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Willmar, Minn., School Board moves to paperless meetings

WILLMAR -- Starting later this month, the Willmar School Board will stop using as much paper at its board meetings.

The School District will be providing iPad2 tablet computers for the seven board members. The iPads will take the place of binders of printed material prepared for each board member and for each meeting.

The board discussed holding paperless board meetings at a meeting Monday afternoon.

Also at the meeting, the board elected officers for 2012: Nathan Streed, chairman; Mike Reynolds, vice chairman; Linda Mathiasen, treasurer; and Sandi Unger, clerk.

Superintendent Jerry Kjergaard told the board he would be subscribing to a web-based service called BoardBook to provide information for board members. The subscription for the service is $2,000 a year. The cost includes set-up, training and technical support.

The service allows information for board meetings to be converted into a PDF format that can be printed if necessary and can be read on computer or tablet screens, Kjergaard said. Many schools in the conference are using BoardBook, and it is recommended by the Minnesota School Boards Association.

Another feature is a search feature for locating information in past agendas and documents.

Kjergaard said the plan will save the district money in the paper, ink and staff time used to prepare printed board materials.

"I don't think it will impact you much, but it will impact my assistant Jan (Stene)," Kjergaard said.

The board had a longer discussion about what they would like to use during meetings. Board members could provide their own equipment, because BoardBook would work on laptops or tablets with access to the Internet.

If the district provided the equipment, it would be district property, Kjergaard said. Board members would not be able to purchase the computers at the end of their terms.

Board members discussed a variety of options and decided in the end that it would be best to have the district purchase seven iPads, so they would all be the same.

Kjergaard said an iPad with the applications normally loaded by the school district, a cover and a keyboard would cost about $600 each. He said he would try to have them ready for the board's work session meeting on Jan. 23. The board had planned to spend that meeting discussing technology issues.

After the meeting, Kjergaard said the public will still have access to board information. A few paper copies of board meeting materials will be available in the meeting room, and people who want paper copies may ask for them in the district office.

"We're not trying to limit anybody's ability to look at it," he said.

Board information will also be available on the district's website through BoardBook, he said.

In other reorganizational matters, the board set the board's salary at $3,600 a year and authorized business office employees to make electronic transfers of funds.

Formal board meetings are scheduled for 4:30 p.m. on the second Monday of each month. The board holds workshop meetings at the same time on the fourth Monday of most months. No workshop meetings are held in May, June, July, August or December.

Board member Wayne Lenzmeier reported that there has been progress in negotiations between the board and bargaining groups in the district. Teachers are considering an offer, he said, and one group of paraprofessionals is nearing a vote. Negotiating sessions with several bargaining units are to take place today.

Linda Vanderwerf

I cover education issues for the West Central Tribune and have worked for the paper since 1995. I have worked in journalism since 1981.

Follow me on Twitter: @lindavanderwerf

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