FOR PRINCIPAL DONALD PUTNAM OF RIVERSIDE MIDDLE SCHOOL in Evans, Ga., doing teacher observations and evaluations each year used to involve hundreds of sheets of paper. Putnam, who along with other Riverside administrators observed each of his seventy certified staff members at least three times a year, had to manually fill out observation forms and make sure the writing showed up on two carbon copies attached beneath. "If you didn't press hard enough on the form it wouldn't make it to the third copy," he said.
After the teacher signed the form, one copy would go to the teacher, one would be filed at the school and another would be sent to the human resources department of the Columbia County School System, Putnam said. More than six hundred pages of observation forms were prepared each year in the school.
But now, thanks to document workflow and imaging archiving software that the school district purchased from AIG Technology (www.aigtechnology.com), the process has gone paperless, and classroom observations have become electronic. The program Doc e Fill allows principals to send a filled-out electronic observation form over the district network to the teacher, who can log on to the system, add comments and then "sign" the form electronically. The form then goes into the teacher's "virtual HR file" in the district, which is archived using a second program called Doc e Scan.
Putnam's school has also taken the technology one step further by incorporating hand-held Tablet PCs and a wireless network. When administrators do classroom observations, they can fill out the forms immediately on Tablet PCs without having to wait until they return to their offices. "Before I even leave the classroom, I've sent it to the teacher over the network, Putnam," said.
The paperless system is also used to process annual performance evaluations of cafeteria workers, custodians and other staff , by supervisors who are trained to use Doc e Fill. In addition, administrators also use the system to complete annual performance evaluations that help determine whether or not to give teachers new one-year contracts to return next year, said assistant human resources director Anthony Wright. Georgia is a "right-to work" state, so teachers are hired with annual employment contracts, and teachers who administrators wish to bring back are offered new one-year employment contracts. Teachers who receive three one year contracts from the same local district and sign a fourth contract can be terminated or suspended only for specific causes under state law, such as willful neglect of duties or incompetence, Wright said.
The AIG software system has also made the contract process paperless. The district sends contracts to teachers using Doc e Fill, and teachers go to a computer used by a school secretary-who doubles as a notary-and electronically review and "sign" their contracts in the secretary's presence. The adoption of the AIG system has led to substantial savings, Wright said.
The D3 Work flow Suite
Columbia County Schools also purchased Doc e Serve, which along with Doc e Fill and Doc e Scan comprises a trio of AIG software programs known collectively as the D3 Workflow Suite. Doc e Serve enables districts to customize printed forms and improve their appearance, such as high school transcripts and purchase orders, and distribute the documents through network printers, fax or e-mail.
Start-up costs for AIG software can range between $15,000 and $100,000, depending on the size of the district and how many programs are purchased, said Lew Love, AIG vice president of marketing. After installation, the district pays an annual fee for the maintenance plan, he said.
"One of the complaints that you hear from teachers quite often is that they find paperwork overwhelming," Putnam said, but in Riverside Middle School, the staff appreciates the paperless observation, evaluation and contract system.
Kevin Butler is a contributing editor based in Los Angeles.