9 thoughts on “Albemarle’s Electronic School Board”

  1. Let’s talk costs and expected returns on this investment…

    Contract with ElectronicSchoolBoard in year one is about $12,920. In this configuration the software is hosted remotely. If we like it in 2009, we can buy it (about $32,000) and install it in 2010 on our servers and apply most of this year’s cost to the purchase price. We could also just keep leasing it off their servers.

    ElectronicSchoolBoard does four main things: 1) greatly simplifies publishing of all meeting materials online for the public; 2) gives Board members an online portal (paperless board packet) in which to review and prepare for all meetings; 3) provides a workflow/routing/approval system for staff to prepare meeting materials; 4) is used to facilitate the actual meeting (displays our votes on projector, records motions, roll call, builds minutes, etc.).

    * Public has immediate access to all agenda materials including attachments (PDfs, PowerPoints) as soon as they are received by the SchoolBoard.
    * Simplified web publishing procedures for staff
    * RSS feeds for public on policies, minutes, and agendas [we had them build this into system as a customization]
    * Improved search engine for all materials (most importantly policies and minutes)
    * Improved workflow processes for development of school board meeting packets and revisions of policies which will improve staff efficiency by reducing the amount of time spent on board packet preparation and distribution by 25% by June 2009 [goal we set].
    * Lowered printing costs (no more paper packets for board or staff). Saving about $1,500 annually.
    * Eliminated 0.5 of an administrative position in FY2010 budget in Central Office because of projected efficiency increases

    Brian Wheeler, Chairman
    Albemarle County School Board

  2. Sounds like it’s well worth $13K to me. Interesting that ACPS had an efficiency study, then the city schools did. Now Albemarle County has had one, too. (Please note Mr. Mayor and City Councilors!)

    The MGT efficiency study of the city schools said we need to reduce paper. (Among the 12 administrative technician positions in Central Office–last time I looked one job in Central Office is listed as Reprographic Specialist. Maybe we should look into this package. Or waiting to see if it works for the county, then buying it together.

  3. How many other school systems have implemented this system? Has anyone taken the time to contact them and get their feed back on how it works for them? Strenghts/weaknesses, what would they change in the system to make it more efficient? etc. etc. Is the package set in stone or can you modify it as you go along to make it work for your situation? Many things need to be done before going overboard with taxpayers money. Sounds like Mr. Wheeler is just feeding us what the vendor supplied in their glossy handout.
    I know the city spend $250K several years ago for a package that was suppose to synchronize the traffic lights throughout the city and it still has not been implemented. Just collecting dust in some city storage area as far as I know.
    The city also spent money to buy land on either side of Rubgy Road to widen it from Beta Bridge to the Uniterian Church. Still has not been done and taxpayers money gone for a never completed project.

  4. @Jogger – Short answer… We did contact other users of this system and that was part of the process that led to this vendor’s selection. It was first developed by Prince William County Schools in Virginia and the product’s use has expanded around the country since then. Numerous school divisions have requested features (some they pay extra for) and those features are then made available to the entire user base. For example, we insisted on RSS feeds before we would sign a contract. Now that feature will be made available to other school divisions as part of their software updates.

    There are 4-5 vendors in this market and we have been meeting with them over several years (at state/national conferences and in product demos directly to our Board) reviewing the products and their evolution over that period. Should we decide to purchase the software instead of leasing it, it is a product that will integrate with our existing Microsoft back office platform and staff expertise. That compatibility was another key factor in the product selection.

    Brian Wheeler, Chairman
    Albemarle County School Board

  5. Getting all this efficiency, time savings, money savings and only eliminating 0.5 administrative position in central office. What will you do with the other 0.5 positon? If this system is as good as you say then it should eliminate more than a half position. Also, it appears you are merely replacing one system of document preparation with another supposedly faster more efficient document preparation program, as mentioned in your 1,2,3.etc & *,* comments above.
    Why is it necessary to have a projection of votes cast put on a projector? What is wrong with a hand or voice vote?
    You mention packet preparation and you turn around and mention elimination of a paper trail and elimination of packet preparation. Will we now have paperless school board meetings? Does this mean SB members will only use computers to conduct schoool board business.
    This might be a great system but for the costs versus savings I really don’t think it is worth the time and effort that has been put into it or the payback justifies the costs. IMHO.

  6. Jogger, don’t confuse the city’s technology acquisition with the county’s. It seems the county has investigated this software sufficiently and I think it’s smart for the county to do a test run before purchasing. I think it’s well worth it for the public to have the school board’s meeting packets before the meetings as the school board gets the information so that they can better participate in the decision-making process with some real knowledge and not just opinions and rumors.
    Brian will these packets be archived along with the agendas and minutes? Will the packets be searchable? How long do you believe it will take for the software to be installed on local servers?

  7. Cville Eye I agree with some of what you say, especially the part about doing a test run. If the vendor is so confident of his product then they should allow the county to do a test run/use of the product for “free”. Say three/four months and if it does all they claim it will then purchase or let it pass.

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