Piles of shredded paper records stacking up|[02/19/07]

Published 12:00 am Monday, February 19, 2007

It’s a hard job, but somebody has to do it.

Carolyn Drayton, Renee Norris and Phyllis Jennings are the three lucky women who have spent the past two weeks shredding old documents at Bovina Elementary.

&#8220I think there were at least 50,000 to 60,000 files when we started,” Drayton said.

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&#8220But we’re almost through,” she said, pointing to a large pile of boxes of documents such as student and special education records yet to be shredded.

Shredding is the beginning of the Vicksburg Warren School District’s process of clearing out the school building to ready it for reopening in the fall of 2008. The school closed in 1999 when the district moved to the school choice plan.

&#8220That’s where we’ve been storing all the old files,” said Superintendent James Price

So, now it’s time to play catchup – at least as much as possible.

&#8220We’re still years behind,” Price said.

Just because the paper records are being destroyed, no one need fret (or celebrate) that his or her &#8220permanent record” is vanishing.

Nearly three years ago, the district started transferring personnel and special education files onto laser discs to eliminate the paper.

&#8220We’ve got three scanners that work eight hours a day, five days a week for this,” he said.

But with documents dating to the mid-1950s, it’s hard to catch up overnight.

&#8220We’re required to keep our personnel files for two to three years, but we keep them essentially forever,” said Zena Keen, personnel secretary for the district.

Keen said when the Vicksburg and Warren County districts consolidated in the late 1980s, all personnel files were brought to the central district office for safe keeping.

&#8220We have a room here we call ‘the dungeon’ that stores all of them. But once we scan them in, we shred them. We’re just still behind,” she said.

According to state and federal law, special education records can be destroyed after five years when a student has graduated or withdrawn from the district, said Dr. Susan Bentley, director of federal programs and special education for the district.

&#8220But we have chosen to keep the records longer than the law requires,” Bentley said. &#8220We keep the hard copies of the special education records for 10 years after the student has graduated or withdrawn from the district. We keep the records electronically forever.”

At Bovina, old filing cabinets that have been emptied of their contents are stacked at the entrance to the school. Hallways and classrooms are crowded with full bags of shredded paper.

&#8220We’ve already taken a load out of here that was about 50 or 60 bags,” said Morris Keith, maintenance supervisor.

At least 600 bags still wait to be moved, and Keith said he expects the rest of the shredding to fill nearly 300 more.

&#8220We’re getting there. It’s just kind of a slow process,” he said.

The &#8220shredding ladies” agreed that they hope to finish up their temporary jobs this week.

&#8220We both have other jobs where our paperwork is just stacking up, I’m sure,” said Jennings, a medical secretary for billing Medicaid for the district. Drayton is a secretary and records clerk for the special education department.

Price said the paper will eventually be burned in controlled piles, but for the time being, the bags are just stacking up.

&#8220We’re taking tons and tons and tons of paper out of there,” he said. &#8220It’s quite a sight.”