What a great show put on this year by ASBO (Association of School Business Officials) and the city of Portland. The opportunities to learn, laugh, and make new connections in the K-12 education community were plentiful right from the opening first-time attendee happy hour up through the last session.
The first general session, keynoted by the truly inspiring Greg Bell and emceed by ASBO President Bill Sutter, set the tone for the week and established several themes that emerged again and again in sessions, vendor presentations, and conversations.
What’s going well
One suggestion Greg offered to the group is to start each day with a simple question: “What’s going well?” What better time to start doing that than surrounded by our peers sharing their successes across their districts? From the partnership of CFO & CIO, using A-ROI to drive data driven decisions or navigating the changing learning landscape, it was a great time to learn what is going well for others and begin the process of internal reflection.
“Do you want more transactions?” This was an interesting question posed by Greg as he discussed the concept of transformation and how successful leaders approach it within their organizations. Can you use transformation to limit the number of transactions that are required of you daily? I’d say the answer provided by the ASBO members at this conference was a resounding “NO!” It was difficult to keep track of the number of sessions that focused purely on technology transformation (be it a simple Google Doc or robust vendor-managed software tools) and how districts are using these to limit transactions for employees, students, and their communities. It’s clear the role technology plays in transformation is crucial to the success of the leading K-12 districts on display at ASBO ‘22.
Perhaps the most consistent theme observed across conversations and sessions was the continued need for districts to improve in a world with unique challenges, new competition, and continued budget cuts (especially as ESSER funds become less available). Quite regularly the outcome of those conversations centered around a need for stronger collaboration to create better avenues to share ideas, share costs (technology, data, etc.), and share savings (purchasing, new revenue streams, etc.). As the leaders and members of ASBO continue to blaze a path for the future of education, it was great to hear firsthand from professionals in the field about the innovation that will get us there.
Transformation and collaboration are typically driven by the need to simplify processes, allowing even districts with modest resources to manage growing demands and focus on their core mission. Buying the supplies teachers, students, and staff need should be on the list of what’s going well, but it’s usually not. For most districts, tracking down approved vendors and managing manual, paper-based processes is complicated and time consuming, wasting hours or even days of procurement staff time.
Varis simplifies the buying process and improves collaboration by putting all approved suppliers in one consumer-like shopping experience, including sharable contracts from other entities that meet competitive bidding requirements. I invite you to learn more about how Varis helps K-12 schools and other public sector organizations.