2019 Fall UPDATE

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Take Your Front Office to the


Everybody talks about it, but what is corporate culture? Before we can be successful with any other part of our organization, the culture has to be set and solid. Hear from entrepreneur and keynote speaker, Bob Pacanovsky, about how to develop a strong foundation for your organizational culture.

Plus, explore a full schedule of breakout sessions ranging from tactical skills to leadership philosophy!

Friday, December 6, 2019 Schaumburg, IL

Get full event details at www.iasbo.org/supportcon


Illinois Association of School Business Officials UPDATE Magazine / Fall 2019 / v.27 / i.01



Beyond the Numbers

Planning for the Unknown: Your Risk Management Strategy

Managing and Telling the Story of Your District’s Purchasing

Twelve ideas to help novice and veteran school business officials enhance how they craft the message about their district’s purchasing. Cover Story by R.J. Gravel, Ed.D., and Chris Wildman, CPA, CGMA, SFO


LOOKING FOR PAST ISSUES? Visit ISSUU.com and search for Illinois ASBO.

Take Your Purchasing

INTO THE 21ST CENTURY Find out how e-commerce vendors can save your district time and create efficiencies, along with some online purchasing best practices. By Dan Oberg and Laura Petrone Berins



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FROM-THE-PODIUM Finding Clarity in Your Personal Vision. 07

FROM-THE-OFFICE Tools for the Art and Science of Purchasing. 09

FROM-THE-FIELD The Unique World of Education Purchasing. 11

Joint Purcha$ing Everything You Want to Know

But are Afraid to Ask! Get answers to common questions about joint purchasing from the legal perspective of three experienced attorneys. By Kenneth Florey, Howard Metz and Margaret MacNair


SCHOOL BUSINESS 101 Community Communication: How districts are telling the story of their purchasing. 17



P-Cards If you are reluctant to implement a program, or if your current program feels cumbersome, it may be time to rethink p-Cards.

By Janet L. Fisher and Nicole Hansen


WHAT IS THE BEST PRICE COSTING YOU? If your district is enrolled in the National School Lunch Program, the bid process alone can be a daunting, time consuming and often frustrating task. Get tips and best practices to work within the current framework. By Todd R. Drafall, Curtis J. Saindon and Angela Smith



POWER UP YOUR PURCHASING Working together allows local governments to achieve economies of scale, make large purchases at a discount and maximize their resources, among other benefits. By Brian P. Crowley and Jacqueline F. Wernz


ON MY LIST Consider how personalized education can helps kids learn at their best in this book review from Todd Dugan of Bunker Hill CUSD 8.


The Final Word Ivy J. Fleming

Asst. Supt./Finance & Operations Fremont SD 79 Ivy’s role as a CSBO is not only to assure the district is receiving the best value for goods and services, but also to look beyond saving money by evaluating risks and maintaining relationships with high-quality vendors.



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MAGA ZINE Illinois Association of School Business Officials


Northern Illinois University, IA-103 108 Carroll Avenue DeKalb, IL 60115-2829 P: (815) 753-1276 / F: (815) 516-0184 / www.iasbo.org


UPDATE Editorial Advisory Board

Check out www.iasbo.org or the latest Calendar of Events included in the UPDATE mailing for full seminar listings including location and PDC sponsorship and register for professional development today. September June 2014 2019

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Facilities Operations Program: Essentials of 08:00am Facilities Management


Lunch & Learn Webinar: Introduction to Cash Flow 12:00pm Analysis



Lunch & Learn Webinar: Managing the Change 12:00pm Process




Arlington Heights

Support Professionals Full-Day Seminar


ISDLAF+ School Finance Seminar

Naperville Rock Falls Effingham O'Fallon Peoria

10/1/2019 10/9/2019 10/15/2019 10/16/2019 10/17/2019



10:00am PDC Networking Meeting

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Rolling Meadows

10/9/2019 10/10/2019


Regional Conferences: E. Peoria & O'Fallon

East Peoria O'Fallon



Facilities Operations Program: Essentials of Maintenance Operations

Arlington Heights



CPS Facilities Certification & Exam



ASBO International Annual Conference & Expo



Emotional Intelligence



Debt Issuance from A to Z: Important Topics Administrators Need to Know - AAC #821




Seminar on School Finance - AAC #1062




Developing and Delivering High Impact Presentations - AAC #1906




IASB/IASA/Illinois ASBO 87th Joint Annual Conference




Effective Financial & Strategic Communications Among CSBOs, Supts & Admin Team - AAC Pending




Crisis Communication: Prepare, Respond, Reflect - AAC #3008





Bloomingdale Ntl. Harbor, MD Naperville

PDC MEMBERS Ryan Berry Legal Issues Yasmine Dada Principles of School Finance Todd Dugan Technology James T. Fitton Budgeting & Financial Planning Raoul J. Gravel III, Ed.D. Communications Stephen R. Johns Ed.D. Planning & Construction Stacey L. Mallek Accounting, Auditing & Financial Reporting Patrick McDermott Ed.D., SFO, RSBA Public Policy, Advocacy & Intergovernmental Relations Thomas M. Parrillo Purchasing Sherry L. Reynolds-Whitaker Ed.D. Human Resource Management Brian Rominski CPMM, CPS Maintenance & Operations Anthony Ruelli Leadership Development Michael J. Schroeder Transportation Lyndl A. Schuster Ed.D. Sustainability Steven J. Smidl Special Education: Administration & Finance Mark E. Staehlin Cash Management, Investments & Debt Management Justin D. Veihman Risk Management Laura L. Vince Food Service BOARD & EXTERNAL RELATIONS MEMBERS Cathy L. Johnson President Carrie L. Matlock, AIA, LEED ® AP, BD+C SAAC Chair STAFF MEMBERS Michael Jacoby Executive Director / CEO (815) 753-9366, mjacoby@iasbo.org Susan P. Bertrand Deputy Executive Director / COO (815) 753-9368, sbertrand@iasbo.org Craig Collins Statewide Professional Development Coordinator, (630) 442-9203, ccollins@iasbo.org Rebekah L. Weidner Senior Copywriter / Content Strategist, (815) 753-9270, rweidner@iasbo.org Tammy Curry Senior Graphic Designer (815) 753-9393, tcurry@iasbo.org John Curry Senior Graphic Designer / Videographer (815) 753-7654, jcurry@iasbo.org Laura M. Turnroth Communications Coordinator (815) 753-4313, lturnroth@iasbo.org

Illinois ASBO Board of Directors Dean T. Romano, Ed.D. President Mark W. Altmayer President-Elect Jan J. Bush Treasurer Cathy L. Johnson Immediate Past President 2017–20 Board of Directors Mark R. Bertolozzi, Kevin L. Dale, Eric DePorter 2018–21 Board of Directors Seth Chapman, Ed.D., Angela M. Crotty, Ed.D., Adam P. Parisi 2019–22 Board of Directors Maureen A. Jones, Tamara L. Mitchell, Nicole Stuckert

Illinois ASBO Board Liaisons

Terence M. Fielden, Service Associate Advisory Committee Chair Lisa Yefsky, Service Associate Advisory Committee Vice Chair Deborah I. Vespa ISBE Board Liaison Perry Hill IASB Board Liaison David Wood Governmental Relations Specialist Calvin C. Jackson Legislative Liaison

Privacy Policy

All materials contained within this publication are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, displayed or published without the prior written permission of the Illinois Association of School Business Officials. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content. References, authorship or information provided by parties other than that which is owned by the Illinois Association of School Business Officials are offered as a service to readers. The editorial staff of the Illinois Association of School Business Officials was not involved in their production and is not responsible for their content.


For a Complete Listing of Fall 2019 Events Visit: www.iasbo.org/events/calendar

PERSPECTIVE / Board President

FROM–THE–PODIUM Finding Clarity in Your Personal Vision Welcome to the Fall 2019 UPDATE! To begin, thank you to all the authors who have shared their time, energy and expertise to make this content available to all of us. This magazine is a great resource that supports what we do for our districts and the kids we serve. It is this level of commitment and sharing with our colleagues that truly sets Illinois ASBO apart as a leader in professional development. Dean T. Romano, Ed.D. As I have transitioned this past year into a new district, I have been reminded that the nuts ASST. SUPT./BUSINESS SERVICES GENEVA CUSD 304 and bolts of our world in the area of purchasing is so important. Some of the questions that have arisen from my internal review here in Geneva CUSD 304 include: Who do we buy from? How do we buy it: purchase orders, p-cards, online? How do we provide oversight and ensure checks and balances? Are we maximizing our buying power using purchasing cooperatives, intergovernmental agreements and Requests for Proposals (RFPs)? Additionally, are we looking at how to make the entire process as efficient as possible for our team members? Answers and best practice solutions to these questions are addressed within the pages of this UPDATE. SIMPLY SAYING

Who do you want to be one year from now? Be sure to think BIG, because… you are worth it. As this is my first opportunity to connect with the entire membership as your Association President, I want to take a moment to share a few thoughts. To begin, it is an honor and privilege to serve on behalf of the membership and give back to an exceptional organization that has provided me with much more than I will ever be able to contribute to it in return. Thank you for this opportunity to try and come close! Many of you were able to hear from me at the Annual Conference as I announced a new theme for this year that your Board of Directors and Illinois ASBO staff will be immersed within. It is the importance of CLARITY. Clarity in who you want your future self to be. This has been an area of great interest for me personally as I envision my own future both personally and professionally.

If you are reading this as an Illinois ASBO member, you are already an achiever and can become anyone and anything you can imagine. So, who do you want to be one year from now? Be sure to think BIG, because… you are worth it. I hope you find value in the CLARITY conversation throughout the year. There are many resources available on the topic but one I can recommend is the researchbased clarity section of the book High Performance Habits by Brendon Burchard. I encourage you to purposefully set aside time to find your personal and professional clarity, and I cannot wait to meet your future you.


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Learn from speakers who have applied these leadership concepts in their own offices and gain a fresh perspective on the work you do every day! Take part in beneficial sessions as well as an exploratory leadership activity in this all-inclusive experience.



PERSPECTIVE / Executive Director

FROM–THE–OFFICE Tools for the Art and Science of Purchasing The role of purchasing in a school district is as much an art as it is science. There are legal requirements that make up the “science” of purchasing and can make it seem like just a routine function. To navigate these legal requirements, please take a close look at the two joint purchasing articles in this issue. They spell out exactly how to engage in leveraged purchasing by joining with other districts and governmental entities. Beyond joint purchasing, a wise and seasoned business professional knows that applying “art” to purchasing can truly save a district money and guarantee the highest quality of goods Michael A. Jacoby, Ed.D, CAE, SFO EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR/CEO and services to a district. Illinois ASBO has been in the business of providing purchasing ILLINOIS ASBO opportunities that districts can trust; these are of the highest quality, set forth best practices and apply the power of association collaboration and cooperation. If you have not investigated these opportunities, your district may not be getting everything it can from each dollar. IASA, IASB and IPA are primary partners and, in the case of the p-Card program, other state ASBO affiliates help the program be one of the largest in the U.S.! SIMPLY SAYING

Illinois ASBO has been in the business of providing purchasing opportunities that districts can trust. Take a moment to examine and consider participating in any or all of the following: Illinois ASBO — Created Programs: Illinois School District Liquid Asset Fund Plus (ISDLAF+). The premier investment program for Illinois schools proving liquidity, fixed rate, short and long-term options. Illinois Energy Consortium (IEC). Provides both natural gas and electricity to schools with many programs from fully managed to market floating — each designed to meet district needs. Illinois ASBO p-Card. A state of the art method for purchasing that has now spread to 16 other ASBO affiliates and produces a substantial rebate based on purchasing volume.

Alliance — Created Programs: Future Green Energy Consortium (FGEC). Provides discounted electricity to schools with options to offer discounts to teachers, parents and community members that can also drive further discounts for the district. Illinois School Employee Benefit Consortium & Metropolitan School Employee Benefit Program (ISEBC & MSEBP). Health insurance programs that give districts new options for savings (ISEBC for downstate and MSEBP for Cook and Collar Counties).

Affinity Programs: Forecast5. An analytics platform that is continually expanding with input and collaboration from Illinois ASBO members. This is the future of school business management. Call One. The power of aggregation comes to telecommunication services. Omnia Partners. A purchasing option that satisfies the Illinois bidding law through national contracts. For more information on any of the member benefits and programs listed, please visit our website at: www.iasbo.org/programs.


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More Days. More Marketplace Time. More Networking.

MORE WAYS TO CONNECT IN PEORIA! The Annual Conference returns to Peoria on April 29 - May 1, 2020 in a two and half-day format packed with opportunities to find clarity on how you can be a resource to Illinois school districts. Prepare now to bring your services and expertise to the table and connect to the industry in new ways.





FROM–THE–FIELD The Unique World of Education Purchasing I am really excited that my first article as Service Associate Advisory Committee Chair is on purchasing. I have spent the majority of my professional career dealing with purchasing issues for construction. I have also served 12 years as a school board member in Naperville CUSD 203, where I heard the “unfiltered” concerns of board members surrounding: “Are we paying too much?” “Are you kidding me… $200,000 for 12 pieces of library furniture????” “Why does a door lock cost so much when I could go to Home Depot and…”



Think of fellow administrators and Service Associates that you can reach out to for help while you are sifting through the financial complexities of any purchasing decision. You get the idea. Do not even get me started on the p-Card (best thing ever by the way!) Happily, the members of my board came to rely on my expertise as a seasoned and reasonable Service Associate. All boards will gradually come to realize that school administrators must base all financial decisions within the confines of a unique and complex world that is simply known as education. Board experience dictates that there are very few easy purchasing decisions in the “simple” world of education. I would encourage each of you to think of fellow administrators and Service Associates that you can reach out to for help while you are sifting through the financial complexities of any purchasing decision. Perhaps this will require several cold calls to seek a balance of options. Have you considered picking up the phone and speaking to someone about a planned future purchase?

Have you ever asked someone to come and explain their benefits in simple terms? School administrators should feel comfortable seeking advice from a Service Associate within the market for planned purchases as an additional “layer of expertise” along with the advice from trusted colleagues. Balancing the two is the best way to navigate cost and long-term educational value. Plan for your purchases well in advance of the need, use the Illinois ASBO network to build your expertise and demonstrate to your board that they are making a purchase certain to yield a long-term financial return of educational service.


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Brian P. Crowley

Todd R. Drafall

Janet L. Fisher

Partner Franczek Radelet P.C.

Asst. Superintendent for Business Downers Grove SD 58

Retired School Business Official

Serves as general counsel to many Illinois school districts, charter and private schools, other public bodies and not-for-profit organizations. Brian focuses on general governance, bidding and all types of contractual matters, from software to real estate, construction contracts, employment contracts and zoning matters. BPC@franczek.com

Prior to Downers Grove, Todd worked at several elementary, high school and unit districts including serving as the CFO for a State Board appointed Financial Oversight Panel at Proviso High School District 209. He is working on his dissertation at Concordia University Chicago where he also serves as an adjunct professor. tdrafall@dg58.org

Recently retired after 15 years at CCSD 59, including 12 years in a purchasing role. Jan previously spent 11 years teaching and 14 in higher education administration. As a member of the Purchasing PDC, Jan served as a co-chair and contributed to rewriting the Illinois ASBO Purchasing Manual.

Kenneth M. Florey

R. J. Gravel, Ed.D.

Nicole Hansen

Partner Robbins, Schwartz, Nicholas, Lifton & Taylor, Ltd.

Asst. Supt./Business Services Glenbrook HSD 225

Purchasing & Transportation Supervisor Twp. High Sch. Dist. 214

With a background in instructional technology, R.J. advocates for effectively using technology to support student learning and maintaining efficiency in school operations. R.J. is active in the Illinois ASBO community as a presenter, writer and contributor and also serves as a co-moderator of @EdFinChat. rgravel@glenbrook225.org

Previously, Nicole worked as the purchasing assistant for CCSD 59 and in accounts receivable for District 45. Nicole has a B.S. in mathematics and M.A in Accounting & Financial Management. She completed her CSBO endorsement from NIU in August 2019.

Ken concentrates his practice representing public and private clients, including municipalities, school districts, community colleges, private owners, contractors and design professionals regarding land use, municipal law, construction, tax, finance and litigation. kflorey@robbins-schwartz.com


Margaret MacNair

Howard A. Metz

Daniel Oberg

Associate Robbins, Schwartz, Nicholas, Lifton & Taylor, Ltd.

Partner Robbins, Schwartz, Nicholas, Lifton & Taylor, Ltd.

Dir./Business Services Comm. High Sch. Dist. 94

Counsels and represents school districts, community colleges, park districts and municipalities with respect to real estate, commercial transactions, construction law and land use and zoning matters.

Prior to working in school districts, Dan worked as a senior accountant and audited local municipalities and districts. He is the Co-Chair of the Illinois ASBO Communications PDC and a founder/moderator of @EdFinChat, the K-12 education #edchat to discuss CSBO topics.




Practices in the firm’s commercial, construction, real estate, public finance and taxation groups. Meg represents school districts, community colleges, municipalities and private entities over the course of construction and development projects and any resulting litigation.

Laura Petrone Berins

Curtis J. Saindon

Angela Smith

Purchasing and Operations Specialist Wheeling CCSD21

Asst. Supt./Business, CSBO Woodridge Elem. SD 68

Asst. Supt./Operations Aurora West SD 129

Is in her first year as Purchasing and Operations Specialist. Prior to this, she served the district in accounts payable for over six years. Laura received her bachelor’s degree in finance from Roosevelt University in Chicago.

With over 22 years of experience, Curt has worked in districts ranging from very high poverty, low property wealth to a very low poverty, high property wealth districts that depended very little on state aid. He served as chair of the Illinois ASBO Delegate Advisory Assembly and is an advocate for legislative reform. saindonc@woodridge68.org

Prior to working in school finance, Angie was a trust officer providing investment services to public and private sector retirement plans. She also served as a board of education member for seven years. Angie will serve as chair of the Sustainability PDC for the upcoming school year.



Jackie Wernz

Chris Wildman, CPA, CGMA, SFO

Partner Franczek Radelet P.C.

Chief Financial Officer, CSBO North Shore SD 112

Brings a decade of experience representing public and private schools, colleges and universities across the state of Illinois. She assists clients with all areas of education law, from labor and employment to student rights to school business and board governance issues.

Is the chair of the Illinois ASBO Communications PDC and an Illinois member of the GFOA Alliance for Excellence in School Budgeting, recently presenting at their national conference. He is a founder/moderator of @EdFinChat, the monthly education #edchat to discuss CSBO topics. cwildman@nssd112.org



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Take Your Purchasing

INTO THE 21ST CENTURY Find out how e-commerce vendors such as Amazon can save your district time and create efficiencies.

By Dan Oberg



When thinking of a school purchasing solution, most teachers and staff look for an option that is quick and easy and the business office wants a tool that provides the appropriate internal controls. Fortunately, it is not too difficult to find an option that everyone knows how to use these days! Purchasing tools provided by Amazon or other e-commerce vendors can provide the appropriate internal controls and also provide a quick and easy process for users.

Why Use E-Commerce Vendors? Even with solid purchasing guidelines that specify what, who, when and how items can be submitted for reimbursement, receipts can be inaccurate, include tax, items can be shipped to the employee’s home or just be lost altogether. In addition, staff members often will have to wait for reimbursements as the process can be lengthy when they have to scan in their receipts, hand enter the information into the financial software, wait for the approval before the reimbursement check can be approved and released to the employee. All in all, reimbursement to teachers and staff members can be cumbersome.

what the staff member wants to purchase. Requisitions are built directly from the websites and go through the normal approval process, providing the controls the business office wants. Once approved, requisitions are sent directly to the vendor, meaning the vendor can place the order quickly and items can be delivered faster. E-commerce sites will have the most up-to-date pricing so you do not have to worry about old catalogs and usually the pricing is more reasonable. In addition, these vendors will already have your tax exempt letter on file to avoid any unnecessary charges that need to be remedied later.

E-commerce vendors, such as Amazon, can provide a quick and easy method for issuance and approval of requisitions. Staff members already know how to purchase school-related items online, as they do it every day. Using Amazon/e-commerce vendors will reduce hand-entering of requisitions as well as eliminate the guessing game of

Another important element to this process is once the requisitions are entered, the amount spent is encumbered within your financial software providing up-to-date budget capability that does not exist when an unexpected request for reimbursement is submitted.


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BEST PRACTICES AMAZON BUSINESS There are a few things to keep in mind as a business office goes down the path to implement Amazon/ecommerce as a purchasing tool. Amazon Business has a system that allows teachers to find the items they want to purchase and then create a list in Amazon. They can then share the list with the person who will submit the requisition. This process ensures that the items ordered are exactly the items requested, hand entry is limited and items are shipped to predetermined district building locations.

AMAZON PRIME For those considering whether or not to use Amazon Prime, ask Amazon to provide a cost analysis for you. They will review your purchases for the past year and can help you determine what you would have paid in shipping costs.

OPEN PURCHASE ORDERS Open purchase orders go against your credit line with Amazon, so you must monitor to make sure these orders/requisitions are getting approved and paid. On a weekly basis, review the status of the orders and make sure they are getting through the approval process.

THIRD PARTY VENDORS When ordering from Amazon, we discourage purchasing from third party vendors. Many issues can come up with these types of vendors such as they include tax or take weeks to be shipped. As a way to limit third-party purchases, sort the vendors by Prime vendors, which moves third-party vendors to the bottom of your sort. Your district does not need to be enrolled with Amazon Prime to sort the vendors by Prime vendors.

RECONCILING & RECEIVING AMAZON ORDERS Reconciling and receiving your Amazon orders are key functions to ensure all items are received and your invoices are paid. Amazon has a couple of options for invoicing; they either invoice by order or by account. We utilize the invoicing by order so we can receive each item in our financial software. Once an item is shipped, an invoice will be emailed. Invoices can be sent to the appropriate staff members to remind them that they need to receive these items upon delivery. Sometimes, Amazon will not include a packing slip so, we use the PO for the packing slip as an alternative. Amazon will send a list of all outstanding invoices monthly.

In an effort to readily provide teachers and administrators with the tools they need to successfully educate the students in your district, it is important for the business office to increase efficiencies, keep appropriate internal controls and simplify the order entry process. Amazon and other e-commerce vendors can significantly improve those processes.


PERSPECTIVE / On the Profession

SCHOOL BUSINESS 101 How do you share the story of your school district’s purchasing with your community? do not get a lot of people at our board meetings, but any time we do a bigger “ We purchase to save money or create a better process through our purchasing we celebrate it at the board meeting. Sometimes we will write up bigger wins in the district magazine; for example I recently wrote about some new safety initiatives we are implementing. We recently saved a lot of money with a new copier vendor and were able to talk about that at a meeting and share the win with the community.” ANTHONY R. ARBOGAST Dir./Business Services, CSBO, Roselle SD 12

district regularly posts up our check registers. We also present the results of the “ Our bid or RFP process to our board. We are in the middle of a construction project of $256 million over ten years, so our communications department worked with a focus group from the community to come up with a master facilities plan and we continue to update the community on the progress of this big ticket initiative.” CAROLYN GUST Dir./Purchasing & Transportation, Oak Park & River Forest SD 200

sessions at board meetings the district tries to be really transparent about “ Inouropen purchases and where the money is coming from. Our district has a one percent occupational facility tax; we try to be clear when we are spending money from those funds and for what specific purpose we are using them. We want to explain so everyone can understand, but also not overload them with too much information.” RACHEL T. WRIGHT Business Manager, Herrin CUSD 4

WANT MORE COMMUNITY COMMUNICATION STRATEGIES? Turn to the article on p. 22 for 12 more ideas to help you craft your district’s purchasing message, along with helpful examples of each!


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Joint Purcha$ing Everything You Want to Know But are Afraid to Ask!


By Kenneth Florey


Howard Metz


Margaret MacNair


WHAT IS JOINT PURCHASING? Also known as cooperative purchasing, joint purchasing is a convenient way for school districts and any governmental entities to leverage the benefit of procuring goods, materials and services by aggregating volume purchase, securing best pricing and reducing administrative time and expenses. This can cut down on time and cost for your school district. In order to purchase through joint purchasing, the school district must be a member of the joint purchasing cooperative. There are many ways to find a cooperative, many of which are out-of-state, and many of them advertise heavily. However, there are certain requirements that not every state has, which may preclude a cooperative from being legal in Illinois. It is always best to check with your legal counsel to ensure a cooperative meets all the requirements. WHAT GOVERNS JOINT PURCHASING? There are two separate and distinct paths available to school districts when addressing the ability to utilize joint purchasing: the Illinois Governmental Joint Purchasing Act (30 ILCS 525) and the Education Purchasing Program created by Article 28A of the School Code (105 ILCS 5/28A). In the past, the School Code was the most common way to engage in joint purchasing. However, in order to be eligible for joint purchasing, the Illinois State Board of Education had to approve the cooperative. As of the time of publishing, there are no entities currently approved by ISBE pursuant to Article 28A. Now, the way for school districts to utilize joint purchasing is the Illinois Governmental Joint Purchasing Act. This Act was amended in 2013 to allow both in-state and out of state cooperatives. The Joint Purchasing Act expressly supersedes any bidding requirements of any other law including the Illinois School Code by providing that “(t)he provisions of any other acts under which a governmental unit operates which refer to purchases and procedures in connection therewith shall be superseded by the provisions of this Act when the governmental units are exercising the joint powers created by this Act.� One of the more significant changes in the Joint Purchasing Act was to amend the requirements to now allow for a competitive selection process as opposed to the requirement of a sealed bid.


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CAN SCHOOL DISTRICTS UTILIZE COOPERATIVE PURCHASING AND COMPLY WITH THE PUBLIC BIDDING REQUIREMENTS? Yes, Section 10-20.21(c) of the School Code provides an exception to the bidding requirement for cooperative master contracts authorized by the Illinois State Board of Education. Additionally, the Joint Purchasing Act allows school districts to make purchases through an authorized cooperative for equipment, supplies and services if a governmental entity operates the cooperative and follows the established competitive selection and/or sealed bid process. WHERE DO I FIND A PURCHASING PROGRAM? The state of Illinois has a cooperative purchasing program called the Joint Purchasing Program that is administered by the Illinois Department of Central Management Services. Under this program, the state’s procurement officers prepare specifications, evaluate bidders, select the highest-quality bid, check references and negotiate all pricing. School districts and other municipalities are able to take advantage of the state’s purchasing power by participating in the Joint Purchasing Program, procuring goods and services from the awarded vendors. This can be found at www.bidbuy.illinois.gov/bso. There are many other cooperatives all over the country. Your legal counsel may have suggestions. Other school districts can also be great resources for finding cooperatives that are well respected and easy to work with for purchasing or schools can create their own purchasing cooperatives. One site that lists many available cooperatives is: www.nigp.org/home/find-procurement-resources/ directories/cooperative-purchasing-programs.

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UPDATE Magazine / Fall 2019

WHAT ARE THE LEGAL REQUIREMENTS TO ENGAGE IN COOPERATIVE PURCHASING? 1. A governmental body must run the cooperative. This does not necessarily mean it has to be an Illinois governmental body, but a governmental body nonetheless. The cooperative can be run by a school district, a park district, a municipality or any other public in-state or out-of-state governmental body. 2. The school district may only join a cooperative after board approval, then they can join and make purchases. Oftentimes cooperatives have specific, pre-written resolutions that it needs the board to approve. Make sure to ask about this before seeking board approval. 3. The cooperative must solicit bids and proposals based on competitive solicitations. Competitive solicitations mean that the cooperative gets to decide on the selection criteria and does not require the lowest bidder selection criteria. Instead, the selection standard is the highestranked proposer. Using a cooperative allows for much more discretion regarding what criteria is important to you. That being said, if the cooperative choses a vendor other than the lowest bidder, there needs to be some justification. That justification could be that the delivery was going to be faster or the specifications more closely match what the school district is seeking. 4. The bids and proposals must be solicited by public notice as specified by the Joint Purchasing Act. This means that it must “be solicited by public notice inserted at least once in a newspaper of general circulation in one of the counties where the materials are to be used and at least five calendar days before the final date of submitting bids or offers.” If this is a national out-of-state cooperative, most cooperatives publish this notice in USA Today. If it is a more local cooperative, there may be a different newspaper that would be appropriate.

ARTICLE / Joint Purchasing

WHAT IS THE SELECTION CRITERIA? One of the advantages to joint purchasing is during the bidding process; each cooperative can decide what the criteria are for a product. The bidder who must be picked is the “highest-ranked proposer.� This is different from sealed bidding where you must pick the lowest responsible and responsive bidder. The cooperative evaluates the highestranked proposer based on five different categories: 1. Qualities of the product 2. Conformity with specifications 3. Suitability to the requirements of the governmental units 4. Delivery terms 5. Price When going through these categories, the cooperative decides which ones are more important and which ones are given less weight. Highest ranked can be different from region to region. For example, if it is a national cooperative the delivery terms within Texas may differ from delivery terms in Illinois. WHAT ABOUT THE CONTRACT? Once the district has decided to make a purchase through a joint purchasing cooperative, the actual contract is between the school district and the individual company itself. The cooperative is typically not a party to the contract and has no responsibility under the contract. Because members of the cooperative are not responsible for other member’s liability, joining a cooperative does not expose your school district to risk in the event that there are contractual disputes related to other cooperative members.

Another important aspect of joint purchasing is to examine the contract and determine if it contains terms that are legally enforceable and/or required in Illinois. Some cooperatives set the contract terms that the purchasing district cannot change. Other cooperatives, allow the purchasing district to negotiate the contract terms for itself. Ideally, you want to have the ability to negotiate the contract terms outside the cooperative. This is important because you want to be able to identify any unacceptable business or legal terms and conditions. One of the more important terms is the venue or location where the district and vendor will litigate any legal disputes. Illinois and the county where your district is located is the preferred venue. Other critical terms include insurance, termination rights, indemnification, prevailing wage and performance and payment bonds requirements. WHAT ARE SOME JOINT PURCHASING BEST PRACTICES? When evaluating whether joint purchasing is the best route for your district, it is best to obtain informal quotes or estimates from local vendors. The idea behind cooperative purchasing is that the higher volume of purchasers should lead to the lowest pricing. If you can obtain a lower price through the low bid process for a certain product, then joint purchasing may not be the best method. Time permitting, soliciting bids/proposals from local vendors can help assure that you are in fact getting the best price with contract terms the district sets. An additional strategy is to evaluate several different cooperatives. As there are currently many available cooperatives, it is best to determine which would be the best fit for your school district. Always check with your legal counsel to determine whether a particular cooperative is compliant with the requirements of the relevant Illinois statute and would be appropriate for your school district.


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Beyond the

Numbers Managing & Telling the Story of Your District’s Purchasing Have you ever sat down for the evening, browsed your endless social media feed and encountered an article that talks about a local government agency’s spending habits? These types of headlines capture the attention of community members and often present a less than favorable perspective of how financial resources have been managed. If the article you saw was about your school district, how would you respond? What tools do you have in your rapid response toolbox to tell the complete story of your district’s purchasing? Each school district can benefit from sharing with its community how it prioritizes the allocation of resources and its procedures for spending public funds. Sharing this type of information provides school business officials with a limitless collection of tools to leverage when they compose rapid responses to interested stakeholders. While creating these tools takes time upfront, proactively sharing information on an ongoing basis demonstrates a commitment to transparency in how a school district manages its spending. With the ongoing evolution of financial databases, sharing information with your community and telling this important story has never been easier. This article presents 12 ideas to help novice and veteran school business officials enhance how they craft the message about their district’s purchasing. It is important to recognize that no two school districts are alike, and that each community maintains its own interpretation on topics such as financial management and transparency. To that point, these ideas are compiled from a variety of different school districts and even one municipality. To provide insight into how these ideas have been put into action, there are links to examples compiled from browsing school district websites.

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UPDATE Magazine / Fall 2019


By R.J. Gravel, Ed.D.




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1. GET STARTED WITH A BUDGET BOOK ASBO International developed the Meritorious Budget Award (MBA) Criteria Checklist to help tell this story through the annual school budget. Composed of an executive summary, organizational, financial and informational sections, this easy-to-understand document goes well beyond numbers, providing transparency on how a school district’s resources are allocated. School districts that have adopted the MBA format create a single document, rich in data and supporting narratives, that can be used to support routine questions from stakeholders and even collective bargaining activities.

3. CREATE AN INTERESTED VENDOR PROCESS There are a lot of vendors that are seeking to provide goods and services to schools. Many times interested vendors will send marketing materials through the mail, or make phone calls to the district with the goal of informing school personnel about their services. It is easy to lose track of their contact information and what services they offer, especially when they connect at a time when you are not seeking new products or partnerships. To help ensure that you have access to a competitive marketplace when your next purchasing opportunity arises, consider creating an interested vendor process. By making a simple form available, you can easily collect vendor information and store the data within a spreadsheet. The next time a purchasing need is identified, simply refer to your spreadsheet and reach out to all vendors that might be able to provide a quotation for what you need!


TOWNSHIP HIGH SD 214 www.iasbo.tools/VendorProcess

NORTH SHORE SD 112 www.iasbo.tools/BudgetBook More information: www.iasbo.tools/MBA 2. CREATE A ONE-STOP DESTINATION FOR FINANCIAL INFORMATION Most school districts maintain a dynamic website that features up-to-date information regarding student activities, celebrations and other timely information to keep stakeholders informed. As the official web presence for the school district, it naturally receives a lot of traffic from parents, students and community members. Create an easy-to-find, one-stop dashboard for financial information such as the annual budget, routine expenditure reports, facility plan and other key resources. Once established, refer community members looking for information to your online file cabinet.

WEB DASHBOARD EXAMPLE TOWNSHIP HIGH SD 211 www.iasbo.tools/WebDashboard


4. SUMMARIZE THE BUDGET WITH A “BUDGET IN BRIEF” Where the budget book might serve as the go-to resource insight into the detailed operations of a school district, the Budget in Brief (BIB) document gets right to the point in a nearly jargon-free publication for all. Promoted by the GFOA as a tool to make the budget document easier to understand, the BIB is typically three to six pages and highlights the major points of the annual budget. Many municipalities have adopted the format and use it as a supplement to their village newsletter. Consider creating a BIB and sharing it with parent groups, or even your entire community.


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ARTICLE / Telling Your District's Story

5. GFOA SMARTER SCHOOL SPENDING FRAMEWORK The GFOA Smarter School Spending framework steps provide a guide to develop a collaborative budget process by setting expectations of what the process will achieve, thoroughly examining the underlying causes of achievement gaps and developing goals and strategies to overcome the gaps. The next step is to analyze current spending to allocate resources accordingly and craft and develop an implementation plan to spend towards those goals. The final step is to measure performance and adjust as necessary. Examples include root cause analysis to find the underlying barriers to student achievement and address those with smart, targeted investments.

GFOA FRAMEWORK EXAMPLE BEAVERTON SD, OREGON www.iasbo.tools/GFOA More information: www.smarterschoolspending.org

6. POST BILL LISTS ONLINE All schools spend money every month. Each expenditure typically goes through a multi-step approval process, ensuring that the expense was appropriate and within the board-approved spending parameters. Some expenditures are routine such as employee salaries and utility bills, while others stand alone such as furniture and office supplies. Upon final approval, expenditures are turned into disbursements, which are ultimately considered for approval by the board of education. To ensure that each disbursement is transparent, it should include a description that accurately details what it is and for what purpose it was purchased. A roster of all disbursements should subsequently be made available on the school district’s website for all interested parties to review.


Proactively Sharing Information on an ongoing basis demonstrates a commitment to transparency in how a school district manages its spending.


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7. PUBLISH COMPETITIVE BID DETAILS The community knows that in order to effectively provide educational services to their children, schools need to purchase goods and services. However, they want to know that when tax dollars are being spent, that the school is getting the best deal possible. When conducting competitive bid processes, consider posting a comprehensive summary of the bid online, including: posting processes completed, interested parties, the requirements of the bid, summary of prices received and any applicable rating procedures that were applied.


8. CREATE A PURCHASING CARD PROGRAM INFOGRAPHIC When the Annual Statement of Affairs is published in the local paper, many school districts quickly receive phone calls from community members asking, “Why did you spend over $1 million dollars to MasterCard?” If you are a part of Illinois ASBO’s purchasing card program, a quick answer to that question is explaining that you are one of over 1,100 school districts and municipalities that participate in the program, receiving rebates for every dollar spent. You can then explain that the more you spend using a credit card, in lieu of physical checks, the more you receive to support your extensive student activity. Promote the rebates that have been received and create an easy-to-understand infographic that summarizes the benefit of using p-cards for routine purchases every day.


9. CREATE A POPULAR ANNUAL FINANCIAL REPORT The Annual Financial Report provides a detailed accounting of the prior year’s revenues, expenditures and changes in the financial position for the school district. It is a critical document used to assess the financial state of a school district and requires a substantial amount of detail. As a result, the report may not be as accessible to a community member that does not possess a financial background. Recognizing this challenge, the GFOA has created a Popular Annual Financial Report (PAFR) template. The PAFR is typically a four to eight page document, understandable to those without a background in finance, demonstrating a local government’s progress in achieving their financial goals from the prior fiscal year.

ANNUAL REPORT EXAMPLE TOWNSHIP HIGH SD 211 www.iasbo.tools/AnnualReport

10. TAKE SOME PICTURES AND #TAGTHEM Social media continues to be an easy way to share updates with your school community. School business officials have an opportunity to post short updates enhanced with one or more pictures and/or videos. Capture and share the moment when a school custodian completes the waxing of the elementary school corridor, when new flexible learning space furniture arrives from the manufacturer or when the construction crews demolish a wall to make a larger school library! Even if you are not an avid user of Twitter, consider creating a #hashtag to share the moments that most will not see. (And do not forget to celebrate all of your staff that contribute to making our students' experiences better each day!)


CRYSTAL LAKE ELEMENTARY SD 47 (#COVPRIDE) www.iasbo.tools/CovPride

ARTICLE / Telling Your District's Story

11. PARTNER WITH LOCAL NEWS OUTLETS TO CELEBRATE THE GOAL OF BEING DEBT FREE Debt service often represents a decent percent of a school district’s total expenditures. While the percentage might be a bit eye-opening to a general community member, another equally important concept is that management efforts by the board of education have resulted in a plan to become debt free in tax year 2027. Efforts like these, which include debt restructuring activities to maximize lower interest rates, are part of the headline often overlooked by the media. Consider partnering with your local news outlet and share this story. The biggest headline of, “______ school district is now debt free” might be a few years away, but equally captivating is, “_______ school district will be debt free in ____”.

12. SHARE THE STORY BEHIND STUDENT FEES With most Illinois residents paying a considerable amount of property taxes to elementary and secondary school districts, it is understandable for taxpayers to question student fees. This can become even more common when neighboring school districts differ in the types and amounts of fees charged each year (e.g. athletic participation, bus transportation, registration, technology). When schools charge fees, it is beneficial to compile the rationale for each fee and provide insight into how the fee has changed in recent years. School districts can share this information easily by posting a summary to their website, alongside information for families that are experiencing financial hardship.



CHANNAHON SD 17 www.iasbo.tools/Channahon

PARK RIDGE-NILES SD 64 www.iasbo.tools/StudentFees

To Community and Beyond! However a school district chooses to tell the story of how it utilizes the treasures of its taxpayers, it is important that it does so in a manner that is accessible to individuals without a background in school finance. As our colleagues focused on curriculum and instruction often say, it is important to keep the edu-speak to a minimum and instead use terms that anyone can understand. Additionally, try to utilize visuals such as charts, graphs, infographics, pictures and videos. Using these types of visuals can be helpful in simplifying what would otherwise be quite complex information. Visuals are also an excellent way to capture the attention of your audience, ensuring that they do not miss out on your important story. Consider sharing this article with your board of education and leadership team at an upcoming finance committee meeting. At the end of the day, telling the story of your school district’s purchasing is the responsibility of both the administration and the community’s elected representatives. Use this as an opportunity to reflect on how you currently share information with your community and set goals for the future to expand the reach of this important story.


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UPDATE Magazine / Fall 2019

By Janet L. Fisher



Nicole Hansen




P-Cards The traditional procurement process can be costly, but what if your district could reduce the time and effort needed to process small orders, reduce the number of checks printed each month, speed up delivery time and get refunded a percentage of each purchase? A well-planned purchasing card program can help you achieve all of these goals. If you are reluctant to implement a program, or if your current program feels cumbersome, it may be time to rethink p-Cards.

Ten years ago, Community Consolidated School District 59 implemented a p-Card program through Illinois ASBO. Over the years, this program has grown, evolved and been refined to strengthen our procurement process and provide a positive experience for all participants. P-Cards reduce the time and effort needed to process small orders, allowing staff to get what they need faster and with more flexibility, without the hassle of petty cash or personal funds. They open the district up to a broader variety of vendor interactions, such as purchasing from those who may not accept purchase orders or taking advantage of time-sensitive sales or discounts. P-Cards reduce the number of checks printed each month while simultaneously allowing vendors to get paid sooner with no risk of non-payment. P-Card programs are not designed to circumvent or completely replace the purchase order process. We have found they are best used as a supplemental purchasing tool in specific situations. By carefully determining which situations and purchases warrant the use of a p-Card, we have been able to maximize the advantages gained from both p-Cards and purchase orders. If you are looking to implement a p-Card program, or to rework an existing program, we hope our experiences and advice will assist you along the way to achieving your procurement goals.


Cardholder Benefits • Convenience of purchasing without a purchase order. • Expanded list of vendors from whom purchases can be made. • Better pricing – take advantage of sales/discounts/promotions. • Expedited delivery – obtain merchandise more quickly.

District Benefits • Simplified purchasing & payment process. • Reduced number of check requests, petty cash and use of personal funds. • Lower overall transaction processing costs per purchase. • Decentralized purchasing function. • Receipt of rebates based on dollar volume of total purchases.

Vendor Benefits • Expedited payments – better cash flow. • Reduced paperwork and costs – invoice creation, handling, mailing, collection and depositing activities. • Lower risk of non-payment.

DEVELOP A PROCESS The success of a p-Card program begins with thorough planning and consideration for the following: • Determining participants • Developing procedures and controls • Initial and ongoing training for cardholders Developing a procedures manual that is provided to every cardholder is imperative. The manual should clearly delineate prohibited and permitted purchases, outline reconciliation procedures and timelines and include all required forms. Sample manuals can be found on the Illinois ASBO website at www.iasbo.org/purchasingmanual. RESOURCES TO INCLUDE IN YOUR DISTRICT’S P-CARD PROCEDURES MANUAL: • Code of conduct • Instructions on employee responsibilities and written acknowledgments • Purchasing guidelines on appropriate use • Spending and transaction limits • Recordkeeping and reconciliation requirements including review and approval process • Monthly billing and payment schedule and dates • Travel policies • Disputed transactions and returning merchandise • Lost or stolen cards • Periodic internal auditing practices DETERMINING PARTICIPANTS To maximize the efficiencies of a p-Card program, it is critical to carefully consider who should be issued a card. Administrators may need a card for travel, meal expenses, parking and transportation, but school and department administrative assistants and maintenance staff are likely to make frequent, small purchases that are ideal for p-Cards. Prior to making the determination and issuing cards, it is important to review the types of anticipated purchases that will be made on behalf of the district and assign the cards accordingly. 30 |

UPDATE Magazine / Fall 2019

Rolling out the program to one employee group at a time can reveal gaps and issues that need to be addressed, allow for the procedures manual to be refined to meet district needs and ensure training is customized and focused. CCSD59 first issued cards to administrators and building secretaries then, after procedures were solidified and refined, the program was extended to maintenance staff followed by FACS teachers and eventually department cards. DEPARTMENTS VS. INDIVIDUALS Another important consideration is whether to issue cards to individuals or departments. Individual cards promote a sense of responsibility (the employee’s name is on the card) and make identifying the purchaser simple; however, department cards generally mean fewer p-Cards to issue and that cards can continue to be used despite changes in staff. Both types of cards have their advantages and districts may find a blend of both to best suit their organization. CCSD59 has a special education program where different teachers and social workers make program-related purchases with equal frequency. Rather than issue multiple rarely used cards, we found it to be easier and more beneficial to issue a single card to the program that can be used by different people as the need arises. Conversely, we have issued individual p-Cards to numerous members of our maintenance staff who use them frequently in a variety of locations because requiring them to share a single card would be impractical. CONTROLS AND CREDIT LIMITS P-Cards allow for many customizable controls. In addition to the monthly credit limit, daily and transactional limits can also be established on a card-by-card basis. Problematic vendors can be specifically blocked or a whitelist of approved vendors can be created. It is even possible to limit vendors by the type of goods or services they offer using Merchant Category Codes (MCC). A word of advice: Use caution when restricting vendors by MCC. While it seemed obvious for us to prohibit malt beverage vendors, we quickly realized that this also ruled out many big-box and grocery stores from which we were frequently purchasing.

ARTICLE / Re-Thinking P-Cards

Credit limits for each card should be high enough to enable staff to make the purchases needed to do their job while being low enough to provide a check against potential extravagant purchasing or fraud. Again, considering position responsibilities is crucial. Each school and department is unique and employees with similar titles may have significantly different purchasing needs. Finding the correct limits may require some fine-tuning. Adjusting credit limits is simple, but it is best practice for requests to be documented on a form containing both an explanation for the change and the approval of the employee’s direct supervisor. A periodic review of credit limits is advised. PREVENT AND MINIMIZE FRAUD Just as with any credit or debit card, fraud happens with p-Cards as well. An easily identifiable and accessible p-Card program manager should be the first point of contact for the bank and for staff in the event of questions including unrecognized charges, lost cards or declined transactions. Encouraging open communication between purchasers and the program manager is critical, as is training staff in the proper procedures to follow when their card is lost or they suspect fraudulent activity. Preventing fraud is the responsibility of all those participating in the program. Staff should be educated about safe online purchasing and encouraged to store their cards in a secure, on-site location during summers and extended breaks. Most p-Card programs allow purchases to be restricted by country. We found that limiting our transactions to those processed in the United States and Canada drastically reduced the number of fraudulent transactions. It is important to note that this control applies to the country where the payment is processed, not the country in which the vendor is physically located or the purchase is made. This typically comes into play with online vendors who may pay third parties to process their transactions. When a need arises to purchase from another country, the p-Card manager can verify the vendor’s legitimacy and call the bank to either permanently or temporarily allow an exception.

Almost all p-Card programs offer some measure of fraud protection. The Illinois ASBO p-Card program with BMO Harris Bank provides fraud protection for both individual and departmental cards, but some programs may not cover fraud for department cards. Be sure to check the terms and conditions of any programs you are researching. Programs offering full protection are common and quite easy to find; unless there are other mitigating factors, a p-Card program offering full fraud protection is always going to be a better choice than one offering only partial protection. TIPS FOR AVOIDING FRAUD • Ensure any website where passwords or card numbers are entered is secure. • Avoid using personal accounts to make purchases/create business accounts. • Make purchases at work where computers have malware protection and the wi-fi is secure. EXTRA BENEFITS FOR DISTRICTS One added bonus to keep in mind is that most p-Card programs offer a rebate or incentive. The rebate offered by the Illinois ASBO program is a percentage of the spending volume that accelerates depending on how quickly the invoice is paid. CCSD59 has begun to maximize this rebate by paying invoices using an accounts payable departmental card. Large, regular payments, such as utility bills, are ideal, but even purchase order invoices can be paid with a card. Be sure to find out if vendors charge a convenience fee for paying with a card as some fees can outweigh any potential rebate benefit. A NEW PERSPECTIVE ON P-CARDS The p-Card program is not only a useful and efficient tool for the cardholder, but it is also a cost savings measure for the district. Although a p-Card program is sometimes perceived as difficult to control and time-consuming to manage, the benefits can far outweigh the concerns with careful planning and training in partnership with all involved parties. CCSD59 has definitely found it to be a viable, valuable and worthwhile effort!


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Pitfalls of the Current National School Lunch Program Bid Process Yes, you are in the food service business. It was a short part of your education, but it can be a very important part of your job. For many school districts, the food service contract is their single largest outside vendor relationship. If the district is enrolled in the National School Lunch Program, the bid process alone can be a daunting, time consuming and often frustrating task.

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UPDATE Magazine / Fall 2019


By Todd R. Drafall


Curtis J. Saindon


Angela Smith


A Prohibitive Process For those districts who are part of the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), every five years (at a minimum) they must go out to bid. Under current guidelines, districts are required to develop their own bid specification, which is then approved by ISBE prior to publication. While districts are at liberty to specify some aspects of their program in the bid specs (i.e. the number of serving lines, meal options, etc.), at the end of the day price is virtually all that matters. On bid day, whether a few thousand or hundreds of thousands of dollars separate bidders, the burden will be completely on the district if they select anyone other than the low bidder.

A Complicated Breakup For larger districts in particular, the prospect of switching providers on a complicated, multi-million-dollar service contract can be a nightmare. In part, due to the current low-bid dynamics at play, a bid may result in a relationship that is problematic from the start and could result in a district being out to bid again just a short, but painful year later. In the past few years, multi-million-dollar programs with dynamic district/vendor partnerships have been dissolved over the difference of less than one school’s meal service for one day. No consideration is given to the disruptive nature of such a change. A district looking to select someone other than the low bidder is forced to demonstrate why the vendor is unacceptable and make that case to ISBE. Even if ISBE grants the request, the district runs the risk of potential litigation should the low bidder fight the decision. Situations where there is a significant cost difference between the low bidder and the rest of the vendor submissions can also prove problematic with local school boards. A school business official can find themselves in the difficult position of having to explain to their board why they are turning down apparent savings when they make the argument that the winning vendor likely cannot deliver the quality program that is promised for the price quoted. This particular dynamic can lead to an initial award sometimes followed by a disastrous implementation and a subsequent messy “break-up.” In extreme cases, districts have found themselves changing providers mid-school year, resulting in a less than relaxing holiday break and a difficult switch in January. A school business official may see this train wreck coming, but will be hard pressed to prevent it given the reliance on low bid. What a waste of time and effort and what a disservice to the kids who have to suffer through a year of bad service and bad food!

A Lack of Local Control The bidding process currently followed for NSLP in the state of Illinois allows for virtually no local control. Bids are evaluated purely based on total cost. The current process in Illinois is far more stringent and restrictive than the process in 48 other states where criteria such as food quality, customer service and financial strength and capacity of the providers can be considered when making a final award. In every state besides New York and Illinois, bid processes provide districts with greater autonomy. Often similar to the e-Rate process, utilized for technology purchasing, districts can create a points system where criteria such as food quality and taste, company references, marketing and technology support, etc. can be given the value they deserve. Given that the National School Lunch Program allows more flexibility, the state of Illinois could allow the same latitude to its districts. You will notice that in the list of items to put in a bid document under the state of Illinois, there is not one mention of taste testing. That is correct; even though it is standard practice to taste your wedding cake, or even the food from a caterer for an event, you can contract tens of millions of dollars without having customers, students and staff taste any of the food to be served. Even if a taste test is added to the bid specs, it will have little value, because it must be in a pass/fail format and preference of taste cannot be considered. Pretty much any field trip with students and staff will result in everyone passing, which essentially makes taste a non-factor.


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A Call for Change In the NSLP/USDA guidelines, cost is a primary factor (no other individual factor can be weighed heavier than cost), but not the single determining factor (over 50 percent of the scoring matrix). A new system in Illinois could, for example, factor in cost at 40 percent, food quality/taste at 35 percent, experience in providing a similar program at 15 percent and references, innovations and other factors at 10 percent. That way, a better overall decision could be reached that is truly in the best interest of the school district AND the children.

How to Work Within the Current Framework While we are still in our current Illinois low bid framework, here are some strategies to help you make sure you are getting the quality of product and service you want: • Give yourself at least three months to go through the bid process. Target May for board action, allowing time for delays. This will also allow you to amend the bid as you discover things you missed. • In the mandatory pre-bid meeting, spell out your expectations. Explain what you expect of a successful vendor. This is a relationship you will have for many years, so you want a partner who is going to match your needs. (Do not be afraid to talk to vendors and listen to their ideas; talk to several and learn.) ○○ If those needs are the cheapest food at the lowest price, then it is a pretty easy bid to put out. ○○ If you have a level of expected service and quality of food, explain that in the bid meeting. If your words do not match the bid, vendors will tell you and you can amend your bid to meet your district needs (which is why you need to start early.) • Be very specific in the type of service and level of staffing you want to see. Make sure you have enough staff to do what needs to be done. If you are adding fresh salad and scratch cooking to the service, you will likely need to add staff. ○○ If you want fresh fruit and or vegetables every day of the week, dictate that in the bid specs. • Require the resume of the staff who will be taking over your business. Request a specific number of years in food business management, more importantly school food service.

• If you are using commodities, review how much is processed and how much is whole food. Processed food is easier, but it gets you chicken nuggets and not whole meat chickens. If you want chicken, limit the processing. Those are your commodities; get the whole product and make them cook if you have the capacity and want to create that type of menu. • Require a certain level of scratch cooking every day (if you have the facilities.) • Do not assume the current staffing is the future staffing. If you want a trained chef, ask for a trained chef and for the resume of the person they will be bring to your account. • Require proof of training and a plan for how they will train the staff if they win the bid. If a vendor wins the bid, more often than not they keep most of the staff you have. If the staff is the problem, you need to know how they are going to improve service. • Do not be afraid of rebidding to get it right. Also, do not be afraid of switching vendors till they get it right. People will understand your commitment to service and meet you at your standard. • Make sure the district gets all rebates and discounts offered to the vendor by suppliers. • If you require specific information in the bid, make sure you receive the information in the bid.

The current process in Illinois is far more stringent and restrictive than the process in 48 other states. 34 |

UPDATE Magazine / Fall 2019

ARTICLE / NSLP Bid Process

Case Study: Pitfalls of the NSLP Low Bid Process Curtis J. Saindon Asst. Supt./Business, CSBO Woodridge Elem. SD 68 Having changed food service vendors five years earlier, we were well aware of the time, effort and anxiety such a change creates among students, parents and staff. At least we had been able to frame that initial change as an improvement to our food service program, moving from a frozen food program to a fresh food program. While this program requires more coordination and effort, and therefore is more expensive, the taste and freshness of the food is better and the food prep is actually easier (no thawing is required). There is also additional flexibility in menuing with more entrée and side options available, if you can find companies in Illinois willing to provide the program.

Our worst fears became reality and it was evident early on that this new vendor was in over their head and could not meet the requirements of our contract. It was so bad that we considered dropping them mid-year and making an emergency appointment, but we decided to tough it out and just re-bid in the spring. We only got one response, luckily from our previous vendor who was familiar with us and interested in returning and we had no other options moving forward. If the rules and guidelines in Illinois had allowed us to consider more than just price as the determining criteria, we could have avoided this situation and saved our students, parents and staff a “wasted” year of poor quality and poor service that has set our food service program back immeasurably.

We have a large enough student base (3,000 students at seven buildings) and good mix of low income (~35 percent) and pay (~65 percent) students to make our program attractive. The challenge is finding a vendor in the Chicago suburbs who has a fresh food program and also has a processing facility near enough to our school district to make it feasible for them to deliver fresh meals every day. The current cumbersome and problematic state bidding requirements for food service programs make an already tough situation even more challenging. We only had two bidders for our fresh food program five years ago and luckily the low-cost vendor was very good to work with. We had hoped to continue on with that vendor, as they had provided quality service at a good price, but things did not work out like we hoped. We again received only two qualified bids, but unfortunately our incumbent provider was high on price (by only .3 percent, or about $2,500 on a $750,000 annual contract!) Without the ability to take other factors into account, as price is the deciding factor in the current model and accounts for over 50 percent of the scoring criteria, we were forced to accept the “low bid” from another vendor that we had serious reservations about. Without hard, concrete proof that our reservations were indeed justified, we were forced to take the low bidder.


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POWER UP YOUR PURCHASING Through Intergovernmental Agreements!

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UPDATE Magazine / Fall 2019




Intergovernmental agreements (IGAs) have been an effective tool for local governments for decades. With almost 7,000 units of local government in Illinois, it is inevitable that a school district will find a need to contract with another local government. The subject matters of IGAs are innumerable. They address real estate, leases, licenses, easements, facility use, public safety, cooperatives and countless other topics. If you can think of an activity and at least one of the local governments that is part of the IGA has the authority to engage in the activity, an IGA is generally permissible. Intergovernmental cooperation is especially beneficial in the context of purchasing. Working together allows local governments to achieve economies of scale, make large scale purchases at a volume discount and maximize their resources, among other benefits. With respect to purchasing, the purpose of an IGA is to obtain goods or services. The agreement could be for one governmental unit to purchase items — either new or used — from another governmental unit. Or, two or more governmental units could agree to purchase goods or services together from another public or private entity.



The Illinois Constitution in Article VII, Section 10, recognizes the value of intergovernmental cooperation. It provides that units of local government, including school districts, may contract or otherwise associate among themselves, with the State, with other states and with the United States to obtain or share services and to exercise, combine, or transfer any power or function.1 Such agreements are only limited if they are prohibited by law or by ordinance.

Many significant purchases are subject to the School Code’s bidding provisions.3 Bidding requirements, although well intentioned, restrict school districts from obtaining specific products they may want or require agreements with undesirable contractors because bids must be awarded to lowest priced responsible bidder. The lowest cost is not always in the best interest of a school district. Therefore, exceptions to the bidding statutes are desirable in certain circumstances.

Beyond the Illinois Constitution, the Illinois’ Intergovernmental Cooperation Act2 affords governmental entities very broad authority for intergovernmental arrangements. It is the primary law that authorizes all intergovernmental agreements, including purchasing agreements. The Intergovernmental Cooperation Act authorizes purchasing cooperatives, shared service arrangements for sharing employees or independent contractors and sharing of legal services for specific areas such as a property tax cooperative.

One bidding exception that stands out in the IGA context is the purchase of goods or services procured from another governmental entity.4 Except for the occasional purchase of a used vehicle or other used good, this exemption is rarely utilized. In addition to this finite exception, school districts looking to take advantage of economies of scale or purchase specific products (specific furniture items, athletic equipment or turf) without formal bidding have other options through intergovernmental cooperation.


STATE OF ILLINOIS' JOINT PURCHASING PROGRAM One example is the State of Illinois’ joint purchasing program, which is administered by the Procurement Services Division of the Illinois Department of Central Management Services (CMS). Through the program, vendors make price proposals to the State with the hope of increasing sales volume. Local governments that participate in the program then can order directly from the vendors to benefit from potentially lower prices than they would by acting alone.

ILLINOIS SCHOOL PURCHASING NETWORK Additionally, the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) is required, pursuant to Section 28A10 of the Illinois School Code,5 to establish an education purchasing program through which ISBE may certify State master contracts if they were entered into according to procedures and conditions that conform to applicable State purchasing laws.6 In response to this statutory obligation, ISBE established the Illinois School Purchasing Network (ISPN) and participation by Illinois school districts in certified education purchasing contracts through ISPN is exempt from bidding and advertising requirements. ISBE, however, has not recently approved any State master contracts and the prior master contracts have lapsed. Therefore, until ISBE approves new master contracts, this bid exemption is no longer available to school districts.

GOVERNMENT JOINT PURCHASING ACT The remaining specific statutory vehicle for school districts to enter into purchasing arrangements with other governmental entities without complying with the School Code’s bidding requirements is the Government Joint Purchasing Act, or GJPA.7 The GJPA allows school districts to make purchases by engaging in a joint bid with another unit of government. In addition, the GJPA allows a school district to benefit from a request for proposal that was previously prepared and under which contracts were previously awarded if the proposal contemplated the school district’s possible participation. For example, if the lead bidding governmental entity is part of a purchasing cooperative of which the school district is also a member (or becomes a member) and the request for proposal states it is for the benefit of the lead agency and members of that cooperative, the later participating school district can likely purchase from the successful bidder.

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The GJPA also allows school districts to participate in governmental purchasing cooperatives from other states, such as The Cooperative Purchasing Network (TCPN) from Texas. Before purchasing under such a contract, however, the school district must confirm that the agency that conducted the bid is a governmental entity. Some groups that hold themselves out as purchasing cooperatives benefitting local governments are not governmental entities. If such an organization acted as the lead bid agency, the GJPA could not be utilized by a school district to benefit from such a bid. Further, prior to purchasing products through a cooperative bid, a school district must confirm that the lead agency met the GJPA’s process requirements, which are outlined at the end of this article.

Article / Intergovernmental Agreements

ESTABLISHING THE RULES Considering these many layers of legal authority, there is little question that school districts and other local governments can contract among themselves for purchasing. Prior to entering into such arrangements, however, school districts should confirm that the arrangement is authorized by law and, if so, that any procedural requirements set forth in the law have been met. Intergovernmental cooperation statutes may limit the time period of agreements, impose hearing or publication requirements, establish procedures for electing board members of cooperative entities or establish other requirements or conditions that local governments must satisfy to cooperate in certain activities.

GENERAL CONTRACT PROVISIONS Once the parties establish that there is legal authority to enter into an IGA, the parties must create an agreement that serves their collective interests and provides protections for each entity. For IGAs in general, the following provisions should typically be included: • Purpose and Legal Authority. Clearly recite the purpose of the IGA, the legal authority under which it is established and the public purpose underlying it. • Subject Matter. Take care to describe the nature of the agreement. • Term. In addition to clearly defining the term of the agreement, consider if there is a time period prescribed by law and be wary of automatic renewal clauses. • Risk Allocation. How will you handle and apportion unexpected claims or liabilities? Provisions limiting overall liability, liability for consequential damages and ensuring the other party’s is not unfairly limited should be considered. • Indemnification. Scrutinize any indemnification or hold harmless clause, or the lack thereof. Ensure all parties whose actions could give rise to school district liability are covered and consider the scope of any such provisions.

• Insurance. Carefully consider how much insurance each party must have, and of what type, and address how each party will prove their compliance. Consider if a waiver of subrogation makes sense for the transaction. • Dispute Resolution. How will the parties deal with disputes? Joint committees, arbitration and mediation and judicial action all have costs and benefits that should be considered. • Default and Termination. Consider the unpleasant possibility that the relationship will deteriorate and a party will want to end the relationship. Make sure the agreement describes how one may do so, the notice requirements and include how the default can be cured. Further, without-cause termination provisions have merit so long as there is a sufficient notice period.

PURCHASING PROVISIONS Prior to making purchases under the GJPA or another intergovernmental vehicle, a school district should enter into an IGA with its purchasing partner and should verify that any contract with the vendor that is the product of the intergovernmental relationship is acceptable. Regarding the agreement with the purchasing partner, if entering into an agreement with a purchasing cooperative, the contracts are typically standard membership agreements and the school district usually has little negotiating leverage. Two key terms to review and potentially negotiate are any overly broad indemnification or limitation of liability provisions. A school district should not waive its ability to sue a purchasing cooperative if the purchasing cooperative was negligent or engaged in fraudulent or criminal behavior during the bid process. Further, a school district, for its own protection, should closely review the agreements the lead bidding governmental entity approved with the vendor. If the lead agency is merely a purchasing cooperative and not a governmental entity that will use the product, there is little incentive to require robust protections in the contract for the actual user. Some of the more consequential provisions that should be examined include warranties, limitation of liability, insurance, indemnification, automatic renewals and governing law.


While the state of Illinois is not typically praised for government efficiency, the state has, through its recognition of IGAs, provided vehicles for local governments and school districts to partner with other governmental entities to achieve efficiencies. This is especially true in joint purchasing. Utilizing statutes that allow intergovernmental cooperation, ensuring that the participating parties comply with the procedures set forth in those statutes and entering into contracts that protect the interest of all parties involved allow school districts to meet their purchasing goals in a creative and cost-effective manner.



If purchasing through a GJPA arrangement, a school district must first confirm that the following procedures have been met. The procedures are not stringent. Bids that do not comply with the GJPA, however, may not be utilized. All bids must be scrutinized for compliance with the GJPA before a school district may participate. School districts that desire to purchase products through the GJPA where the lead bidder is an out-of-state entity must carefully review the process undertaken as the lead entity is focused on its own state procurement laws and not the GJPA. • The purchase must be made jointly with another public entity created by statute. This can be accomplished by a school district through participating with another public entity at the outset. It can also be accomplished if a later participating school district is part of the same cooperative as the lead bidding public entity and the bid contemplates that other public entities that are members of the cooperative will be beneficiaries of the bid. • Expenses of such a competitive procurement process may be shared by the participating governmental units in proportion to the amount of personal property, supplies or services each unit purchases. • Each bid must be entered on a public record open to the public, which must indicate the successful bidder. This responsibility is for the agency who took the bid. • A copy of the contract must be filed with the purchasing office, clerk, or secretary of each participating governmental unit. • The supplies or services involved shall be distributed or rendered directly to each governmental unit taking part in the purchase.

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• Public notice must be provided in a newspaper of general circulation in one of the counties where the materials may be used. For example, if a Kane County public entity is the lead bidder and intends on using the products bid, so long as notice is published in Kane County, a Cook County school district can participate even if the notice was not published in Cook County. The notice must be published five calendar days before the final date for submitting bids, must include a general description of the supplies or services to be purchased and must include where specifications may be obtained and the time and place when bidding will open. • The bid must be awarded to the lowest responsible bidder or highest ranked offeror, taking into consideration the qualities of the articles or services supplied, their conformity with the specifications, their suitability to the requirements of the participating governmental units and the delivery terms. Note that under the School Code, bids may only be awarded to the lowest responsible bidder. Under the GJPA, the highest ranked offeror may be awarded the contract, allowing the selecting public entity more discretion in the selection.

Footnotes 1. Ill. Const. of 1970, art. VII, § 10. 2. 5 ILCS 220/1 et seq. 3. 105 ILCS 5/10-20.21. 4. 105 ILCS 5/10-20.21(a)(vii).

5. 105 ILCS 5/28A-10. 6. 105 ILCS 5/28A-15(3). 7. 30 ICLS 525/0.01 et seq.

RESOURCES Digital Convergence: When Kids Learn Best As a rural, downstate superintendent The value in guiding all conversations that led my former district to one of toward this essential question makes the earliest 1:1 conversions, and is this book not only a resource in regard in the midst of planning the same to educational technology, but also for my current district, I was able to to overall school improvement, which relate with several of the struggles hopefully would become your district’s identified. Such as, the desire to new agenda. simplify a potentially messy mass technology deployment with a single point solution, forcing a “one size fits all” model. These approaches, intended Book reviews from your peers to transform learning, instead lead to on relevant career topics very traditional classrooms with devices present. The lack of a unified, systemic approach has often led to massive (and expensive) technology deployments that fail to focus on 21st century skills, such as creativity, collaboration, critical thinking and communication.

On Their List

As the world rapidly accelerates with technological advancements, schools continue to adapt, yet often find themselves struggling to keep up. Rather than simply adding devices to classrooms, what schools need is to “transform our traditional classrooms into modern learning environments,” uniting education and technology forever in order to sustain this model of 21st century personalized learning: Digital Convergence. If your district is either on the path to a 1:1 learning environment, planning for this eventuality or in the midst of it with numerous challenges, then The New Agenda: Achieving Personalized Learning Through Digital Convergence is a book you may want to consider perusing. The entire process of transforming teaching and learning in the digital age is examined, as well as tips to shape the direction from deployment to differentiated learning.

In order to successfully achieve personalized learning through digital convergence, author Shawn K. Smith suggests five components that must be addressed in the planning process: leadership, instructional models, modern curriculum, digital ecosystems and professional learning. What I found most profound was a simple statement referenced several times throughout: “Kids learn best when…?” This rationale truly needs to be the “why” of every shift toward personalized and blended learning. Otherwise, districts run the risk of falling short of the ultimate goal: shifting the focus from the instructor to the learner.

Todd Dugan Superintendent Bunker Hill CUSD 8 A member of the Technology PDC, Todd is entering his 23rd year in public education. He has received many awards for leadership and utilizing technology to disrupt barriers, including the 2017 Tech & Learning Leader of the Year. Todd believes that students should never be at a disadvantage due to their zip code or socioeconomic status.


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My role as a CSBO When it Comes to Purchasing As a CSBO my role is not only to assure the district that they are receiving the best value for goods and services, but also to look beyond saving money by evaluating risks and maintaining relationships with high-quality vendors.

The Biggest Challenge for School Districts is… Purchases processed outside the district’s defined procurement guidelines. All staff must adhere to their district’s board policy and state statutes during the purchasing and bid process or it could lead to unwelcoming issues. Educating all stakeholders of the purchasing process is key to overcoming this challenge.

Purchasing Issues to Watch In the next five to ten years, there is a need for the purchasing processes to be reassessed and reworked to increase efficiency and bring maximum savings to school districts. As the need grows to be more efficient in purchasing, there will be an influx of the utilization of cooperative purchasing programs in future years.

One Thing Districts Can Do Today to Improve Their Processes Take advantage of your district’s purchasing software to its full capacity. The data it can provide has the ability to asses current affairs, provide past history and offer guidance for future decisions.

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Bringing Essential Topics to Districts Statewide

EAST PEORIA October 9, 2019


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REGISTRATION IS NOW OPEN FOR THE REGIONAL CONFERENCES! Get professional development that is geared toward the issues affecting districts in your area and discover solutions and new ideas to implement.


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The Institute is limited to 20 participants! Register early to ensure your spot. Take the first step on a career-changing journey toward better communication and leadership practices — registration opens this fall.

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