AASA Business Solutions

Partners I Wish I’d Had in My School Districts


Before joining AASA as chief financial officer last summer, I served for many years in the same capacity with the Fairfax County Public Schools and the Stafford County Public Schools, both in Virginia. Fairfax has 176,000 students and Stafford has 26,000, so I’ve worked in both large and mid-sized systems.

As the top financial official in a school system, you are constantly looking for best practices — ideas that will save money, improve the classroom environment, contribute to better achievement by students and be a real benefit to the employees. That’s easy to say, but much harder to accomplish.

Chuck WoodruffChuck Woodruff

During my 28 years working in public school systems, I relied primarily on my peers to learn about such opportunities — hardly a systematic way of identifying good approaches. The problem was we always were busy working on budgets and audits, and attending school board meetings to support the superintendent and to answer questions arising from board members. So when I came to AASA, I determined we could identify these best practices and the firms that could help implement them. That is the goal of the Business Solutions Center, which AASA launched last January.

I started with concepts and companies I had used in Fairfax County and Stafford County and at the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (also known as Metro) in Washington, D.C., the second largest public transit system in the country, where I worked for three years as chief financial officer. Then I brought these firms in as partners with the AASA Business Solutions Center, and I made sure we used them at AASA so I could assure our members that the concepts work and the business partners can do what they say they can.

Money Savers
Any time a school system can demonstrate to the public that it is running an efficient and high-achieving operation, the public will be highly supportive of the school district’s budgets. And I believe the four firms that currently compose the AASA Business Solutions Center can definitely save money for any school system. From purchasing classroom supplies to reducing your employee healthcare expenses, these companies will lead you to money savings.

•  National Joint Powers Alliance is a procurement cooperative that offers greater purchasing power for schools of any size. NJPA selects the vendors and issues the RFP, which saves the school system significant time and effort.

•  Optimum is a cost-recovery company that audits expenditures, such as utility, credit card and telephone expenses, to determine the lowest rates and best services. Here at AASA, the firm is saving our association $12,000 a year.

•  MedExpert provides medical-issues management services with a substantial return on investment for self-insured school districts, often $8 for every $2.50 invested.

•  Paetec is a telecommunications company that serves business-class customers in 80 percent of the top 100 metropolitan areas in the country. The firm is saving AASA 40 percent on phone charges this year.

Multiple Beneficiaries
Any purchases made through the National Joint Powers Alliance results in revenue for AASA, as well as the state affiliates that have a partnership with NJPA. So it not only provides value to school systems, it helps support your national professional association and participating state associations.

Over the 2009-10 school year, you’ll be hearing more about the business solutions these partners are bringing to various school districts in this space in The School Administrator. In the meantime, I encourage you to join with AASA by trying one or all of these business partners.

Chuck Woodruff is the associate executive director for finance and operations at AASA. E-mail: cwoodruff@aasa.org