The "Paperless" Board

Originally presented at ICCTA's March 14, 2003 "The Paperless Board" seminar
at William Rainey Harper College in Palatine, Illinois

  • Terry Bruce, chief executive officer, Illinois Eastern Community Colleges
  • Renee Smith, executive assistant to the chief executive officer, IECC
  • James Lane, IECC board chair

  • Q: How long have you been a paperless or electronic board?
    A: The IECC Board began functioning electronically in 1996.

    Q: How long did it take for the trustees to become proficient with the electronic document?
    A: Members of the IT staff attended the first meeting to conduct a short training session and assist the trustees during that meeting. One IT staff member attended the second meeting for technical support. A help desk is readily accessible to the trustees through the district office IT Staff if they encounter difficulties downloading and viewing the board document through e-mail.

    Q: How do the Trustees receive their board mailing?
    A: Each trustee has an IECC e-mail account and they receive the board via e-mail through that account. They open the e-mail message and download and save the board packet file to their laptop computer.

    Q: How much expense is involved in setting up the paperless board?
    A: The cost of laptop computers for trustees and Internet service for trustees.

    Q: How much expense is saved by sending the board book electronically?
    A: The cost of printing, labor, postage for mailing out the board packet.

    Q: How much time does it take to prepare the document?
    A: That will vary from month to month, but no more than four hours to insert documents and coordinate insertion of other documents into the main document.

    Q: Who has read/write access to the document?
    A: The document is created monthly using a template and stored in a directory on the district office file server. There are three users who have read and write access to the document: the CEO's assistant, the Personnel Office assistant, and the CFO's assistant.

    Q: Why do all these people need access?
    A: The Personnel Office assistant inserts the personnel report, the CFO's assistant inserts all financial reports and approval items from the CFO, and the CEO's assistant inserts all other segments of the document.

    Q: What program do you create the board book in?
    A: Microsoft Word. We use Adobe Acrobat to convert to PDF (not Acrobat Reader, that is only used to read a PDF).

    Q: What if the board book is too large (takes up too much memory) to email?
    A: Then the board book is placed on a CD and mailed to the trustees.

    Q: How do employees and the public who do not attend the meeting access the board document?
    A: The finished document is in a PDF format that can be downloaded from the district-wide Intranet website and the IECC Internet website.

    Q: Who is responsible for the finished document?
    A: The CEO's and CFO's office are responsible for proofreading the document and sending it out via e-mail to the Board of Trustees, the media, and the administrative staff.

    Q: How many copies of the document do you print?
    A: One copy is printed for proofreading and is then displayed for public access.

    Q: How many copies do you take to the actual board meeting?
    A: None, everyone views the agenda electronically.

    Q: What if a document needs to be included in the board agenda but there is only a hard copy available?
    A: The document is scanned and inserted into the document.

    Q: How do you deal with last-minute changes?
    A: Those situations can be handled by sending out an addendum via e-mail so that they may have it on their laptop. The addendum could also be taken on disk to the meeting as a back-up.

    Q: How can you be sure no unauthorized changes are made to the Board packet?
    A: When the document has been proofread and authorization is given to send it out, it is then converted to a PDF file which cannot be altered. It can then be read but not written to. Another benefit of converting the document to the PDF format is that it uses much less memory to send electronically and downloads faster when trustees receive the document.

    Q: Do the Board of Trustees meet in public session?
    A: The Board of Trustees meet in public just the way other boards meet. The only difference is that we sit in front of computers rather than a stack of mail.

    Q: Do board members have to know how to type?
    A: No, there is relatively little typing required to access the board book.

    Q: At the board meeting, do you have phone access to the Internet?
    A: No.

    Q: Do you leave the board computers set up in one room?
    A: No, the board meets on all four college campuses. Trustees bring the laptops, use them, then they take them home to receive the board agenda for the next meeting.

    For information on the next ICCTA seminar, contact ICCTA at 1-800-454-2282.

    Illinois Community College Trustees Association
    401 E. Capitol Ave., Suite 200
    Springfield, IL 62701-1711
    217-528-2858 (phone)
    217-528-8662 (fax) (e-mail)

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