Norwich School Board: Going Paperless Would Save Money And Trees
Published: February 4th, 2009
By: Melissa Stagnaro

NORWICH – The Norwich school district could cut more than $4,000 from next year’s budget if the school board went paperless, and in these trying budgetary times, every bit helps.

With a binder containing the district’s preliminary budget by his side, Superintendent Gerard O’Sullivan told the school board that in any other year he’d be “clicking his heels” over the numbers. But with uncertainty over state aid, even a small increase in budget expenses could mean a double-digit increase in the tax levy.

“Obviously, that’s not going to work,” O’Sullivan said, turning the focus to identifying where expenses can be reduced in order to mitigate the impact on taxpayers while maintaining the district’s academic programs. The district’s approach, the superintendent explained, will be to “cut the budget while preserving the classroom.”

Cutting down on the time and resources associated with preparing school board documents is one of those potential cost savings which would keep the impact far from students. The idea was proposed by board member Perry Owen at the Dec. 2 school board meeting.

Owen cited the sheer volume of pages each board member received prior to the meeting (68 on that occasion, multiplied by nine.) Other large organizations, including hospitals, were making the move to paperless systems, he reported, and he suggested the district investigate doing the same.

“There must be a feasibility for us,” said Owen at that meeting. “Furthermore, it’s ‘green.’”

At the behest of O’Sullivan and the board, Peter Somich, director of technology for the district, began researching paperless options following the December meeting.

“There will be savings to do it,” reported Somich, as he presented his findings last night to the board. According to his calculations, going paperless could potentially save $4,253.56 a year by eliminating the costs of copying, collating and distributing board packets for each meeting.

Somich’s proposal involved using a secure or “hidden” website to distribute board documents. Each board member would be given an e-mail link as well as a unique username and password to access the site.

“Don’t share your username and password with anyone,” Somich cautioned, comparing it to the PIN number on a bank card.

Information would be posted to the secure site in a portable document format (PDF) to allow ease of access for board members, and each meeting would have its own separate page, he explained.

So that board members would not need to print out all of the information at home, computer workstations would be available at each board seat for the bi-monthly meetings. A printer would also be available in the board room in case one or two items needed to be printed.

This would not require purchase of any new equipment, Somich and Deputy Superintendent Margaret Boice assured.

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