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Posted on Thu, Feb 9, 2012 : 5:58 a.m.

Ann Arbor schools will spend $9,000 for electronic board documents software

By Danielle Arndt

Editor's note: This story has been edited to reflect the correct total savings to the district.

Ann Arbor school board members soon will have laptops in front of them at meetings instead of paper packets.

The Board of Education unanimously approved the purchase of an electronic board documents software, called BoardDocs, Wednesday for an annual fee of $9,000.

The software is expected to save the district about $3,680 in packet preparation costs and will improve public accessibility, transparency, archiving and consistency in reporting, said Amy Osinski, executive assistant to the board.

Osinski estimated the district spends about $6,280 copying the board packets and reports annually, plus an additional $400 in extra printer use and machine maintenance.

The software will place the entire board packet online. Trustees and the public will be able to create a username, password and log on via a website to view the packet.

Other districts that use BoardDocs report the software has helped to reduce the amount of staff time spent preparing board packets by half, Osinski said. For Ann Arbor, that would equate to a savings of about $7,540.

The packets also will be interactive. The public could pose a question or comment about the agenda as well as follow along during meetings.

Osinski said with the prevalence of Wi-Fi, tablets and smartphones today, having board packets online makes them more accessible to people.

There also is a video option the district could choose to make use of in the future, she said. She explained videos of the meetings could be attached to the agendas and available online the day after the meeting.

Board members also will be able to type notes into their packets. However, the notes will be confidential and only able to be viewed under trustees’ usernames, Osinski said.

There will be a one-time $1,000 startup fee for on-site training and the district could incur an additional cost of $3,500 if the board decides to purchase “optional hardware,” such as iPads, for each trustee to avoid the obtrusiveness of laptops at the board table. The board was largely in consensus, however, that this was not necessary.

The $1,000 fee also includes 24/7 year-round technical support, upgrades and updates, full customization of the program and document archives of up to 10 years of data.

It will take about six weeks to set up the software and train the staff, Osinski said.

The contract Ann Arbor schools approved was for five years at the $9,000-per-year rate. However, the board does have the option of renewing the contract on an annual basis.

One drawback to the BoardDocs software is the potential inconvenience if the Internet connection is lost, which can occasionally happen after normal business hours at the Ann Arbor District Library where the school board conducts its meetings.

Osinski said one solution to this would be to set up her laptop as a Wi-Fi hotspot to provide an Internet connection to the other board members. There would be small extra cost for this.

The district also would save about $120 annually in outside storage fees, Osinski said. Ann Arbor Public Schools stores some of its past board documents at an offsite storage unit due to space issues at BALAS.

For more information about BoardDocs, visit its website.

Staff reporter Danielle Arndt covers K-12 education for Follow her on Twitter @DanielleArndt or email her at



Thu, Feb 9, 2012 : 8:11 p.m.

I hope that AAPS stops the current practice with .pdf documents, of printing them, scanning them as images and then .pdf-ing the images. This makes doing any real research on the documents very difficult, since images are not searchable. This to me is part of the desire by the AAPS administration to deny access to information to the public. On the point of the software, what is wrong with posting the packet to the AAPS website and allowing anyone to download the packet, including the board? Another nail in the coffin of having too much money for the administration to waste.


Thu, Feb 9, 2012 : 5:47 p.m.

@craigjjs I am an expert in this field, and without spending 20 minutes writing a clear reply that outlines the "over the top" nature of this purchase, the IT security issues it introduces, the lack of transparency on the financing and "savings", the other alternatives and reliance on an insecure and spotty network, I can't cover all the issues. But, needless to say, this wreaks of someone figuring out how to fit a product to a need instead of finding a product that meets a need. There should have been a complete investigation into what products fit the need by someone who understands security, networking, workflow and the business needs of the school board. Will this work? Probably, but is it the best approach? No. And there's no cost noted for the new shiny laptops. If people will be using their own laptops to access, than you have bigger security issues. Either way, this article is lacking complete information.


Thu, Feb 9, 2012 : 5:40 p.m.

"There will be a one-time $1,000 startup fee for on-site training and the district could incur an additional cost of $3,500 if the board decides to purchase "optional hardware," such as iPads, for each trustee to avoid the obtrusiveness of laptops at the board table. The board was largely in consensus, however, that this was not necessary" So when do we get the actual final official answer that no, they will NOT get these additional hardware addons? And also, every other negative commet thus far is correct; this ADDS cost, not savings, is a weird, proprietary solution to a problem that really didn't exist, and is a waste of money. When I see things like this, I can't imagine how people justify continuing voting for more and more millages, and feeling sorry for schools when the budget is cut. This is a preposterous waste of money. if the sharing of documents was actuallly a problem, there are 25 cheaper, easier, more longlasting, and obvious solutiosn than some weird software package aimed at this odd niche. I wish the education budget would be cut more, more, and still more, until I stop seeing ridiculous enraging crap like this happening. Every person involced with voting Yes on this should be fired, and the money from their salary put into textbooks or school supplied or kids' lunches..anything, really, besides paying this person.


Thu, Feb 9, 2012 : 4:18 p.m.

How could they approve this on Wednesday? They where trying to use this last year at a board meeting. What a waste of time, public meetings should not be used for training. The women in charge didn't even have a firm grasp on the software. But the biggest question...How does this help the students? This is more overhead, a new toy for the administration and board, something they can brag about at an education confrence and just a waste of money. What if they divided up the $9000 to each school per for supplies. As a parent and taxpayer do I want to spent around $1000 per board member or another $15 per classroom. Give an administrator a pen and they will write the next purchase order, give a kid a pencil and they will have the opportunity to create and learn.


Thu, Feb 9, 2012 : 3:26 p.m.

Has the Board done anything to investigate alternatives to an online system for $9000 a year? I am, certainly, no expert in this field, but it sounds like a fairly straight forward application. Heaven forbid we should pay for services from a business in Ann Arbor.


Thu, Feb 9, 2012 : 1:53 p.m.

Am I missing something here? These numbers don't seem to add up. It says that they estimate the costs of copies at $6280 a year, plus an additional $400 in printer use. That puts the yearly total at $6680 currently. How is spending $9000 a year a savings? Isn't that really an additional cost of $2320, not a savings of $2420?

Danielle Arndt

Thu, Feb 9, 2012 : 8:28 p.m.

William, the story has been updated to reflect the correct total savings to the district, which is actually an estimated $3,680. Also included in the total savings was an estimated cost savings of $7,540 from the staff time it takes to prepare the packets. This information has been added to the story.


Thu, Feb 9, 2012 : 4:02 p.m.

Everyday Math.

Silly Sally

Thu, Feb 9, 2012 : 12:25 p.m.

Please don't reward the silly schoolboard for this folly by letting them take home, for personal use, these shiny new laptops. Lock them up when not being used in board meetings!!! Better yet, let them be added to a highschool's library's PC "pool" of available computers to use. But do not reward the board for spending OUR money! I do not get a new laptop to take home...

Jim Osborn

Thu, Feb 9, 2012 : 12:18 p.m.

"the public will be able to create a username, password and log on via a website to view the packet" This is bogus, and a waste of scarce AAPS money. Why not simply take the "packets", which I assume were created in MS Word, and let the school board read them on their personal laptops at meetings? These same documents can be made into pdf documents and posted online. Why will I need to use a username, password and log-in just to read them? It should be no different than reading this "newspaper", online.