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Articles: Purchasing

Procurement is only the latest big step Amazon has taken into education. Earlier this year, it launched an online clearinghouse for open-education resources. (Photo: Thinkstock.com/Antomanio)

Administrators, teachers and other school personnel have been ordering supplies from Amazon.com for years, but the e-tailing colossus has now jumped formally into the education procurement market. And some in the procurement business see benefits.

Administrators have a variety of responsibilities in managing a district, but certain tasks can be burdensome and can distract from the core mission of the school system. Purchasing, deploying and managing learning resources such as textbooks and other materials are time-consuming and costly tasks that can weigh down administrators. However, outsourcing these tasks to an experienced partner can increase efficiency, reduce costs and ensure that the right learning resources get in the hands of students.

Follett takes resource tracking to the next level with four new services

Juli Hubbard
Vice President, Purchasing
Follett

The education landscape has changed dramatically in recent years. The emergence of new standards, new evaluations and new technologies has placed more strain on school administrators than ever before. We have witnessed how our education partners now have less time to spend on core administrative tasks that once made up the majority of their workload.

There’s a new purchasing system in town, and it’s saving time, money and stress for folks at the Grinnell-Newburg Community School District in Iowa.

Click to enlarge: Five steps districts can take to save money on edtech purchases. (Source: Foundation for Excellence in Education)

As the lines between instructional and technology budgets blur, CIOs can improve their district’s procurement procedures to get what their classrooms need from an increasingly complex edtech market.

School staff sending out mail nowadays can save a lot of work with electronic mailcenters.

District mail rooms used to be hectic. Thousands of pieces of mail would cycle in and out every month, and all of it had to be processed by hand. But these days, life is much easier for office administrators who, still, must sort through the pieces of mail.

The move toward personalized learning and the ability to deliver resources via the cloud are transforming the way districts purchase digital content for math, reading and other parts of the curriculum. As this landscape changes, district also are spending more on digital resources.

Steve Green, maintenance supervisor at the New Albany-Floyd Consolidated School Corporation in Indiana, reviews a Grainger catalog looking for products to purchase online.

When Boles ISD needed a new science building in 2011 for its rapidly growing high school in rural Quinlan, Texas, district leaders realized they couldn’t afford to build the lab they wanted. Although the district, 35 miles east of Dallas, received a $410,000 grant from the Texas Education Agency, it wasn’t enough to build the project according to architects’ plans.

While co-op contracts save significant staff time, districts must still select contracts and manage interaction with vendors. In rural district Boles ISD, Superintendent Graham Sweeney manages vendor selection and purchasing. But in larger districts, multiple levels of personnel get involved.

Coming this fall, students at six of the nation’s largest urban districts will be served lunch on round plates made of biodegradable sugar cane.

Six of the nation’s biggest school districts have taken another bold step in changing the face of school lunches. The districts in the Urban School Food Alliance—New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami-Dade, Dallas, and Orlando—have banded together to purchase biodegradable trays made of sugar cane to cut down on both cost and waste.

Students at Valley Christian School in San Jose, Calif., buy healthy snacks like coconut water, unsalted nuts and fresh fruit, from a high-tech HUMAN Healthy Vending machine.

As school leaders shift to selling healthier products in their vending machines, they can also take the opportunity to change their business model and consider investing in high-tech machines for a range of benefits.

When upgrading security, can districts afford to wait the weeks or months the purchasing process sometimes takes? A widely available but not very well-known funding option can speed things up.

We know there is a sense of urgency around funding safer schools—just think about the title of President Obama’s school safety plan: Now is the Time! The good news is that for district leaders who are willing to explore a new purchasing method, time and cost savings may be on the way.

A first-of-its-kind coalition of five of the nation’s largest districts is working to improve the reputation and quality of school food. The Urban School Food Alliance celebrated its one-year anniversary this summer, and includes districts in New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami-Dade, Dallas, and Orlando.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed legislation in August designed to help schools and other government institutions save money by taking advantage of cooperative purchasing networks. The law makes New York the final U.S. state to allow for cooperative purchasing and could provide much needed relief for schools looking to cut costs.

Trad Robinson

Trad Robinson, age 36, began his career in 1997 as the director of technology for the Union County (S.C.) School District after obtaining a computer science degree from Limestone College. In 2007, he became director of technology for Cherokee County (S.C.) Schools. He recently was named the chief information officer at the South Carolina School for the Deaf and the Blind.

Q: Can you share some of your career accomplishments so far?

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