Wapakoneta City School Board of Education meetings are going electronic.
Still a work in progress, school board members tried out the new software system during Turesday’s meeting.
“It’s a work in progress,” Wapakoneta City Schools Board President Eric McKinniss said as he led the first meeting testing out the new system. “We are still learning the program. There are a lot of advantages.”
McKinniss said those advantages include saving money by using less paper and being able to communicate better with the public.
Electronic School Board software came at a cost of $19,375, including training, manuals and full rights. The majority of the cost, $17,500, was for the software, Wapakoneta City Schools Treasurer Susan Rinehart said.
She said they had compared it with other software systems, which required an additional annual fee of approximately $7,500.
“This was cheaper by year two,” Rinehart said. “The board has been looking at this for three or four years but didn’t want to spend the money.”
Superintendent Keith Horner said they kept batting the idea around with the idea that they wanted to go paperless based on the volume of paper the district uses. The software provides a way to handle the data and conduct meetings.
“It’s almost like a marketing tool,” McKinniss said, explaining how information about meetings and what’s on the agenda could be sent out to the public almost like a newsletter to those who sign up for the service.
He said when the agenda is ready, they would be notified and could check it on their phone or home computer.
Eventually the hope is that the system also could be used by parent-teacher organizations and other groups as well, McKinniss said.
At the same time, the district is saving money on paper costs by not having to print a large amount of paperwork for each board meeting, including agendas, which they typically print several of for guests, not knowing how many may attend.
“Cost was always a concern, but as with any technology, more players are in the game now, which makes it more affordable,” McKinniss said. “I hope there is cost savings in the end, but some of the usefulness also comes with being able to better communicate with everyone in the district.”
McKinniss said information used for the system would be prepared much the same way.
“Information is plugged in electronically for the agenda,” McKinniss said. “Once it is reviewed and ready to go, it is posted out for people to review before the meeting.”
At the meeting, each board member has a small personal interactive screen, which displays the information and through which they can cast votes. The information also is displayed on a large screen for all those attending the meeting.
“It’s easy to follow along and is pretty straight forward,” McKinniss said. “This is part of education now. Kids are using computers and they are in the 21st century. It’s time we got onboard and use it to our advantage, too.”