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Purchasing Security Products and Services

Forty percent of K12 districts planned to purchase security systems and equipment prior to security


As the magazine of education leadership for top-level decision makers in K12 education, District Administration reaches key executives in virtually every school district in the United States, including superintendents, business officers, technology managers, curriculum directors, library/media center directors and funding administrators. No one is better qualified to comment on current district spending than readers of this magazine.

Typically District Administration publishes annual spending reports to provide insights into school markets, but last year was different since we commissioned the independent research organization Martin Akel & Associates to conduct an extensive buying survey of our readers. Random samples of subscribers were drawn from districts nationwide, and individuals received a questionnaire on purchasing activities and expenditures over a four-year period. Although the information focused on the 2006-2007 year, researchers also compiled trend data for the two preceding years and projections for the two succeeding years.


The study found that our readers are heavily involved in brand and product decisions. Virtually all DA readers-97 percent-have leadership responsibilities in purchasing products and services, and 83 percent are involved in final decisions. Nine out of 10 are opinion leaders, sought out by others and influencing them in making purchases; nine of 10-93 percent-are involved with teams/committees that determine purchases for their districts; and three-quarters-72 percent-have selection team management responsibilities. The readership survey projected that the total 2006-2007 expenditures for purchasing goods and services across nearly 15,000 districts reached by District Administration is $33.3 billion, which represents an enormous market. This article looks at purchasing security products and services.


U.S. districts spent $1.17 billion in 2006-2007 on security equipment and services, and the average district spent $163,600. However, those figures were compiled prior to school security breaches such as the tragedies at Virginia Tech, so expenditures are now likely significantly higher. These include physical surveillance equipment and services, such as cameras and digital recorders; devices to control access to buildings, such as keypads and card identification products; and data/computer security systems, including software and devices for secured storage. DA readers were asked to indicate their district's security usage and planned purchases, and the results are summarized in the chart below.

Crisis Management Plans

Virtually all school districts-97 percent-had crisis management plans in place, with specific procedures to protect students, staff and property in potential natural disasters, security threats and criminal acts, as shown below.


The research also investigated the approval process in purchasing security products and services and found that issues of school security are of increasing concern among K12 school districts. Virtually all senior-level school administrators place investing in security at priority levels, and superintendents and business officers often lead security selection teams.

District-Level Managers Involved in Security Selection

K12 school districts typically use multidisciplinary approaches to selecting security products and services, and for major purchases, an average of four different types of professionals are involved. Vendors must therefore make contact with all of these key players to properly brand their products.

Brand Building and Burning

Throughout this research we found that most DA readers are responsible for selecting or rejecting specific brands of products, services and equipment, which we call "brand building" and "brand burning," respectively. As was true for technology and curriculum purchases, 95 percent of readers were involved in selecting specific brands among security products, and 93 percent were involved in rejecting specific brands. For example, 60 percent of readers reported that they burned a specific brand in a three-month period, which underscores the continuing need for updated product information throughout the year.


School security is a growing area of interest and concern for readers of District Administration. Most district leaders would love to ensure safe school settings without the "appearance" of security through metal detectors, surveillance cameras and security fences. Management responsibility for district security on a variety of fronts is growing rapidly, and education leaders need to be informed on strategies, profiles of success and innovation, funding sources, and updates on the latest products and services available. We are committed to equipping you with this information through District Administration magazine and its integrated Web site. Visit our rapidly expanding online products database to review options, and use our star rating system to let us know what works best in your district. And thanks for helping us select this year's "Readers' Choice Top 100 Product Awards," which we will announce in a special products-only issue subscribers will receive in mid-February.

Odvard Egil Dyrli,, is editor-in-chief of District Administration and emeritus professor of education at the University of Connecticut.