Consortium a True Example of Regionalism

LEARN-led Consortium a True Example of Regional Collaboration

Note: The following article was published in the December 2019 edition of the CABE Journal. 

LEARN successfully facilitated a process to secure an efficient financial management system for school districts and municipal governments in the area.

Representatives from 12 school districts and three town governments acted as a single bidder, led by LEARN, to conduct a search and ultimately enter into an agreement for a business function system, including payroll, accounts payable, and budgeting. The cooperative efforts led to a regional solution, resulting in considerable savings of time and money for those involved.

In August 2018, PowerSchool purchased Phoenix Accounting & Payroll Software, the software used by many school systems and towns across the state. Following the purchase, Powerschool announced that Phoenix, which was familiar and effective, would be discontinued as of June 30, 2020. In its place, Powerschool would introduce a different program with a much higher price tag. This left the area school districts and local governments with a big decision regarding an unanticipated expense, which would have to be made in a limited scope of time.

It became clear that another option was needed - a creative and collaborative solution for districts and towns. LEARN, a Regional Educational Service Center (RESC) dedicated to supporting the needs of public school districts in southeastern Connecticut, rose to meet the challenge. LEARN leaders listened to the needs of the districts and towns and organized a Request for Proposal process.   

Preston Public School Director of Finance John Spang was the first in the region to recognize the problem. He credits LEARN with bringing together a diverse group of stakeholders for a common purpose.

Schools and towns each will share in this benefit in large part because of the broad range of extensive school district and municipal leadership experiences that the LEARN staff brought to the table,” Spang said. “When this leadership combined with LEARN's ability to roll up their sleeves for the heavy lifting involved, schools and towns realized significant long term economies of scale.”

The ultimate goal was to obtain the best price on new replacement software and meet the July 1, 2020 deadline for implementation. Acting as one collective purchaser, the consortium shared the cost of soliciting bids, reduced the time of reviewing proposals, and increased negotiating power.

“By working together, not only did the districts ensure a good price, but they also chose a financial system that works well and offers critical support with implementation,” said Michael Belden, LEARN’s Chief Financial Officer.  “It was a great opportunity for LEARN’s Business Office to provide a service across the region and state and we are pleased that it has been so well received.”

Vendors presented to the districts in late September and the participants will choose a new financial accounting system by January 1.

Mark Izzo, business manager of Derby Public Schools, said his district has only about 1,300 students and funding is limited. The RFP process greatly helped Derby by saving money and convening experts and experienced business managers at a level that would be impossible in a small district.

“I am so pleased that LEARN invited us to join,” Izzo said. “There are numerous areas where a regional solution can benefit smaller districts, such as human resources management, payroll, health insurance and accounts payable.”

Many of the participating districts and towns were smaller organizations, including Preston, Ansonia, Derby, Lisbon, and North Stonington. Other districts and towns include East Haven, Plainfield, Griswold, and Region 9, which includes Easton/Redding.  

LEARN is committed to providing regional solutions to educational and financial challenges that school systems face. True collaboration happens when districts and towns choose to tackle common challenges in a collective manner. LEARN strives to be a resource and conduit for collaborative work that increase efficiencies and supports districts in doing their work effectively. 

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