Roscoe Board Clerk Becky Ahart calls Simbli “simple to use.” Ulster BOCES Board Clerk Roxanne Babcock says the system “puts everything at your fingertips.” And Cheektowaga Board Clerk Mary Ann Miano says it “enhances productivity.” With their decades of combined experience managing school board information in the state of New York, these clerks have all been won over by the same system — eBOARDsolutions (EBS).
Although their needs as Board Clerks vary greatly — from Ulster BOCES, which is involved with eight school districts in Ulster County, to the Cheektowaga district with 2,400 students, the commonality is that Simbli is a solution that works universally. Today, more than ever, school boards are expected to maintain a high level of education for their students while confronted with stronger demands and less resources.
Challenges Facing Today’s Boards
Our boards must face a steady stream of negative school media reports, as well as upset taxpayers. Teachers and administrators struggle to keep up with unfunded mandates, new evaluation demands, and changes in educational requirements. Our boards are also tasked with reading volumes of documentation on everything from evaluations to strategic plans to proposed spending.
With the advent of the Open Meetings law, it is increasingly important to streamline board meetings and get the required information to the public in a timely and efficient manner. Additionally, with the tax cap mandate, schools are now considering layoffs and school closures at a rate never seen before. These actions take planning and oversight that can encompass a large group of people contributing to the overall picture. Fortunately, there is help available for districts, and it has a proven track record in the Mid-Hudson Region.
Economizing School Board Operations
eBOARDsolutions (EBS), backed with over 55 years experience in board governance and association management, is a subsidiary of the Georgia School Boards Association. Their suite of web-based products is designed to streamline and economize school board operations and help improve productivity. Their online meeting management solution allows district clerks to manage each meeting completely paperless.
Administrators in the district can electronically submit their agenda items to the District Clerk where the items are reviewed and accepted or rejected electronically. Once an agenda item is accepted, it will become a part of the published agenda. Security in the software allows the board clerk to mark items as confidential or open to the public view. Contrary to a paper-based system, “when something needs to be revised or changed, it can be done very easily,” commented Ms. Miano. “Putting the agenda together is less time-consuming and very user friendly.”
During board meetings, votes are tallied directly in the software and are available immediately to be published at the time the minutes are approved. The software is also available as an application on iPads so the board no longer has to worry about clunky laptops. This eliminates sharing of documents through unsecure email and delivery of volumes of paper prior to meetings. The savings on preparation, printing, paper, ink, and delivery alone will help the bottom line of the school district budget.
The policy feature of the software allows a district to load all school board policies and have everything available through a secure website. This facilitates the process of checking that BOE actions are in accordance with policy. It also will link to meeting minutes within the software. Using the policy module makes policies easier to research through the advanced search engines, as well as providing the added benefit of a regularly updated policy manual. This helps school districts to be open and transparent in their operations.
“Thanks to Simbli, everyone who is interested can see what is going on at Ulster BOCES,” says Roxanne Babcock. “If you want to know, just visit Simbli on www.ulsterboces.org.”
Mrs. Babcock also noted that since the advent of the Simbli system “Freedom of Information” (FOIL) requests from the media have been eliminated. “Simbli makes it easy for the press to find what they are looking for,” she says.
Strategic Planning for a Brighter Future
When it comes time for districts to make future plans for their schools, strategic planning is a must. The Strategic Planning module allows the plan organizer to work with a team to set up the plan, assign tasks to anyone involved in the plan, set goals and deadlines, and keep constant track of the plans progress.
The software allows individualized permissions per user, the plan can be open to any invested parties to monitor and make recommendations on improvements. From localized to district wide goals, strategic planning will streamline the process and ensure a complete and timely conclusion. All these software modules work together to free up time so that the district can focus on their main purpose – to educate the children.
School boards, departments of education, and colleges in 18 states are using this product to manage their board meetings, store and maintain board policies, plan, and communicate with stakeholders. They love the way all the modules interconnect and give them the information they need quickly and easily. The modules are designed to either work together or as stand alone, depending on district needs.
This article was first published in the 2013 issue of the Mid-Hudson Regional Information Center Newsletter.