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Archive for the ‘General’ Category

Emily Raij, Maupin House

Maupin House got some great news earlier this month: We have three finalists in the Association of Educational Publishers’ Distinguished Achievement Awards! The books are the Learning Through Writing Series by Kathleen Kopp, Teaching the Story by Carol Baldwin, and the Writing Intervention Kit for High School by Nancy Dean.

A boost like this is especially appreciated during tough times and reminds us that people do pay attention to hard work and high quality. More importantly, these little boosts remind us to keep up the good work and be grateful for all the wonderful people we work with.

As summer peaks around the corner and you start to think about the work ahead (and maybe some vacation time, too!), take a moment to remember some of your accomplishments this year—at work and at home—and think about what contributed to your success. What worked? What didn’t? How can you improve? Who helped you out? What new ideas did you try, and what will you try next? Do you need some inspiration? Take a look at this great list of 50 marketing ideas from The Lulu Book Review and find a few to try this summer. Maybe you can already check off a few items on the list, or maybe you have a few more to add. Whatever you try, I hope you get that boost you need—and don’t forget to share your successes!

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Signs of Spring

Jeff Pett, Fleetwood Group

The usual signs of spring are warming temperatures, greening lawns, colorful flowerbeds, daylight savings time, spring break… and, in the educational products manufacturing business, orders pouring in.  Much is often said about the miracle of life springing from the death of winter, and we get to see the business version happen each year.

 

That is, until this year.  In a year of so much economic uncertainty we have been wondering whether we would really see the normal signs of business-spring or not.  I am happy to report that it appears that spring is here.  A few weeks ago we saw quoting go from relative inactivity to being very active.  We actually even set a record for quotes generated in one week.  Then we saw firm orders beginning to filter in, and before we knew it we had orders for more business than last year in the April – June quarter!  What’s going on?! 

 

Now we’re not quite ready to declare an overall growth year ahead, but we certainly are feeling a bit more optimistic about this year than we were 8 weeks ago.  It could be that many schools are spending budgeted money in a “use it or lose it” mode.  It could also be that we will be less affected this summer than we might be in 2010 just because new school buildings that were started before this economic malaise hit had the money to finish, and they still need to put furniture in them.  But at this point we are just grateful for the business, and will allow ourselves only to be cautiously optimistic about the next 6 months.  We know we have enough work to keep our team busy for the next 3 months and will begin to add the summer help we need to meet our customer’s schedules.

 

To help put things in perspective, here at Fleetwood we are in the furniture manufacturing segment of the educational supply business.  Manufacturers are a bit unique to many in this segment because we build a product that usually can’t be inventoried ahead of time.  It would just take too much space to do that.  And because so many of the products we make are custom orders, we wouldn’t know exactly what to build ahead of time even if we could.  We never ship “off the shelf”; we wait for solid orders to come in before building any furniture.  That is both a blessing and a curse.  A curse because we are not able to accurately plan beyond a very short horizon.  A blessing because we never have a warehouse full of unsold finished goods.

 

So far our order backlog for July and August, normally our busiest 2 months of the year, is pretty empty.  That’s not terribly unusual for mid-April.  But this isn’t a usual year.

 

We will plow through the spring orders and pray for good summer orders.  I’ll let you know how it’s going next month.

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Rebecca Haden

A Plus Educational Supply

Harrison, AR

 

The economy has people nervous and Americans just aren’t spending the way they were. What’s a retailer to do?

Those of us who serve teachers have a great secret weapon: workshops. When you show materials and give ideas for how to use them, people can choose to buy with greater confidence. When you let the participants get their hands on the materials, it’s even better. The customer’s fear that the item might not be exactly what she needs turns into certainty, and she’s willing to make the investment.

What’s more, the upcoming workshops give you an excuse a reason to visit schools and send out press releases or newsletters.

Here’s what we’ve learned about successful – and profitable – workshops at A Plus Educational:

·         Charge a fee. The fee might make the workshops profitable, or it might just cover the cost of materials or the speaker. You can even give paid participants a gift certificate to your store for the price of the workshop. The point is to get an accurate count. People sign up for free workshops willingly, but don’t feel any commitment when the time comes around – or they feel free to bring several friends along at the last moment. If they’ve paid, you will have a better idea of the numbers of people to prepare for.

·         Choose your time wisely. You want participants to shop after the workshop, or during breaks if it’s long. When a workshop ends late in the evening, participants are more likely to rush home.  A long lunch break or an ending time in the middle of the day means you’ll have more shoppers.

·         Make it hands-on. People are more likely to buy something they’ve actually touched.  Make a center, conduct an experiment, play a game – your customers will want to buy.

·         Have the items from the workshop on hand. There’s nothing worse than having people all excited about buying something, and having none in the shop. The excitement turns to frustration, and you may lose future sales, too. 

·         Give participants something to carry away. A good handout with instructions encourages customers to share the information with their colleagues. That way, you’ll have people coming into the store for weeks saying, “I want what my friend got!”

A Plus owner Cindy Magness says, “We see people buying right after the workshop, but we also find that having the workshops increases customer loyalty.  They have a good time, so they come back – and they bring their friends.”

 

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Nothing comes freely. And schools around the country are experiencing a lesson in this as they accept aid as part of the federal stimulus package. Schools are required to accept certain terms intended to bolster education and improve how education data is reported.

 

The Department of Education will be stricter in requiring states to report more specific data on teacher performance. The new system for teacher evaluations is in response to the Ed Department’s belief that most teacher evaluations, in the past, have failed to accurately assess teacher performance. Schools will also be keeping detailed data on students—data that will be linked to each students’ teachers. In this way the department can track teacher and student performance simultaneously and note any correlation between a student’s success and his or her teachers’ performance.

 

States must also secure data on their charter schools, including the number of charter schools in a state and some information on the schools’ success.

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Schools across the country, slapped with budget tightening and layoffs, are bemoaning their fate. But the Magnolia state has at least one victory to celebrate: high school graduation rates in Mississippi are on the rise, according to data from the state Department of Education.

 

Almost 600 more students were in the 2008 graduating class than was reported for the previous year. Mississippi has a 16 percent dropout rate, but the state’s Education Department is working to reduce it three percentage points by 2013. Mississippi’s Department of Education has jumpstarted a dropout prevention campaign and is pushing for the state’s 152 school districts to adopt anti-dropout plans.

 

Mississippi is making headway in its measures to decrease high school dropout rates, but clearly there’s a whole lot more work to be done on the education front.

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In newspapers, on Websites and throughout Internet chat rooms, the story of a Texas high school that instigated caged fights between students is an ongoing tale of injustice. For years, students at South Oak Cliff High School in Dallas were prompted to settle their differences—and entertain faculty and staff—by fighting each other in a steel cage in the boys’ locker room.

 

With heavy insistence from the principal and other staff, students engaged in fights on a regular basis. They wore no head gear or other protection, but it is unclear if any were seriously injured. From 2003-2005, Donald Moten, the principal at the time, arranged many of these student cage fights, a former employee said, for his own entertainment.

 

A 2008 investigation brought the incidents to light. Strangely, though, no criminal charges were brought against Moten or other staff involved in staging the fights. Moten resigned for an incident unrelated to the cage fights, but many of the other perpetrators continue to work at the school. Something’s wrong with this picture, right? It’s hard to believe not one person has been held accountable. That those whose job it is to teach and protect caused harm and humiliation by having students fight in cages like animals, is a serious breach of trust, responsibility and integrity. And those involved need to be held accountable.

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As corporate downsizing becomes more commonplace during an economic downturn, many companies are donating unwanted materials, many of which are ending up in the classrooms.

 

Extras for Creative Learning, a Boston nonprofit, provides teachers, parents and other educators with donated items from businesses. Both sides benefit. Businesses get rid of their “junk,” which the nonprofit picks up for free, and they receive a tax write-off for the donations. Extras for Creative Learning receives more than the usual pens and paper donations; the group has accepted odd items such as polyurethane film, which turned out to be useful for art and music.

 

Rare items, like a donated centrifuge that was claimed by a high school science teacher, also show up at the nonprofit.

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