administrative procedures manual at no additional cost.

As districts look for the right technologies to improve the work of the teachers and students, they should also look at how they might work to improve school board processes and administrative support for those processes. Regardless of which vendor or service is used, an important question for board members to ask is not just the cost of the service, but the cost savings that the use of technology may generate beyond the service itself.

IASB encourages school boards to consult with administrators for insight into how and when to implement new technologies in a way that maintains a fiscally responsible district.

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