Headquartered in Algonquin in northern Illinois, Community Unit School District 300 (D300) is home to 27 schools and more than 21,000 students. As the sixth-largest school district in the state, D300 stretches across 118 square miles and serves a large population which requires it to manage an inventory of thousands of textbooks and instructional resources.
It was early 2013 when Susan Harkin, district CFO, began expressing concern over the management of D300’s textbook inventory. Even though the district had previously purchased and implemented Follett’s Destiny® Textbook Manager™, a lack of in-house practice and policies severely hampered the product from achieving utmost effectiveness.
Textbook information across the district had become stale and inaccurate. Staff found themselves surrounded by textbooks – both used and new – with many others unaccounted for as well. “We had rows and rows and rows of textbooks just piled up on the floor. It was just a disaster,” Harkin said.
Having enjoyed an established and excellent relationship with Follett, D300’s administration knew where to turn. “We sat down with Follett, explained our situation, and asked them to help us out,” Harkin recalled. “We wanted to know what other districts like us are doing.”
Follett’s Managed Services team started by engaging the district in a series of discovery workshops to better understand their current processes and pain points. After taking the data and feedback collected during the discovery phase, Follett was able to customize a solution that bundled a variety of Follett services together in order to solve the district’s problems.
This solution allowed the district to maximize the features of Destiny Textbook Manager and finally get a handle on their textbooks. It called for Follett to recommend a single, customercentric solution that combined the benefits of the existing Destiny Textbook Manager product with the company’s new “Managed Services.” Working in conjunction with the district’s educators and administrators, it called for Follett to:
“The big thing for us was to commit to that front-end investment,” Vossel said. “We knew where we wanted to get to and what we wanted it to look like, but without bringing in Follett and its Managed Services, we couldn’t have done it on our own.”
Another important feature, he stressed, was by having Follett take over warehousing the district’s entire inventory of textbooks, D300 was removed from the warehousing business.
By partnering with Follett, the district has solved a critical problem, improved district-wide efficiency, and saved critical budget dollars. Moreover, Harkin noted the inventory, barcoding and warehouse distribution support was completed over the summer.
That meant the project had zero impact on instructional time and regular school operations.
“My fear was what we had committed to for the first day of school – making sure kids had the right resources – that we hit that benchmark,” she said. Day one came and went with no problems, Harkin recalls with relief and delight.
Now, D300’s textbook management program is running on all cylinders. Destiny Textbook Manager’s features are being fully maximized, and the inventory system is accurate and up-to-date, while textbooks are appropriately barcoded, accounted for and easily moved within the district as needed.
“Everybody looks good when nobody is calling the purchasing department saying, ‘Where are my books?’” said Diane White, purchasing manager for D300. “It’s a very exciting time for us to change the culture within a two-year period. We are very proud of what we’ve done in the partnership with Follett.”
Ultimately, D300 is committed to continuing down this path of accountability and duplicating a similar system to inventory other key assets beyond textbooks, such as band and athletic equipment.
For now, the days of one school encountering yearly textbook losses of more than $100,000 are long gone; in fact, that same school lost only one book during the school year following Follett’s involvement. Overall, Harkin estimates the district has saved more than $500,000 since fully implementing Follett’s Destiny Textbook Manager, and will recognize $200,000 annually moving forward.
“A critical part of our overall success is the ongoing commitment from our purchasing manager [White] and textbook specialist [Gold],” Harkin said. “They are the gatekeepers who make sure the continuing oversight of the inventory stays accurate.”
Even though much of the heavy lifting is done, Follett is still an active partner, critical to D300’s operational success going forward. managed Services continues to review processes and procedures to ensure long-term sustainability, which is the ultimate goal when deploying a resource management solution.
“It’s a relief to know we have a reliable system in place. We always know what we have, plus that’s made purchasing decisions much easier.” - Kathleen Ethridge, Textbooks Specialist II
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