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School Board mulls switch to web-based system

By Ryan Cornell

FRONT ROYAL -- The Warren County School Board is considering adopting a web-based packet system that would allow users to view, modify and add agenda items, insert their own comments and electronically vote for motions using internet-connected devices.

It could also be used to reference board policies and codes, and search through past meeting minutes, according to Director of Finance Rob Ballentine.

"If you want to look up the last time that you talked about the dress code, type in 'dress code' and it'll bring up anything in there related to the dress code," he said.

Melody Sheppard, assistant superintendent of administration for Warren County Public Schools, pointed to this search capability as an especially helpful function during a board meeting last week.

"I was really thinking about [board member Kim Athey] when we were doing this because I remember you bringing three or four packets when you wanted to look something up," she said.

"If Kim wanted to go back in two months and search for a particular word, she could do that and actually pull only her comment and the agenda items that were attached to that," Sheppard said.

Ballentine said the School Board currently prints out about 10 packets for its meetings. By switching to a web-based platform, that number could drop down to two printed packets for the public.

Not only would the system save paper and ink, but also time previously spent scanning documents, emailing and printing them.

Administrators from Warren County government and its public school division compared three electronic board packet companies that offered similar services: NovusAGENDA, BoardDocs and Electronic School Board.

Because NovusAGENDA allows the School Board to partner with the county and pay only one price, the service is more cost-effective than the other two compared. NovusAGENDA would cost $8,000 per year for use by the county and School Board, as opposed to $22,000 and $28,000 per year for the other two services.

The Tampa-based company is used by more than 250 school board systems and county governments across the U.S., including Fauquier and Spotsylvania counties. The cloud-based system is optimized for all devices, including laptop computers, tablets and smartphones.

Sheppard said the county would pay the yearly fee and might buy tablet computers for use by the five School Board members.

Comparing the costs and capabilities of the iPad 2, iPad Air, Dell Venue II and Windows Surface at the meeting, Sheppard suggested the $3,100 Dell Venue tablet because of its integration with the board's existing network.

The Warren County Board of Supervisors will discuss adding the electronic board packet system at its Feb. 4 meeting.

Contact staff writer Ryan Cornell at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or rcornell@nvdaily.com

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