At their October meeting, the Mexico Board of Education members conducted business with a limited amount of paper documents. The board's switch to paperless meetings is just the latest in electronic communication for the district.
Administrators and teachers have led students in committing to complete as many tasks as possible without printing documents, assignments and homework.
Prior to the Oct. 15 BOE meeting, eBoards Solutions provided training, support and set-up in order for the meeting's documents to be online. "From my perspective, it went well," Superintendent of Schools Kevin Freeman said. "We went from 12 three-ring binders stuffed with 100-plus pages each month, and having to make decisions about whether to put in extra supporting documents, to being virtually unlimited in the materials and the quality of the materials we can now use for board meetings."
The eBoards system allows items to be copied and pasted directly to agenda items, and includes the option of attaching documents in any format along with photos.
"Board members had no trouble accessing their information," Freeman said. "And, with eBoards, all the documents used in open session are available to the public with a couple clicks of a mouse. In the past, when someone wanted the information, copies had to be made and then picked up."
Now, anyone can go to the eBoards paperless link at the bottom of the homepage at mexicoschools.net and, at the eBoards screen, select the meeting date from the meetings tab. The information is available there.
Freeman says the return on the investment of the new system, which costs approximately $5,000 per year, will mostly be seen in the cost of copies and the hourly wage of the person making the copies and compiling the binders and reports, along with a savings of the paper copies waste.
"In the 12 binders, for example, most of those papers just get recycled right after the board meeting," Freeman said. Just this last month we had a draft copy and a final copy of three different documents from our financial audit; six documents, many pages, virtually no difference in the documents other than the word 'draft.' We saved nearly 1,000 pages right there."
Freeman also pointed to another advantage: "Most importantly, we have a level of transparency with open session documents that never has been possible before," he said. "It's all there for anyone to see without having to go through the trouble of asking for copies."
Other paperless solutions have been put in place throughout the district's schools.
An electronic phone system in all buildings has cut down on paper messages. Callers can connect directly if they know the extension, or are offered a roster of names and extension numbers. In all buildings, the phone will be answered when the caller pushes "0."
Page 2 of 3 - All student handbooks and teacher handbooks in the district have been converted to electronic documents. "The faculty handbook is a Google document and the teachers can print off just what they need," Eugene Field Principal Christine Harper. "Every summer, I used to copy 40 handbooks for the staff, which was a ridiculous amount of paper."
For nearly a decade, Mexico parents have been able to see their students' grades online. Now, report cards (quarterly for grades K-8 and twice a year for grades 9-12) are sent to parents electronically. Paper report cards are printed only at parent request.
All school calendars are available electronically, through the district website and individual school pages. "We use our website via the homepage as a way to communicate current happenings at Hawthorne," Principal Holly Pashia said. "Our monthly newsletter (Puppy Prints) is uploaded to the website."
Also, paper copies have been drastically cut back at Hawthorne faculty meetings. "We send the material out electronically before the meetings," Pashia said. "We use a 'flipped' format for the meeting, so that agenda items such as videos, charts, graphs and documents are provided via Google docs for teachers to peruse prior to the meetings. Our meetings, therefore, are devoted to addressing a few necessary items and learning about instructional techniques through demonstrations and active engagement."
At Hart Career Center, the Project Lead the Way (PLTW) program has its own learning management system called Canvas. "It's quite handy, Hester Russell, teacher, said. "The kids can turn in work electronically."
Ted DeVault, HCC, said the Young Farmers organization has made progress toward paperless communication by emailing newsletters and sending text messages. "Also, at our truck and tractor pull we used Excel sheets on Google Docs to update daily," DeVault said. "We all had a better handle on what needed done and what had been done, and were able to make the necessary corrections as needed."
All parents receive access to the school's automated phone alert system called School/Reach. The system is set up to send emergency alerts to parents when necessary, but is more commonly used for parent information such as reminders about school photo days and parent meetings.
At the Middle School, Principal Deb Hill Haag has debuted a video newsletter for parents last year ("Bulldog BLARK: the video Blog with a Bark). Haag also has used email for parent surveys to gather parental feedback.
Haag says discipline referrals at MMS are paperless for the most part. "Going paperless is clearly where the world is moving," she said. "It is a win-win for the environment and for our file cabinets. Our students are lucky to be part of a district that is teaching them how to manage going paperless to better their education."
The eighth grade social studies teachers at MMS, Matthew Nachreiner, Leslie Nichols and Darren Pappas, have made a commitment to move their students to paperless submission of assignments.
Page 3 of 3 - "We have students type their papers and essays to Google Docs, so they have access at school and home," Nichols said. "By not requiring a hard copy, we're cutting down on paper. Our goal for our next writing assignment is to have as close to 100 percent online turn in of assignments."
Freeman says the district's commitment to using less paper is all part of the educational process. "We live in a world of electronic communication," he said. "We need to continue to meet students where they are, which is online. We are asking students and parents to accept more paperless information and communication, then we (the administration and board members) need to be a role model in that regard."