In a district that prides itself on being ahead of the curve when it comes to technology, Fort Calhoun Community Schools Supt. Don Johnson said it’s only right they take that same mindset when it comes to its board of education meetings.
“It’s a natural transition for us,” Johnson said of the district’s efforts to go paperless.
Although not yet fully implemented, Johnson said the district is taking steps in that direction. At its recent school board meeting, the board heard a presentation from a representative from the Nebraska Association of School Boards (NASB) on what an e-meeting looks like.
Fort Calhoun is part of a growing number of school districts, city councils and village boards making the transition to paperless or already doing it.
Down Highway 75, at Fort Calhoun City Hall, Mayor Mitch Robinson and city council members are working toward that goal as well.
“My goal is by the June meeting,” Robinson said of the idea of ditching hard copy meeting packets in favor of using tablets for council members to view the meeting agenda and supporting documents.
It’s a goal he said they have been working on since October, but haven’t been able to implement because of technology issues and getting the proper training.
While Johnson and Robinson don’t know what the cost savings of going paperless will be, they do say it will be a much more efficient way to run a meeting.
Not to mention saving staff time. Johnson said some of the items board members have reviewed lately, including policies they were looking to revise, involved hundreds of pages of paper. Take that times six and it was a lot of paper.
“It doesn’t make sense to use that much paper,” he said. “By doing it electronically, we can save paper and time.”
Robinson said it will also be a better way for him, city council members and city staff to communicate and also easier for the public to request documents.
The Arlington Village Board of Trustees has had paperless meetings since October 2012, said Linda Douglas, village clerk.
She said each board member and the streets and parks commissioner have a tablet issued to them.
By getting rid of the packets of information that averaged 90-120 pages, she said it’s been a cost savings not only in paper, but for her time. She said she would spend about six hours assembling and copying the packets before each month’s meeting.
“By going the electronic route, I was able to cut a lot of the time I was investing in organizing those packets,” she said.
She estimates that the city is saving about $1,500 a year on paper and staff costs.
While it did take time for them to get used to it, Douglas said she hasn’t heard any complaints from village board members about the switch.
“From the beginning, they were all on board,” she said.
Not only are they a good way to view meeting information, but the tablets can also be used by village board members in other capacities as they conduct business.
“They can use it to record meetings they have with residents or take pictures,” she said.
She, too, said meetings are run on a more efficient basis because people aren’t having to shuffle through papers.
“It’s easier and faster to find the information they need during the meeting.”
While she doesn’t get a lot of requests, she said, having electronic documents can also benefit the public.
“We can certaintly get information to the public quicker if anybody wants a copy of something,” Douglas said.
Arlington Public Schools has been working on going to paperless for its “e-meetings” for about three months, Supt. Lynn Johnson said.
At that time, the district appointed a committee to investigate a program offered by the NASB. She said the district will provide devices for board members, but they are also looking into the feasibility of board members using their personal devices.
She said she hasn’t looked into the savings in terms of dollars and cents, but Johnson anticipates that it will save preparation time.
“One of the leading impetus for us was the ability to have a variety of information available at a touch — policies, past agendas/minutes and other information that board members need to reference from time to time,” she said. “The program will enable board members to capture notes and thoughts prior to and during board meetings.”
Johnson said it is her hope that everyone can be trained in June and then begin having e-meetings in July.
Blair Community Schools has gone the all-electronic route for its board meetings. The City of Blair is hoping to one day do the same, said city clerk Brenda Wheeler.