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How schools manage co-op purchasing

In larger districts, multiple levels of personnel get involved.

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.

“One size does not fit all, but certainly the large urban districts often have a full procurement team as a function of the business office,” says Sue Peters, market development executive at E&I, a national purchasing cooperative. “Some of the largest districts are also some of the greatest users of cooperative purchasing programs, and that buying power benefits the smaller institutions.”

Renae Hull, supervisor of business services at the Metropolitan School District of Lawrence Township in Indianapolis, says it’s her job to assess the advantages and disadvantages of co-op contracts. “I meet with the representatives to discuss the various programs offered,” she says. “I then discuss everything with the CFO and we make the decision based on what we feel best fits the organization.”

The Cooperative Purchasing Connection (CPC), a group of nine service cooperatives in Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota with approximately 675 member schools, sets up its contracts so that co-op members and their staffs can contact sales representatives directly.

“Orders and quotes can be requested by any staff member in a school district,” Schuld says. “Teachers create their supply requisitions, custodians purchase air filters, business managers and human resources access our application management contract, and athletic directors have made use of our synthetic field turf contracts.”