Cooperative aims to save money

Advocate staff photo by BRYAN TUCK -- New Vermilion Parish Schools Superintendent Jerome Puyau is leading an initiative to save his district and others across the state money on everything from online classes for students to curriculum resources. Show caption
Advocate staff photo by BRYAN TUCK -- New Vermilion Parish Schools Superintendent Jerome Puyau is leading an initiative to save his district and others across the state money on everything from online classes for students to curriculum resources.

Vermilion Parish’s new school superintendent has a plan to save money for his district and others across the state by working together to make bulk purchases of software, computers and online courses for students.

“It’s the right thing to do financially. It’s the right thing to do for our students,” said Jerome Puyau, Vermilion Parish superintendent.

Puyau said at least 17 school districts across the state have expressed interest so far in the District Cooperative of Louisiana. The concept isn’t just about volume discount buying of needed supplies, but to promote the sharing of resources and best practices, he said.

“All of us design and build our own curriculum,” he said. “But with budgetary cuts, we can’t hire anyone new to write or build a new curriculum.”

As part of the cooperative, member districts could share personnel, such as a curriculum specialist to develop a new curriculum in collaboration with the other districts, Puyau said.

The cooperative effort will officially launch next month, he said.

Puyau credited Jeffery Hand, the district’s supervisor of distance education, with the idea.

“I was concerned with the cost of our virtual program and offering more dual enrollment and he proposed to me this concept of a cooperative. I was intrigued,” Puyau said.

He said discussions have begun with the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and South Louisiana Community College and other colleges across the state to negotiate discounted prices for online courses.

Puyau started the job full-time last week, though he was appointed to the position about six months ago. He previously worked as the district’s maintenance supervisor since 2006 and before that worked in the district as an assistant principal and special education teacher.

Since July 2012, he worked alongside then-superintendent Randy Schexnayder during an extended training period.

Puyau moves into the position amid major state-mandated changes to education.

Puyau said those changes, coupled with the rising insurance and retirement costs, created a need for an “out-of-box” solution to find savings that can be directed back to the classroom.

The savings produced by the cooperative could help the district invest in technology infrastructure for the district, Puyau said.

“Our goal is embedding technology into the curriculum to the point that students go to class and every desk has an iPad or tablet PC, but the infrastructure is not in place right now,” he said.