District 155 board explores posting full agenda packets on website before meetings

Technology director finds free fix to bring district in line with peers

Crystal Lake-based Community High School District 155 Superintendent Steve Olson attends an Operations Committee meeting Monday, Feb. 12. Olson said the district is responding to requests for more transparency.[]

CRYSTAL LAKE – Community High School District 155 officials got a first look Monday night at how board meeting agenda packets soon will appear on the district’s website if formally approved by the board next week.

The packets include information about what elected officials will discuss or vote on at a meeting – such as up-to-date financial reports, service agreements, cost estimates, contract details and memos.

District 155 doesn’t post board agenda packets ahead of meetings, but in January, the board asked the administration to find a way to change that. It also asked for the process to cost the district little to no money.

District 155 technology director George DiVenere seems to have fulfilled both parts of the request.

DiVenere suggested the district use “flip book” software – which it already uses for other things – to post the packets on its website for free.

“Our recommendation is to share a full board packet two days prior to every board meeting,” DiVenere said during an Operations Committee meeting Monday night. “The public would have access to everything [the board has] access to, with the exception of the executive session minutes.”

The board was pleased with the solution, which allows users to flip through pages of information online. As DiVenere demonstrated how to use it, he said internet users – no matter whether they’re on a smartphone or laptop – will be able to easily access the packets. No special application or download is required. Users also can zoom in on items and search for specific words.

Comparatively, Crystal Lake School District 47 pays $12,000 annually for BoardDocs interactive software, in addition to the initial startup fee of $18,000 it paid in 2014.

Several other area districts, meanwhile, post monthly financial reports with their agendas, and a couple offer extensive background on proposed contracts and resolutions before their respective boards meet to vote on issues. Detailed financial reports will be included in District 155’s interactive board packets.

All such documents are considered open for public viewing, but the state’s Open Meetings Act doesn’t require board packets to be posted.

The board appears likely to approve the changes at its next regular meeting Feb. 20. Board President Adam Guss said that he is thrilled with DiVenere’s suggestions.

District 155 Superintendent Steve Olson said the plan will be presented again at the next meeting. Olson said the district is being responsive to requests for more transparency.

“Something as simple as putting email addresses next to our names on our website – something that we had not done for whatever reason – George [DiVenere] made that switch in less than a half-day two weeks ago,” Olson said, noting that DiVenere pointed out the lack of email addresses.