Effective Procurement

BlueDollarWhen it comes to buying resources for schools, teachers are often faced with a barrage of rules and regulations that appear to obstruct their effort to acquire what they want in their schools.

Requisitions, purchase orders, RFP’s, Tenders and so on are processes and tools that on the surface, appear to be cumbersome and un-necessary, yet are crucial for a number of reasons such as transparency, budget control, follow-up, ethical integrity and competition to name a few. The use of Stimulus Funding to acquire goods is contingent on various levels of government rules and regulations as well.

The challenge is for educators and central purchasing authorities to work together to ensure that the students and teachers needs are met while at the same time, work to ensure that they are obtaining the best value for the taxpayer money that they are spending. This can be accomplished by developing effective processes and following those processes. Teachers that spend their own money on school resources (and we all know that a huge percentage of teachers do spend their own money on classroom resources) can also save and acquire quality products by paying attention to some of the guidelines that the Professionals use.

Is it a daunting task for educators and District support staff to work together? Not necessarily in our view. Although specifics will vary depending on demographics, budgets and other social factors, school districts have procurement systems in place that work and comply with State/Provincial and local statutes, trade agreements and/or laws. At The Classroom Solution, we believe that it is usually the actions of some people that make the systems fail or succeed, not the systems themselves.

Buyers need to listen to the educators prior to developing RFP specifics. School furniture and equipment standards need to be developed through consultation processes with all applicable stakeholders. Usually, a good specification development committee would include a buyer(s) from Purchasing, one or two educators (perhaps a principal and a teacher), a Technology person (in the case of Audio Visual or other technology acquisitions), perhaps a maintenance manager. The committee identifies a number of criteria that are used to develop the basis for the specification. These may include price, quality, compatibility, functionality, safety, instructional value.

Once the specification is developed, then the RFP is developed by the Purchasing professionals who ensure that all the legal and competitive requirements are met. When all bids are received, the committee can perform the evaluations and make the recommendations for award of business.

If this process is followed for groups of similar products such as stationery, science supplies and equipment, athletic supplies and equipment, custodial products, audio visual and library supplies, book publishers and distributors as well as large ticket items, multi-year contracts can be established that provide the educators one or two stop buying sources that eliminate last minute panic buying and having to go through the long purchasing process because it has already been done.

Schools and Districts may also want to consider Purchasing Cards for use for small purchases. With a good P-Card program in place, paperwork and time is reduced drastically, thus freeing time up for Teachers to do what they do best....Teach!

The Classroom Solution Inc. has a line of business document templates that can be used by buyers and educators as guidelines for developing their own documents and processes to reap the benefits described in this article.

On a technical note, we experienced some technical issues with our Shopping Cart and E-mail system on theclassroomsolution.com. These issues have been corrected so if you unsuccessfully tried to contact us or purchase something on the website, please try again. We apologize for the inconvenience.

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JamieJames Dobbin is President of The Classroom Solution, Inc. As a Certified Public Purchasing Officer with 35 years in purchasing and supply, the most recent 23 years in the K-12 environment, James brings a wealth of knowledge to schools and teachers needing assistance in making school purchasing decisions. Understanding that teachers spend a considerable amount of their own time and money buying resources for their classrooms, James created theclassroomsolution.com with the desire to reach out to and help as many teachers as possible to find simple and cost effective buying solutions to help enhance the learning experience in their classrooms.