By Jessica Zaleski
We recently had the pleasure of joining a group of district-level textbook coordinators for a user group meeting in Virginia. Attended by TIPWeb-IM users from North Carolina, Virginia and Maryland, these textbook coordinators (whose districts range in size from 15 campuses to 150) shared their best ideas and practices that help them manage their inventories. They also collaborated on solutions to some of their most common problems.
There was so much valuable first-hand experience shared, that we couldn’t resist compiling some of the key takeaways and sharing them with you! Here are the five best practices we heard during the meeting:
1. Develop a Policies and Procedures Manual That Can Be Shared With Textbook Coordinators
Providing guidelines for inventory processes and what the expectations are around inventory management can be a great way to standardize how campuses are recording and managing inventory. Creating one of these means that each campus will have a guidebook that ensures they’re doing everything the district needs them to do and they have the tools to do it. Districts from the user group meeting found that by having this documentation, they were able to avoid the communication breakdown that had previously prevented schools from keeping accurate inventory.
And don’t worry: this isn’t just a rule book for campuses; a good policies and procedures manual will also outline the steps the district will take toward successful inventory management, and include their responsibilities as well. It will detail what an inventory coordinator at the campus level can expect from their district in terms of responsiveness, and who they can contact should problems arise.
This document can help smooth the transition when you adopt new inventory processes, or when you experience turnover in the textbook inventory management roles in your district or campus.
2. Send Out Regular Internal Communication
To support internal communication, some districts discussed a monthly email they send that includes any expected changes to the inventory software they use, as well as any modifications to procedures. It’s also a good opportunity to remind site-level coordinators of any time-sensitive assignments.
3. Negotiate Your Contract With Vendors
One of the districts in our user group meeting, Virginia Beach Public Schools, benefits from a contract with a publisher that allows them to return any unused inventory within a certain time period for a refund. This has saved them approximately $300,000 in one year. In this district, curriculum coordinators use TIPWeb-IM to track any unused inventory for each campus. When the refund deadline is approaching, they pick up surplus inventory from the campus and return it to the vendor.
Most of the district instructional material coordinators at our meeting were not aware that this is a possibility for their contracts, and because contracts are typically negotiated by the Accounts Payable and Curriculum Departments of their districts, they haven’t had much to do with the process. If there is an opportunity to ask the contract negotiators at your district to see if this is a clause that could be included, you might be able to reap these same benefits.
4. Find a Better Way to Reduce Teacher Losses
One common concern many districts in attendance shared was the frustration around teacher losses. If a teacher loses or damages their teacher manual, for example, there has traditionally not been much the district could do about it. It’s not something they can directly hold the teacher responsible for (charging them the $200 for the damaged item), so how do districts encourage teachers to take care of these materials?
Two ideas came from districts who have been able to decrease the prevalence of this issue in their schools. One district recommended taking the amount for the damaged item from the school’s budget. Then, principals know their budget will be directly affected by teacher losses and will take measures to ensure their teachers don’t damage or lose materials.
The other idea was to include lost and damaged items as a section in the teacher’s evaluation as part of how the teacher ran his or her classroom.
Both of these ideas are ways to increase accountability for these items and encourage teachers and principals to care for the items that are purchased for them.
5. Create On-Boarding Tips and Documentation
What is everything a new person in the inventory management role will need to know, and what are the items they need to have access to (log-ins, documents, etc.)? Vanessa Coleman from Durham Public Schools shared her documentation for on-boarding that details all steps necessary to get a new employee up and running for inventory management procedures. By compiling all the steps into a check-list, she is able to ensure each new employee responsibile for inventory management is prepared and ready to go for the start of the school year.
Upon completion of the check-list, the new employee signs the document and it is shared with the district inventory coordinator and their principal.