School board’s iPads bring added costs
By ELISABETH MURRAY
Whidbey Examiner Staff
October 3, 2012 · Updated 12:44 PM
The Coupeville School District recently purchased iPads to make it easier for school board members to access board documents via the Internet. But the board is now having second thoughts, and wondering if the purchase was a good idea.
The digital devices would allow the board members to access documents for their semimonthly meetings online – a service that would carry an additional cost.
Internet service for the board members would not be covered.
Money for the purchase came from the technology levy approved by voters in the school district in February 2010.
The board is considering two companies for this document management service. BoardDocs, offered through the Washington State School Directors Association, requires a $1,000 setup charge plus a fee of $2,700 per year. EduPortal e-Convene has no setup fee and an annual fee of $1,295.
Google Docs, a free service that allows for the creation and storage of documents online, was initially raised as a no-cost option.
However, the board determined that using the service would add to the workload of the school district’s administrative assistant rather than reducing the time to prepare the document package.
The primary concern expressed by board members at the board’s Sept. 24 meeting was the iPads’ usability, such as the ability to highlight text or manipulate the screen to increase the view size. These concerns were allayed by iPad user Coupeville Elementary Principal David Ebersole.
Ebersole suggested that if the iPads do not work for the board’s needs, the money spent on them would not be wasted. The equipment can be used in the classroom instead.
If the school board decides against using iPads for the meetings, the devices would be reallocated within the district.
Board member Carol Bishop said the use of iPads is an “interesting concept,” but questioned the price tag.
“I have trouble with the cost as the best use of district funds,” Bishop said, “It is not a cost savings – even if we roll it out over five years.”
Each iPad has a one-time purchase price of $458. Total cost for the five elected board members plus student member to have access to one of these devices is $2,748.
The district bought the iPads after the board’s August retreat in order to take advantage of a discount when 10 iPads are ordered at the same time.
According to interim superintendent Karen Koschak, the transition to electronic documents would save the district money in both printing costs and mail services.
The district spends approximately $800 each year mailing out the packages. But according to Administrative Assistant Janet Wodjenski, there would be no reduction in staff time involved in document preparation.
However, the switch to an electronic platform would allow for last-minute changes to the documents.
Last school year, changes were made to agendas for five of the 20 regular meetings after the packets had been distributed.