How Your Public Education Board Can Leverage Inclusive Technology

Lena Eisenstein
School board meetings are opportunities for community members to be engaged regarding local public education. School boards serve as advocates for their communities in one of the most representative forms of government, and board members work to best meet the needs of their constituents.

However, participating in local school board meetings can be difficult depending on individual circumstances. A single parent or those with limitations who are physically unable to attend school board meetings may feel uninvolved and, frankly, uninvited to these public meetings.

Why should boards take steps to provide opportunities for individuals to participate in the work done by the school board? Inclusion is not just policy or programs, but should be integrated with the district's overall mission and goals.

Involvement in education by families, parents, and other community members is correlated with greater academic performance and positive school development. When these individuals and the school board work together to support local public education, students are more likely to earn better grades and have regular school attendance.

Public education boards are now able to leverage board software that provides opportunities for individuals of different circumstances and abilities to feel informed and involved. Inclusive technology provides school boards and their constituents with the ability to easily share and access information related to the work being done by the board while cultivating trust and transparency.

Close the Gap

Many school boards continue to depend on physical documents or technologies that not only fail to meet the needs of the school board, but also the public. Old-fashioned methods can create a gap in involvement and communication between the board and community.

Issues related to participation, transparency, or access to information all contribute to this gap between the board and the individuals that it serves. Utilizing an inclusive technology platform, progressive school board leaders can close this gap and foster a climate of inclusion and participation.

The right technology provides the board with a streamlined approach to modern governance, tailored to the specific needs of school boards. Modern governance goes beyond the boardroom to engage and equip board members and the public that they serve.

Access to Information

For individuals who are unable to attend local district board meetings, it may be difficult to stay abreast of the work being done in the local school district.

Meeting agendas, past meeting minutes, policy manuals, strategic plans, and other pertinent materials are all essential to the school board and the public. Leveraging board software, school districts are able to ensure that these significant documents are easily accessible.

Board members and individuals of the public should have the ability to retrieve these documents from any device or location, securely. With a streamlined board portal, school board members and constituents can easily access all of these vital materials from any device with internet access, anytime and anywhere.

School boards can also use meeting software to share videos of meetings in a central online location. This level of accessibility empowers individuals who may be physically unable to attend meetings, but still want to participate and remain informed of the work being done by the school board.

The inability to physically attend school board meetings should not exclude or hinder an individual from maintaining a level of involvement and awareness. School boards can now enable those with different abilities or circumstances, to encourage participation and engagement with those less able to physically attend meetings.

Cultivating Trust and Transparency

Leveraging inclusive technology not only supports and empowers community members, but also encourages trust and transparency between the board and its constituents.

Cultivating an atmosphere of trust with the individuals it serves is imperative to school board member responsibilities. When board members are serving as representatives, the public should feel informed and aware of what is going on with the local district.

Technology can encourage a positive, trusting relationship between the board and the community. Lack of access to information can cause issues related to transparency within the school district. Board meeting management software allows for the customization of a public portal where all documents, meeting information, materials, and updates will be shared for the utmost transparency. Some software promotes capabilities that allow individuals to sign up to receive notifications that will be delivered to their inbox as the agendas for board meetings are posted to the portal.

Modern governance encourages this style of open communication between the board and constituents, and leveraging the right inclusive technology can simplify and streamline the information made available to the public.

Intentionally Inclusive Technology

While it may never be the plan or intent for a school board to exclude individuals from being involved or informed, this exclusion can be a byproduct of boards utilizing outdated technology or practices that are not intentionally inclusive.

For example, education reporters in Detroit found it difficult to attend several different charter school board meetings within a month due to a lack of communication regarding board meeting information. This and other common issues can easily be resolved through the use of a tailored board portal built for inclusivity that makes it easy to locate meeting information.

School boards may take the time to review practices (i.e. how and when meeting information and materials are made available to the public, are meetings virtually accessible, etc.) to ensure that the opportunity to engage in the work being done in the local school district is available to all public constituents.

When we know better, we must do better. Technology is always changing, developing, and growing to meet the needs of community members who wish to maintain engagement and participation. Community by Diligent is designed to support the needs of individuals, who may otherwise be unable to participate in board meetings.

Technology can be a resource that encourages individuals to engage and participate in local government. Community by Diligent supports modern governance best practices, offering ADA compliant, multi-platform mobile capability that encourages involvement for the whole community.

This platform can address transparency challenges faced by school boards by providing user-friendly and easily-accessible tools that engage and inform the public about key issues while enabling residents to share their thoughts or concerns.

Community by Diligent is dedicated to increasing engagement through the utilization of technology. Not only are individuals able to access meeting-related documents anytime and anywhere, but live, fully inclusive meeting participation is now possible.

Additionally, if the school board records meetings through video or audio, the footage from these meetings can be attached with other meeting documents. All of these materials can then be easily distributed to board members, the public, and other pertinent parties.

Leveraging the right technology, school boards can encourage engagement for all community members, regardless of different abilities or circumstances that may typically hinder involvement. Inclusion goes beyond policy and should be an active practice to promote the participation of public constituents in the work being accomplished by the board.
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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.