The Examiner U-46 News Feed
PTB purchase bogged down in U-46 process
By Seth Hancock
The Parents and Teachers of Bartlett (PTB), Bartlett Elementary School’s Parent Teacher Organization (PTO), should finally have the chance to purchase items it raised money for.
Sara Lippold and Terea Eid, co-presidents of the PTB, addressed the Board of Education explaining an arduous process to not only purchase items but simply get answers during public comments at the board meeting on Monday, Dec. 4.
U-46 CEO Tony Sanders asked the board to “expedite” the purchase of the technology items the PTB is looking to buy with a $32,468 grant it received by voting on the purchase at its upcoming meeting on Monday, Dec. 18.
Lippold said the PTB has been on “an 11-month endeavor to purchase technology for our elementary school.” In summer 2016 the PTB submitted the grant application to a local business offering it and later was awarded the technology portion of the grant which is “to purchase several items requested by teachers and staff within the building including laptops for classroom use.”
This January Lippold said the PTB requested meetings with the school administration and district administration “to open a dialogue about the technology available to elementary schools and to understand the necessary steps to begin the purchase process,” but “nearly a year later, we are still anxiously awaiting the ability to make this purchase through no lack of trying on our end.”
Since August, Eid said the PTB had been making numerous requests to get answers and understand the process on “at least a biweekly basis to no avail,” and their “phone calls and emails directly to the principal and the director of information services are routinely ignored.”
In early November, Eid said the PTB received quotes for the subsequently confirmed quoted prices.
Eid said after the confirmation of the price the PTB attempted further communication to make sure the “purchase was in motion,” and “imagine our surprise when last week we received a communication indicating that not only was that not the case but that the purchase must be presented by information services before the school board as it exceeds $25,000.”
Both Eid and Lippold said they understand the need for a process but said the process and guidelines are unclear.
“We feel that the protracted timeline that our organization has endured to facilitate both a dialogue, receive a quote and to begin to move this purchase forward is excessive,” Lippold said. “The many roadblocks put in our way by both the building and departmental personnel are also excessive and unnecessary.”
“While we strive to follow the U-46 guidelines for communication, there is no clear path of ownership outlined by the district for PTO purchases and such this has been a protracted struggle to engage parties to make this purchase,” Eid said.
Sanders said part of the need for the process is to allow PTOs to “use our state contract to authorize that equipment,” but why does the board need to approve the purchases and why did the process for this specific case take so long?
Board member Jeanette Ward asked just that: “Why do we need to vote on it if it is not taxpayer dollars that we’re voting on? It’s been raised by the parents.”
Sanders said U-46 would need to make the purchase to receive the state contract price.
Ward asked if PTOs could find on their own vendors that would match the contract price would they still need to cut through the red tape to which Sanders said “that would not follow with our current guidelines” set by the Citizens’ Advisory Council a “few years ago.”
Sanders said purchases would need to come through the district “to ensure you are actually buying equipment that we can support once it comes to U-46” and Jeff King, chief operations officer, said “the vendor requires a purchase order from us” in the PTB case.
“If the vendor would have let the check come right from them and not require a purchase order, then we could have done this without your approval,” King said.
On the PTB case, Ward asked why it took so long and Sanders replied: “That I’m not familiar. I’ll have to look into that.”
Board member Veronica Noland asked “who owns the equipment when a PTO buys it for a school” which King said the district does.
Ward asked: “What prevents the district from moving the things purchased to other parts of the district, which wouldn’t be the intention of the parents who worked for it?”
King did not say there was anything to prevent the district from doing that but said “we would not do that.”