Directing Technology/Purchase/Learn More About the Bidding Process

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Introduction[edit]

When the purchase of new equipment or construction exceeds the amount of $10,000 a school district must purchase the equipment through a competitive public bid. For a technology director a bid might be required for the following items:

  • Creating, maintaining, and Updating Networks
  • Laptop purchasing for school buildings
  • Large Scale software purchasing
  • Any construction associated with the development of technology infrastructure

The bid process has many steps and can last for 4 to 6 months from creating the bid to final school board approval. In the end the proposed bid will go to the lowest bidder that meets all of the bid specifications. The bidding process is dominated by detailed specifications that aim to protect the school district and potential vendors. These specifications and conditions govern every aspect of bidding from creation to completion. While bidding is an important part of a Technology Directors position, it is becoming less frequently used for hardware purchases due to "state contracts" or cooperative purchasing agreements such as PEPPM and CoStars. Bidding is still an essential part of technology construction. The first part of this page will look at putting together a bid proposal, followed by alternate ways to get around the bid process. The following information is a general guideline for the bid process, however a technology director would need to look into specific district and state regulations on bidding.

How to Put Together a Bid[edit]

Step 1: Generating the Bid Proposal or Bid Spec

Before a bid can be created a school district needs to assess their needs and figure out what equipment will work best in their situation or what construction is required. There are many ways a district can gather this information. A need can be identified through (More about planning can be found in Directing Technology/Purchase):

  • Faculty interviews
  • Site visits to other schools
  • Administrative request
  • Curriculum needs

The need for new technology or construction can be the vision of a few people or the need of the whole district. The planning process is especially important in creating specifications for a bid. Specifications are the specific details of technology or construction that the district needs. At the end of the bid process the school district will need to accept the lowest submitted bid that meets all the outlined specifications, so it is imperative that the specifications outline exactly what the district wants. On the other end, the district cannot become so specific as to request certain brands or companies. In the specifications the school district will also need to outline the time frame for the bid. Specifications are a reason why many technology departments will use alternatives (discussed below) to bidding for the purchase of hardware. If specifications are too general a district might end up with an inferior product that does not meet their needs or if the specifications are too specific they can actually drive away suitable bidders[1]. For smaller purchases or equipment, the tech director might write the bid on their own, however for larger items or construction, a consultant or engineer might be hired to assist in creating the specifications. This can assure that the bid accurately reflects the needs of the school district. Specifications can range from memory and screen size in the purchase of laptops, to the specific types of wires and jacks used in construction.

In addition to creating a detailed set of specifications that describe the item or service needed, a bid should also include "Conditions" that protect the school district during the bidding, purchasing, receiving and installation process. These Conditions cover everything from providing clearly marked samples, to completing the bid in the given time specifications, to what documents need to be submitted to meet the bid requirements. A school district should have a list of general Conditions for the bidding procedure, however individual bids may have special conditions that are unique to that project.

These are a few Conditions from a bid put out by the Wissahickon School District:
  • The Board has the right to accept or reject all or any portion of the bids submitted and to make the award in the best interest of the School District.
  • The Bidder agrees that if the contract is awarded to him, he will not assign. transfer, or sublet it, unless specific permission to do so is granted in writing by the School District.
  • The bidder agrees, if awarded the contract, to furnish and deliver the said items at such times, at such places and in such quantities as herein specified, and that all of the items shall be subject to the inspection and approval of the board.

The complete Bid Invitation and Specifications can be found at the Wissahickon School District Website.[2]


Once the technology director has put together a bid proposal that clearly states what the district needs, outlined the time table for the completion of the bid, and created additional conditions to protect the district, it is time time move onto the next step.

Step 2: Publicly Advertise the Bid

Many school districts have a section of their websites dedicated to posting bids. This is one way to publicly advertise the bids for vendors and contractors. District bid pages are not limited to technology related bids, but rather contain all district bids ranging from food services to new construction. These are a few examples of district bid pages:

Some districts will also post bid advertisements on sites such as eschoolmall.com[6]. This is a website that links schools and vendors in the bidding process, and also helps manage the bid process for the school district.

In the state of Pennsylvania it is required that a school advertise the bid in at least two local newspapers. The newspaper bid notice should include several details about the bid including:

  • Where and when the sealed bid proposals are due
  • Where bid documents can be picked up and associated costs for documents
  • Items or construction that is up for bid
  • Time and location of pre-bid meetings
  • Any additional conditions that apply to the bid
  • Contact information for person issuing bid[7]

Once the bid has been advertised in a local newspaper, the district needs to get a Proof of Publication notice for file. This proves the bid was properly advertised to the public. This document will contain a copy of the ad, name of newspaper, and the dates it appeared in the newspaper. It will also need to be notarized.

Step 3: Release Request for Proposal(RFP)

After making the public aware of the bid, an RFP will be handed out to potential vendors or contractors. This can be done in person, at a pre-bid meeting, through a district website, or through a third part website. The RFP will contain all of the specifications and conditions created during the initial step of the bid process. A basic template for an RFP can be on the Planning page or here[8]. Completed examples of RFPs can be found on many district websites such as Beaufort County School District[9] A complete RFP should contain district information, bid specifications, time frame for bid submission and notification, submission process, proposed time frame for project completion, and contact information.

Step 4: Receive and Publicly Open Bids

All details surrounding the submission process should be clearly defined in the RFP. Specific dates and time, and recipient of the submission should be included. It should be mentioned that bids not submitted in the proper manner will not be opened. Bids are usually submitted in a sealed envelope with a label specified in the RFP. Districts can require a paper submission, electronic submission or both. Electronic submissions can take the form of diskettes, CD-ROMs, emails, or submission through a third party website.

Immediately after the stated deadline of submitting bids, all bids will be publicly opened

Step 5: Reviewing the Bids

Once bids have been publicly opened, they are reviewed by the involved district members. This can be a matter of comparing apples to oranges.[10] In the end, the lowest qualified bid will need to be selected. A technology director will need to look closely at whether the proposed bids meet all the set specifications. This is where well thought out and detailed specifications can make or break a bid. A technology director cannot choose a bid based on a preferred brand or company. A bid can only be selected for low costs and meeting bid conditions. Reviewing bids is a complicated task and depends on the bids submitted and the quality of the bid specifications. The final decision can be difficult since it needs to ensure the district receives a quality product or service that meets all of its needs, and also meets the legal aspects of the bidding process.

Step 6: Submit Recommendation to Submit Bid for Final Approval

After a bid proposal has been selected by the technology director or involved parties, it is placed on the school board agenda for final approval. During the school board meeting it is possible that further discussion about the bid selection will occur. To complete the process the school board will need to accept the bid proposal.

Step 7: Purchasing or Construction

Upon approval of the bid proposal, items can be purchased or construction can begin. In the RFP there should be time frames for the completion of the bid. Conditions of the bid will outline what will happen if a vendor or contractor cannot meet deadlines or bid specifications. RFP conditions will also dictate the payment for items or services by the school district. The entire process of bidding can take as few as two months, but usually lasts up to six.

Alternates to the Bid Process[edit]

Since the bid process can be complicated and may not yield desired results, there are alternatives that a technology director might want to consider. The following sites work best for the purchase of technology hardware and do not offer the best alternative to technology construction. Each state has different options, however most are programs that have pre-negotiated prices on common pieces of technology. Selected vendors submit prices for items, and those prices are available to the district without bidding. Some programs may include construction costs. This eliminates the need for a bid and guarantees the district will receive exactly want they want. Without having to go through the bid process, a district can save time and money that can be spent on other things.

PEPPM[11] PEPPM is a multi-state program that allows the purchase of products at pre-negotiated prices from different vendors. PEPPM acts as a mediator, accepting orders and giving them to selected vendors. Ordering can be done online or off-line by faxing a purchase order. Purchase orders will follow individual vendor instructions, but will be sent to PEPPM. E-rates can also be applied to purchases.

COSTARS[12] COSTARS makes use of the Cooperative Purchasing Program in the state of Pennsylvania. This allows local public procurements, such as schools to purchase items at a lower price. Vendors submit bids to COSTARS for review, and reduced prices are then opened up to public procurements.

IU13[13] IU13 is a site that offers discounted software to the state of Pennsylvania.

Sources[edit]