Shelby County Schools
Streamlining the sourcing of classroom supplies across the district for teachers and staff.
One of Alabama’s largest school districts, Shelby County Schools partnered with Amazon Business to streamline its purchasing workflow so they could focus more time on sustaining an inclusive, caring learning environment for students.
Shelby County Schools, one of the highest-rated county system in Alabama, strives to ensure every student graduates and every graduate is prepared for life after high school. Nourishing the students’ education is top priority for teachers and staff alike, and too much time and effort were spent getting supplies into the classroom. Shelby needed to streamline its purchasing process and give finance a more comprehensive view of spending patterns. They partnered with Amazon Business to accomplish their goals.
At the time, Shelby’s procurement process was disjointed, paper-driven, and overdue for improvement. It required 2,800 teachers and staff across 31 schools to funnel their requests using printouts or emails through each school’s bookkeeper, who then had to recreate them as purchase orders and route them through finance for approval—all before actually ordering a single item. Some schools had a revolving line of credit for individual accounts; some did not. Budget tracking capabilities were limited. The schools’ PTAs and PTOs had no way to work cooperatively with the district.
“We get everything from books and office supplies to costumes for drama productions through Amazon Business. The broad catalog means a variety of products can be found in one place, and often for the lowest price. That’s a huge benefit.”
— John Gwin, Chief Finance Officer, Shelby County Schools
Teachers and staff were using a variety of vendors for school supplies, the most popular of which was Amazon.com due to its familiar shopping experience and good prices. For more industrial needs and larger purchases, the district also utilized a bid process in alignment with local, state, and federal regulations.
However, they were still tied to a system that limited the number of approved requisitioners (teachers and staff outnumbered the school bookkeepers responsible for orders approximately 100:1). Those needing the supplies couldn’t actually purchase items or manage orders. Shipping, approved payment types, and payment terms were also disorganized. Budget tracking depended on purchasers providing the right information. Tracking regulatory compliance was time-consuming.
Shelby believed partnering with Amazon Business could bring all the schools together under one umbrella, with common pricing, procedures, and terms. Amazon Business also partners with OMNIA (formerly U.S. Communities), a national cooperative purchasing program used by K-12 districts to ensure they are getting the best pricing when they hit a bid threshold.
“We also liked the fact that Amazon was an established name. Everyone was familiar with it, and we knew it wouldn’t be gone after a few months,” said John Gwin, chief finance officer for the district.
Shelby welcomed the features Amazon Business provides and instituted a comprehensive purchasing system that saves time and monitors compliance for all who use it (1,000+ active members).
“The number one benefit for my finance team is being able to find more of what we need through Amazon Business thanks to the partnership with OMNIA (formerly U.S. Communities). The bid process is simpler, the ordering process is familiar, and budgeting is easier. That’s a huge advantage,” Gwin said. “We’re much better off. I’d recommend Amazon Business to any CFO.”
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