By Anna Maxin
Managing instructional materials for a campus is not an easy task, even for the most veteran inventory control specialists. Campus coordinators wear many hats, working as a liaison between your school and parents, and meeting the needs of the principal and teachers, on top of managing thousands of dollars of instructional assets. Keeping track of who has what material can sometimes be the least of your worries.
So when the responsibility of managing these assets has been thrust upon you, what do you do? I recently sat down with both current and past instructional material managers and asked what advice they’d give a person new to this inventory management role at a school.
Focus on the Process
Nick Weismantel, the Management Assistant to the Principal at James Bowie High School in Austin ISD, when asked what advice he would give a new textbook coordinator, immediately jumped to this first point – focus on the process. Inventory control, in its simplest form, is all about processes. This is important to wrap your head around as a new instructional material coordinator. Constantly look for ways to define a process and make it more efficient to meet your campus’s needs. Nick suggested to look at your book checkout process, and your processes for moving surplus books from your book room to another campus to increase efficiencies.
Talk to Stakeholders
Take the time to talk to your campus’s principal, and your district coordinator to see if there are any policy standardizations that you must follow, or tools available to you that will make your job easier. Alison Koen, who previously held the position of Textbook & Substitute Coordinator at McNeil High School in Round Rock ISD, suggested that the following are good questions to ask:
- How many times a year are book checks expected? When are they?
- When are annual audits? What can I do throughout the year to make it a successful audit?
- Does the campus have specific turn in dates?
- Am I expected to charge for minor damages to items?
- Are students with past losses and/or damages allowed to be issued a new item without having to settle the loss/damages? What about students on free and reduced lunches?
Another suggestion from Nick is to find ways to identify problems before they happen. Being proactive by looking for opportunities to mitigate issues, losses, and confusion early can save you from headaches later. This can range from finding ways to communicate with students, teachers and parents early in the school year about what your policies are and what they will be charged if they misplace or damage a book, to simply placing easy to read signs to direct student traffic for book checkout, or looking to the PTA and other parents to volunteer for help.
It is ok if you don’t have your process perfect the first time. The key is learning from past experiences and making small changes as you go. Don’t be afraid to make small adjustments to processes such as reworking instructions for your book checkout volunteers to make them easier to follow, or adding book images to signs in your storage room to more easily identify where copies of books are located.
Set Personal Goals for Your Program
Everybody loves the feeling of accomplishment. Once you have a grasp of some processes, set some personal goals around them. This will not only help you look for ways to make improvements, but feels good when you reach your goals. Work with the principal or district coordinator to set yearly or semester goals such as keeping losses below a certain level, or having a tight turnaround of collecting and distributing books.
Share Successes across Your District
If you come across something that works, look for opportunities to share it! Let other campuses or your district know about your successes. Alison suggested to look for opportunities to create networking events with district wide counterparts to encourage sharing ideas and becoming a tighter knit group. Nick also suggested to look to share information across departments. Is IT planning for a big device rollout? Let them see your book checkout process and give them tips and tricks for managing students when resources are being assigned to them.
These are just a few tips to help new coordinators. If you have any other pointers for new instructional material coordinators, let us know in the comments below!