A health and PE department leader’s collaborative approach to colleagues and their funding enables him to use surplus funds to meet his department’s growing needs.
By pooling unused resources from other departments, the teacher has been able to grow his school’s inventory of IHT ZONE wrist heart rate monitors. Now, more students benefit daily from a personalized physical education experience.
“When you put heart rate monitors on, it makes things a little more personalized and fair for everybody,” he said. “And as a teacher, sometimes you have an epiphany about who is really working hard and who is not because you have some objective data.”
The ability to personalize fitness for each student convinced the teacher to first add the ZONE to his curriculum. He purchased his first set of 28 late in the 2016-17 school year. To make that initial purchase, the teacher needed to get creative in finding funding since he’d already used a healthy portion of his $1,600 annual budget.
“That isn’t a lot of money considering that we are serving about 650 students in our classes and trying to do 32 different units of instruction,” he said.
The set of 28 ZONES gets used throughout the day. A different class uses the same set of ZONES each class period. In a regular four-period day, the school’s PE team works with as many as 90 students at a time. With the number of students per period outgrowing his ZONE inventory, the teacher continually looks to increase his inventory so the school has enough for each student.
The teacher used several tactics to help administrators see the value of expanding his health and PE budget in order to add more ZONEs to his inventory.
1. Submit Purchase Orders Early
Though department leaders know early in the school year how much funding they’ve been allocated, they often don’t have the full year to spend it. Some districts freeze spending late in the fiscal year in order to evaluate unspent funding and in some cases re-allocate it to other departments with needs that are deemed to be a higher priority.
“I try and buy what I can early in the year with my department’s money,” he said. “There are years when March comes around and the central office wants everyone to stop making new requests so they can get all of the existing purchase orders closed out.”
While he wants to get started early, he makes sure he doesn’t blow through his entire budget on purchase orders in the first month.
“I try and be as frugal as possible with my budget,” he said. “After taking care of other needs, I put whatever is left into buying as many ZONES as I could afford as I worked toward two full sets.”
2. Collaborate with Fellow Department Leaders
When he’d exhausted his entire allocation, he sought out other department leaders who still had funding available at the time the district froze new purchase orders.
“I talk with other teacher leaders who control budgets that might be a little more robust than mine,” he said. “And if they have funds they’re not going to need or if they’ve already taken care of all of their needs and still have, say, $1,000 left, well, that’s a lot of money for me. The main reason that I’ve been able to purchase all of these ZONES is that surpluses happened in previous years and we were blessed to be able to benefit from that.”
When he finds a colleague with money to share, that teacher either submits the PO on the PE department’s behalf or asks the administration to transfer the budget from one department to the health and PE department.
“I don’t recall the principal or the administration saying no when we’ve made this type of request,” the teacher said. “When teachers who control separate budget lines come to them and say ‘we’d like to do this,’ they are amenable. It just takes everyone working together.”
The strategy doesn’t always uncover available funding, but he is grateful to have colleagues willing to help him meet his needs.
“I’ve been fortunate that I’ve been able to work with other leaders who have sent me money out of their budget,” he said.
Through the years, the teacher’s strategy has been so successful that his budget has more than tripled. He credits the school administration for reviewing each department’s historical spending when setting new budgets.
“Now our budget is more like $5,000,” he said. “I think our district has established a little bit more of a pattern to see what each department is actually spending as opposed to just saying, ‘okay, here’s your budget.’ Accounts payable now looks at what was allocated and then includes adjustments that were made from various budgets.”
3. Invite Administrators to See Purchased Technology in Use
The teacher knows his requests will never be one-and-done, especially when it comes to technology that’s benefitting both student and teacher. The teacher wants the administration to see first-hand the impact the ZONE heart rate monitors make on the students.
“The bottom line now is these monitors are something that we really value, and when administrators come into the gym and see us using them, they like that,” he said. “The response from the administration and parents in the community and the students to this being part of our practice has been really good.”
Since purchasing his first class set, the teacher’s been able to add ZONES each year, enough to cover a standard session that includes two sections of approximately 30 students each. He’s working now to increase his inventory by another set of 28 so each student in his largest class has their own monitor.
“I’m always trying to grow the inventory,” he said. “Every time I think I’ve got enough, the class structure changes a little bit. Now we have two teaching blocks where we have three class sections happening simultaneously and I’d like to have enough where all three teachers can use them at the same time. We’re not quite there yet.”
Given his track record, though, he may get there soon.
Editor’s note: The teacher’s name and school district have been withheld by request.