Central School Board joins cooperative

The Central School Board on Monday agreed to join a cooperative of about 30 Louisiana school districts and counting that are trying to save money by making bulk purchases of software, computers and crafting curriculum as well as creating online courses for students.

The board unanimously approved entering into a memorandum of understanding with the new District Cooperative of Louisiana as well as an intergovernmental agreement with Vermilion Parish, which launched the cooperative earlier this year.

James Gardner, president of the Central School Board, said he and other board members saw a presentation given by Vermilion Parish school officials a month ago at the annual conference of the Louisiana School Board Association and came away impressed.

“It’s about buying power,” Gardner said.

Gardner said he is also pleased that the cooperative will make online courses available for a discount. Louisiana schools will soon have to offer students “course choice” from online providers.

Central will pay $1,500 a year to participate in the new cooperative, starting July 1.

Board member Willard Easley was absent Monday as was Superintendent Michael Faulk, who had a family engagement. Faulk is the president of the Louisiana Association of School Superintendents.

In an interview Monday, Jerome Puyau, Vermilion Parish superintendent, said almost 30 school districts have agreed in writing to participate and others said verbally they want to join.

“No one has come out and just said, ‘No,’ ” Puyau said.

He said he expects more school districts in the Baton Rouge area to soon become part of the cooperative. He said East Baton Rouge Parish, the largest school system in the area and one of the largest in the state, has yet to sign on, but that individual board members are interested in the idea.

Puyau acknowledged that his staff got the idea rolling but said the cooperative is in the process of forming a board and will be a true collaboration among the participating school districts.

Buying items in volume is one of the selling points of the new cooperative.

Currently, school districts can purchase items through state contracts, but they don’t necessarily get the prices because they aren’t buying in bulk, Puyau said. But the cooperative, by pooling purchases of many school districts into one big purchase, should be able to earn cheaper prices, he said.

“This is just a way in which we are sharing our resources, and helping our students, so that the money can stay in our districts,” he said.

Puyau said the cooperative is initially seeking participation from traditional public school districts, but may expand to charter schools and private schools in the future.

Puyau also said the cooperative will develop and share “best practices” for implementing the many education changes Louisiana is undertaking, but it is not planning to offer an agenda counter to what the state is doing.