Focus on Communication to Maintain School-Vendor Partnerships
By Stacey Pusey
It’s no secret that the pandemic altered K-12 education, including the relationship between vendors and schools. The question is: Are the changes here to stay? During the edWebinar, “Educators Have Spoken… This Is What Industry Partners Need to Hear,” the speakers presented trends and observations from edWeb’s recent edFocus Industry Summit and offered advice for vendors on building and maintaining connections with their customers.
- Running two systems is difficult, but there were benefits. While teachers and administrators were doing double duty with virtual and in-person classes, there were many kids that did better with online learning. In addition, many administrators noted increased parental engagement. Districts are still considering whether fall 2021 means all students have to go back to the way things were before. Vendors should talk with their customers and see how they can support them with these decisions.
- SEL and mental health are top priorities. Despite how resilient teachers, students, and families have been this past year, administrators want to make sure they also address the stress and impact of the pandemic. But they’re not just looking for products with SEL stickers put on them—they want products that help their community with their specific needs. More important, they aren’t interested in vendors who overpromise results. They want to know exactly what aspect of SEL the product deals with.
- Don’t ignore the building leaders. Many products are selected at the district level or are the purview of curriculum coordinators in individual schools. Moreover, principals are busy with many tasks. But cultivating and keeping a strong relationship means vendors shouldn’t skip the step of reaching out to the principals. Acknowledge they are busy, find out if they want to be a part of the conversation, and let them guide you to the next person, if applicable, rather than just ignoring them.
- Talk to librarians, too. Librarians have long taken over as the media specialists, but they’ve taken on a greater role. Whether helping students reach literacy goals by finding books that fit their passions, teaching tech literacy, or assisting community organizations, they have a unique perspective on what their school community needs and how to help them.
- Pedagogy and teaching are not going back. While many schools had already been moving away from test scores as the ultimate arbiter of a successful student, now that colleges and universities are not relying on standardized assessments, there’s an even greater impetus for schools to look for new methods to gauge proficiency. For instance, some schools are looking into micro-credentialing. This follows the trend of preparing students for careers as well as college and making sure they have the skills for the 21st century workforce.
- Virtual professional learning is taking over. While there are still times when in-person learning and longer courses are needed, educators and administrators have embraced the benefits of online PD. Educators can participate when and where they choose, select topics that fit their needs, and overall are more invested.
- Virtual sales meetings benefit both educators and vendors. Virtual works well for one-on-one meetings, and it’s easy for either party to reschedule as needed. More important, additional participants can be brought in for parts of a call without disrupting their whole day.
Most important, the speakers consistently pushed for vendors to do their research—on the district, on the individual schools, and on the leaders. And not just meeting with them when vendors want to sell them something, but the speakers said vendors should take the time to attend (virtual) conferences, set up calls to connect, and find time to really listen to what is happening in schools. It’s these long-standing relationships that keep schools coming back to vendors.
This broadcast was hosted by edWeb.net.
About the Presenters
Jennifer Ferrari is the CEO and president of the Education Research and Development Institute (ERDI), which convenes education thought leaders to collaboratively shape, influence, and inform the development of preK-12 education products and services. Jennifer regularly engages in national dialogue about current problems of practice and is able to validate and verify emerging trends in education. Prior to her current role, she served as the VP and chief schools officer of an innovative education management organization nationally recognized for its trailblazing work in personalized learning. With 25 years of rich public education experience, Jennifer has strong expertise in leadership development, change management, curriculum and instruction, personalized learning, dual language, and strategic planning. Jennifer earned her doctorate in educational leadership and policy studies from Loyola University in Chicago.
Kathy Hurley is President of Kathy Hurley Consulting LLC and a 40+ year veteran of the education industry with deep experience in marketing and sales. She advises industry-leading companies and non-profits and serves on the board of Concord Consortium, CTQ (Center for Teaching Quality), edWeb.net, Jason Learning, NCTET, and Women’s Education Project. She and Deb DeVries co-founded Girls Thinking Global, a nonprofit dedicated to the empowerment and education of girls and young women worldwide. Previously, Kathy held the position of Executive Vice President Education Alliances for the Pearson Foundation. Kathy and Priscilla Shumway, co-edited Real Women, Real Leaders, featuring 24 women who are top leaders in their field. Kathy is based in Punta Gorda, FL and Asbury Park, NJ.
Lisa Schmucki is the founder and CEO of edWeb.net, an award-winning professional learning network that serves a global community of one million educators. edWeb helps educators share their best ideas and practices to improve teaching and learning and prepare students to be successful in life. edWeb is a five-time winner of the prestigious SIIA CODiE Award. Lisa is an education, publishing, and media industry veteran with 40 years’ experience in product development, professional learning, marketing, and entrepreneurship. She is a graduate of Princeton University and has a master’s degree from the Stern School of Business at NYU.
About the Moderator
Jim McVety is Managing Partner of First Step Advisors. A lifelong advocate for innovation in education, Jim brings with him 20+ years of research and analysis experience. Jim has hosted numerous webinars, expert panels, and keynote presentations during his career, and his focus is on building the capacity of service organizations to better support educators and students.
Join the Community
edFocus | Education Industry Network is a free professional learning community on edWeb.net that will help you connect with colleagues in the education industry to share information and resources, raise questions, and get advice.
Stacey Pusey is an education communications consultant and writer. She assists education organizations with content strategy and teaches writing at the college level. Stacey has worked in the preK-12 education world for 20 years, spending time on school management and working for education associations including the AAP PreK-12 Learning Group. Stacey is working with edWeb.net as a marketing communications advisor and writer.