K-12 superintendents who responded to a recent survey mostly indicated dissatisfaction with vendors’ marketing campaigns amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Among the findings of the survey by the National Superintendents Roundtable, which consists of superintendents mainly from the Midwest and East and West coasts, was that only 20 percent of superintendents’ interactions with vendors had been positive since the COVID-19 outbreak.
Sixty-seven current superintendents responded to the survey.
Tactics like regular cold calls and repetitive emails are frustrating school districts, according to comments from the district leaders.
One respondent even said their district is creating a “blacklist” for companies engaging in unethical sales behavior.
The survey also asked superintendents whether they are the appropriate contact person for vendors.
Fifty-four percent said they are not, while 46 percent said they are, and the vast majority of respondents’ comments pertaining to this topic pointed to district technology officers being better positioned to understand available products, services, and network complications compared with superintendents.
Sixty-seven percent of superintendents said free product offers distract from district missions amid the COVID crisis, while 18 percent of superintendents said they value any resources available and 5 percent were unaware of free resources.
Another sentiment that emerged is that there are security concerns associated with the offerings, and that security upgrades are needed in order to take full advantage of those products.
Forty-eight percent of respondents were concerned that many free products and services marketed to teachers and parents haven’t been validated for instructional quality.
But 57 percent of respondents said they’d consider ultimately buying free resources after district review. A combined 25 percent of superintendents said they either would not consider or have not used free products from vendors.
“The hard part is we will most likely be cut in revenue and that would mean no new purchases,” one of the respondents wrote.
What Districts Need: PD, Supplemental Curriculum, Technology
Survey takers were also asked to rank-order what solutions districts most need from vendors. In descending order, superintendents said they most need products associated with professional development, supplemental curriculum, technology hardware, basal curriculum, and technology infrastructure.
Districts prefer that vendors contact them using communications tools in this order: email, marketing campaigns, social media, telephone, and text.
It would behoove vendors to stay “out of the hair of superintendents who are consumed with the task of providing services amidst the pandemic.”
That was essentially the message given in a mid-March tweet by Susan Enfield, superintendent of the Highline school district, near Seattle, who advised vendors to back off of aggressive sales tactics as her district was working to address the health crisis.
The survey report suggests that, instead of contacting superintendents, vendors should stay in touch with district curriculum directors and information technology specialists.
“Explore what these specialists need as opposed to peddling products off the shelf to the front office,” the survey report says. “In the short run, such an approach may cost a sale or two, but over the long haul, it is likely to pay big dividends in building trust, respect, and reliable long-term markets with school leaders.”