In a bold move to enter the electronic age and to reduce the number of paper documents which a school board must review and analyze during its normal operations, the Board of Education of Vineland, New Jersey decided to eliminate the paper morass and go electronic.
About two years ago, the district instituted a new approach to the traditional school board meetings. Typically, board members receive vast quantities of paper detailing fiscal reports, legal documents, grant outlines, newsletters, and various other documents and reports. The list of documents can be enormous, as can the volume of paper needed to copy those documents. In the past, the board packets (what a board member receives for a meeting) needed to be delivered via a hand truck. Considering that the Vineland Board of Education has at least two meetings per month involving nine board members, a superintendent, a school business administrator, one solicitor, and two assistant superintendents, the total amount of paper and the time and effort to produce those paper copies is significant. Eliminating the paper and going “online” could save time, energy, and a few trees in the process.
Exactly where is Vineland, New Jersey? We are in the center of southern New Jersey, between Philadelphia and Atlantic City – some 35 miles from each and just 110 miles from either New York City or Baltimore, Maryland. We’re actually New Jersey’s largest city in area; our 69.5 square miles make us larger in area than Newark, Camden and Trenton combined. While large in physical size, the population of more than 55,000 is a culturally and economically diverse group working closely together for the good of the community. Vineland businesses include agricultural, apparel, electronics, food processing, glass, plastics, pharmaceuticals, scientific & medical technologies, shipping and warehousing. Vineland is also home to one of the largest scientific glassware producers in the country and the largest cooperative produce auction east of the Mississippi. Vineland is a city where farming, business and industry unite with a diverse population to form a close cooperative community.
The Vineland School District itself is comprised as follows:
- Number of Schools: 18 including 4 kindergarten centers, 1 pre-first, 7 elementary, 4 middle and 2 high schools. There is also an adult education center.
- Alignment is as follows: kindergarten; grades 1-4 in elementary; grades 5-8 in middle school; grades 9-10 in Vineland High School North and grades 11-12 in Vineland High School South.
- Students: Approx. 11,000
- Employees: 3,000+
As the Board of Education attempted to increase efficiency, communication, and decrease waste, some of the board members suggested an “online” board meeting where ALL paper will be eliminated and ALL communication would be accomplished through secure Websites, Word and Excel documents, and Email communications. Yes, it was realized that this would be a major change for some of the board members, but the entire board of education agreed it would be beneficial for operational efficiency and provide an example to district employees that the board of education would be embracing technology.
After a few months of training for board members and staff plus development and testing, the Vineland Board of Education began to employ a web-based approach to accessing all of their documentation. In the initial training, overall apprehension changed to a comfortable use of the Web pages. Yes, at first, “mouse literacy and online navigation knowledge” was a challenge, but that changed as the learning curve decreased and technological facilitation increased.
Board member’s hardware and software is as follows:
- Dell Laptop Computers
- Additional Power Supplies (One at the Board Office and one for home)
- Software Applications: Windows, Office, Adobe Reader, McAfee
- Home Connectivity
- Dial-Up Connection
- Comcast Account
Each board member also has an Email account. There is a Board Member’s Listserv, and there is also a district Voice Mail. As all board meetings are televised on the district’s educational access cable channel, (Comcast subscribers: Channel 13), the educational community can always be updated on district initiatives, programs, and activities.
As a part of this growing trend to further communication to the public, the district also has the following online
Policies and Regulations
All district K-12 curricula
As a result of this commitment to providing increased communication to the community, The Vineland School District was awarded Third Place by the Center for Digital Education, or CDE, and by the National School Boards Association, or NSBA, in 2004-2005. The nation's Top Ten, digitally-advanced school boards have been announced by CDE and NSBA, based on their first annual Digital School Boards Survey. The study examined how school boards and their districts are applying information technology to better engage their local communities and constituents, and improve the delivery of services and quality of education to public schools.
Yes, a t first, the process of change was difficult for many, but as time went on, everyone involved entered the electronic age. Now, instead of thousands of sheets of paper, the board members receive one (1) inexpensive CD or visit the secure website online. I am sure, the trees are thankful.