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School board meeting is paperless

May 20, 2004|by SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

Tuesday marked the Washington County Board of Education's first "virtually paperless" meeting and it occurred without any major problems, Board President Edward Forrest said Wednesday.

School officials are paying a contractor for a service that allows them to post information about board meetings and policies on the Internet.

During the meeting, board and staff members were connected to the Internet on laptop computers, system spokeswoman Carol Mowen said.

At the start of Tuesday's meeting, Forrest explained to the audience that it was the first meeting at which board employees were not using a paper agenda.

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"So bear with us," he said. "The pace may be a little bit slower than usual."

The meeting went mostly without incident, with two notable exceptions.

At one point, board member Russell Williams complained aloud that an agenda item from the May 4 meeting had appeared four times on his screen as being part of the May 18 meeting.

Later, a problem occurred during a presentation about a proposed policy on academic integrity.

Board member Jacqueline Fischer asked a question about a section of the policy that was labeled on the computer page with Roman numerals. But the employees doing the presentation were using written documents, not the computer, and the paper documents did not have Roman numerals.

The discussion was delayed for a few minutes until the relevant section was found.

Overall, the meeting went smoothly, Forrest and Mowen said.

"It is something people are going to have to get used to, including us," Forrest said.

Those without Internet access are encouraged to use computers at the library or at a friend's house, Mowen said.

The board voted 7-0 at its Jan. 6 meeting to use BoardDocs, a computer system that will enable anyone with Internet access to view the meeting agenda.

While board officials say the change increases public access and saves printing costs, they said no study has been conducted to see how many county households have Internet access, and that the change initially will cost more money.

Startup costs totaled $12,403, which paid for nine laptop computers and wireless Internet access, according to board documents.

The board will pay $7,800 a year for the service, according to the document, making the first-year cost about $20,200.




If you go...



How to get to the Washington County Board of Education meeting information online:

1. Go on the Internet to http://www.wcboe.k12.md.us/content/ boe_updates.cfm

2. Click on link marked "BoardDocs."

3. Download Adobe Reader software, if your computer does not already have it.

4. Click on the items of interest.

Answers to frequently asked questions about the software are available at

http://www.boarddocs.com/html/ frequently_asked_questions.html

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