Technology for Superintendent Success

Lena Eisenstein

Every day, superintendents deal with overwhelming paperwork: RFPs, legal opinions, meeting minutes, reports, Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs), policies and laws. They oversee committees that work through multiple drafts of documents before agreeing on a final version. Some – but not all – of the documents that they handle are highly confidential. Yet the board of education is interested in seeing only clean, concise professional documents – the offer that resulted from five people examining ten RFPs, the policy that resulted from four people reading six confidential legal opinions, or the eighth version of a lengthy committee report on which four different editors commented. Traditionally, boards of education were subjected to all the documents with which committees dealt. Now, superintendents can present only select finished products to their boards and easily stay on top of the proliferation of paperwork that accumulates as committees do their job.

Software can help: BoardDocs Plus streamlines the management of documents so that superintendents can focus on substance. They can delegate document handling to multiple committee chairs, who can control “who sees what” every step of the way. Eight features of BoardDocs Plus empower the superintendent to effortlessly direct the dissemination of documents from a comfortable distance: Granular Security, Multiple Document Publishers, Change Tracking, File Compilation, Approval Trees, Goal Tracking, Dedicated Database Access and Video Embedding.

  1. Granular Security

Every time anyone creates a document in BoardDocs Plus, he is asked what level of exposure it is to have: public or private. Of those that he marks as public, he is then asked to designate if it’s meant for executives, administrators or the public. Say he wants to keep a legal opinion between his attorney and himself. He marks it as “private,” and nobody else sees it. He may want the entire procurement committee to view several RFPs submitted, but show only the winning proposal to the board as an agenda attachment. It’s easy: He (or the procurement committee chair, who can also control access, if he wishes) marks the RFPs as “public” and then “administrative.” When that committee decides on the proposal that will get a contract, a simple click moves the winning RFP to the board’s agenda attachments – in the “executive” audience. It’s just as easy to select from among the board’s documents those that should become accessible on the public-facing website where meeting agendas and minutes are posted.

  1. Multiple Document Publishers

Traditionally, the superintendent or a clerk is responsible for tracking every document that is sent to every committee – tracing it through edits, deliberations and approvals, and getting the right version to the right audience at the end of the process. Those days are gone. Now a clerk can serve as “superpublisher,” delegating the lion’s share of managing the documents to committee chairs, who are called “publishers.” They, in turn, can even assign discrete document management tasks to an “administrative publisher,” such as their assistant. As superpublisher, the clerk can still view everything that’s taking place when she needs to be informed, but she is not playing traffic cop as each document goes to various publics in various levels of detail, through the stages of edits and approvals.

  1. Change Tracking

A comprehensive view of markups can be useful while a committee is collecting input. At the end of the process, a designated editor may view all the other committee members’ remarks to consider when she makes final changes. With BoardDocs Plus’s same-page collaborative editing tool, all users can see all the previous changes made – with each editor’s changes clearly identified. A shared version stored on the portal refreshes with each contributor’s comments, so subsequent viewers of the file are looking at the same updated version, able to see all the edits made to date. When it’s time to save all the changes and to generate a clean copy for the superintendent, the board of education or the public, a simple command to “accept changes” generates a smooth final version.

  1. File Compilation

Annual processes often create a last-minute scramble to find and assemble documents relevant to an audit, say, or a performance evaluation. Working retroactively and relying somewhat on sketchy memory, the files collected are often incomplete. How, in December, will you remember that a colleague praised your conference presentation in writing last April? BoardDocs Plus makes it easy to build that file throughout the year. In routine work month to month, simply tag files “audit” or “evaluation.” When it’s time to create a report for the year, one click will pull up all the files that you tagged.

  1. Approval Trees

Some documents need to be signed off on by officials in a particular order. Simply enter the names of committee members, say, or other officials whose electronic signature is needed, and the software sends it to the people listed, in the sequence of their entry. So the second person on the list gets the document only after the first person on the list has signed off on it, and so on down the line. Each person approving the document can see who has gone before her and who will come after. A deadline for the entire approval process can be posted where all recipients can see it.

  1. Goal Tracking

Following the lead of grantmakers, some state boards of education are requiring increased tracking of progress toward school districts’ stated goals. BoardDocs Plus automates the process for you. Say a goal is to increase student exposure to local employers. The superintendent breaks down the goal into four tasks: identifying a certain number of area employers, contacting them to invite their participation, arranging visits in school assemblies, and following up to solicit feedback and offer thanks. Each step could be considered 25% of the project overall. Once a staffer or a committee has identified area employers to approach, the software converts that information to appear as 25% completion on a bar graph for that goal. The bar graphs for all the district’s goals can appear front and center every time the superintendent or a board member logs in to the portal so everybody stays focused on reaching objectives as distractions start to compete for their attention.

  1. Dedicated Database Access

The documents handled by BoardDocs Plus for all its K–12 clients in the United States create a dedicated database that authorized users can tap into for information on what other people paid for goods and services. Say the superintendent has to hire someone for snow removal. A quick metasearch of the BoardDocs database pulls up every mention of that service in other districts’ MOUs, meeting minutes, RFPs and committee reports. He can see what others paid for comparable contracts. One superintendent used the designated K–12 database to negotiate a good deal on a high-volume purchase of math software.

  1. Video Embedding

With BoardDocs Plus, the superintendent can even put video on the public-facing website, in addition to whatever final documents he makes available to the full public audience. Nothing builds trust like posting video footage of school board meetings alongside the official minutes of the proceedings.

Superintendents have their hands full with personnel issues, contract negotiations, legal disputes, legislative advocacy, finances, student security, facilities, athletics and curriculum issues. Traditionally, directing different versions of documents around to various committees and boards to keep the right people seeing the right amount of information at the right time has sapped time from that important work, building stress while reducing efficacy. BoardDocs Plus does the heavy lifting of document management so the superintendent can take care of business.

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Lena Eisenstein
Lena Eisenstein is a former Manager at Diligent. Her expertise in mission-driven organizations, including nonprofits, school boards and local governments, centers on how technology and modern governance best practices empower leaders at these organizations to serve their communities with efficiency and purpose.