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July 6, 2004

Home Delivery for Madison School Board - Your Tax Dollars at Work

Every Thursday before the Monday meetings of the Madison School Board, a school district employee driving a district vehicle pulls up at each of the seven homes of the board members to deliver a packet of information for the upcoming meeting. Sometimes the vehicle is a van. Sometimes it's a diesel truck.

On June 17, a driver in a truck brought me a folder that included the following: a copy of Education Week, photocopies of the monthly meeting schedules for June and July, a photocopy of the agenda for the committee meetings, and two small plastic folders. In the folders were a second photocopy of the committee agendas and photocopies of materials for each meeting. In all, the driver brought me 35 pages of photocopied materials. The final page was a photocopy of a message telling me that ?there will be another delivery of materials tomorrow, June 18.?

On July 18 I received another 32 pages of photocopies via courier.

I have asked the Board President to end courier delivery of paper copies and to initiate electronic delivery programs similar to those adopted in higher education and state, county, and local government levels. Where implemented, electronic delivery has proved to be an expedient way to distribute and share materials while saving labor, duplicating, and paper costs.

Electronic distribution has the additional benefit of being environment-friendly since materials are printed only when the end user feels that it is necessary to do so. Similarly, electronic distribution saves on expenditures for and consumption of gas used to drive bundles of paper across town one or more times per week.

Such a plan should be easy to implement because the district provides to each board member a free laptop computer and printer on request. Under this plan, board members could pick up commercial and other materials that are not time-sensitive on Mondays. On July 12 the Board will consider my request.

So far, Board President Bill Keys is "adamantly opposed? to these changes, even though the district purchased over 200 tons of mixed office paper in 2003-04 and even though schools are already recycling paper to save money.

Here?s a summary of my e-mail request to President Keys and his responses.

According to Doug Pearson's recent report, MMSD purchased 220 tons of mixed office paper last year. That's 32,040 trees and lots of dollars that could go to the classroom.
I am requesting that the Board of Education set a good
example by changing how we receive information in order to save money, time and materials. Given that the district provides laptop computers and printers to Board members who want them, it seems that we could institute the following practices.

1. End weekly delivery of materials to our homes via MMSD staff in vans or trucks. Savings: cost for use, fuel and upkeep of the vehicles and staff time, if over-time involved. Better use of staff.
2. Have Board secretaries save all written materials that are not
time-sensitive for distribution at Monday meetings. Examples,
magazines, ads, publications, letters, school bulletins, weekly
newspapers. Savings: same as 1.
3. Have all administrative reports and materials delivered
electronically to the Board on the Thursday prior to the Monday meeting. Savings: paper, use of copying machine, staff time.
4. In situations such as expulsions, where many of the materials are copies of boilerplate provided to every student's family, limit the materials sent electronically to Board members to those items that are unique to the student under consideration. To the extent feasible, have staff summarize the unique materials, such as hearing transcripts, reports from neutral-site teachers, etc. for electronic delivery. Savings: paper, use of copying machine, staff time.
I ask you to consider this suggestion and get back to me. ?Thanks for considering the idea.

I disagree with you on every recommendation. If you wish to bring this up to the Board, I will certainly respect your right to do so, and will guarantee you an impartial opportunity to be heard by your colleagues. But I will not make any of these recommendations.
Would you mind telling me why you disagree on each item? It's hard to see whether we could achieve any agreement with a blanket statement of your disagreement. Thanks.

I repeat. I encourage you to bring this up at a board meeting for a full discussion by the full board if you wish to, and I will guarantee you a fair opportunity to make your case. The suggestions you have made I am adamantly opposed to: I appreciate getting materials early, in print form, (which certainly means the magazines, bulletins, and other relevant publications as well as school news and correspondence because I can read them at my leisure, and well before the Board meetings, and without the problems that e-mail, or computers can cause through the very nature of their technology. The "boiler plate" packages for the expulsions actually save time because separating them item by item, student by student takes up more time than the money expended in simply bundling them together; additionally each bundled expulsion papers creates a more complete case, possibly protecting us from later litigations for improper procedures. Certainly the legal office is not responsible for even a significant portion of the 220 tons of office paper.
How can we "achieve agreement" when I don't agree in any way?
I can't be any clearer than this.



Posted by Ruth Robarts at July 6, 2004 4:49 PM
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