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Alternative Procurement Methods Needed In K-12 Schools 

The Great Resignation is pushing K-12 school districts to re-evaluate the vendor service agreement solicitation process

In the fall of 2018, I decided to resign from my plush 100 percent work-from-home job to start a new career at Chicago Public Schools (CPS) as the Chief Facilities Officer of the third largest school district in the country. Yes, that prior position required light travel, nearly 10 percent actually, but again I operated from a real “home office.” With that came the opportunity, dare I say luxury, to spend more time with my family, pickup and drop-off my children to school daily, and hit the links several times a week, too. I managed my work output with the aid of video conferencing, a work issued laptop, additional monitors and docking station. During my first week at CPS I asked the HR staffer, “When would I be issued a docking station to assist me when working remotely?” The initial response was silence, then they responded: “This is government, working remote is not permitted.”

That was my first wake-up call that government agencies, including K-12 districts were due a shakeup. Little did I know one was just around the corner in 2020.

Throughout the pandemic, we have all been made aware of the dramatic shortages in staffing in the education sector. In addition to educational leaders, this is especially apparent in the other school-based staff deemed “essential workers” — the custodians, building engineers/plant operators, nurses, bus drivers, security guards, and nutrition/food service. As an example of this trend, a report regarding CPS captured surging retirement and resignations. Resignations leaped from 1,287 in 2020 to 1,843 in the 2022 school year. Retirements also grew from 284 to 524 in the same timeframe.

But what about district central office, are they incurring shortages? Yes, there is also an exodus of staff resigning and retiring from these key departments, taking with them their historical institutional knowledge. This can be crippling to efficiency and effectiveness of district-led operations. These are the same people that, until COVID convinced many governmental agencies to consider otherwise, worked under a district policy that did not allow them to work remotely or even consider a hybrid model.

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