Denver schools choose Epylon

Amidst a number of state governments recently venturing into the e-procurement

world, a Colorado school district announced it too has created an electronic

buying system to save costs on goods and services.

Craig Cook, Denver Public School's chief operating officer, said his

purchasing department is already using the Web-based system, but a pilot

project with six participating schools would begin this June. He expects

the entire 70,000-student school district, which encompasses 136 schools

and about 30 school departments, to be using the system by the end of next

year.

"I'm going to save a lot of soft costs, which is time. This is a huge

efficiency for them," he said. "I want the site-based staff to do the primary

mission, and that's taking care of the kids."

The school system signed a five-year contract with Epylon Corp., which

developed the system with no up-front costs and will charge vendors a 2

percent to 3 percent transaction fee per order to recoup its investment,

said Stephen George, the company's CEO and founder.

Cook said that Epylon would put vendor catalogs on the Web-based system

and that Deloitte Consulting would help train the district's employees in

using the system. He added that teachers eventually would be trained to

use the system. He said the district would continue to use underutilized

businesses, such as minority-, woman- and locally-owned businesses, which

would be included in Epylon's system.

Recently, several states, including North Carolina, California and Virginia,

have unveiled or announced that they are developing e-procurement systems,

which government officials said would be open to municipalities and school

districts in their respective states. Cook said that Colorado state government

is behind in this area and that his district couldn't afford to wait. He

also said school districts have different needs and cannot buy off state

contracts because they're "not written in a user-friendly way for us."

George said the San Francisco-based Epylon, which has 1,400 registered

buyers and 1,600 suppliers, was exclusively focused on the education sector

in its first year of existence before moving into the government sector.

He said 75 percent of the company's clients are school districts, including

the Minneapolis Public Schools.

In a separate deal that could benefit participating school districts,

Epylon recently signed an agreement with Laidlaw Transit Inc., which provides

transportation to about 2.3 million students daily in North America, that

Laidlaw will become both a buyer and supplier. Cook said that agreement

would save costs in buying repair parts for the school district's 400 buses.

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