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Question of quality
Photo contract bid details presented at BOE meeting
The Great Bend Tribune recently ran this photo of the GBHS Panthers baseball team in the Spring Sports Preview in March. Sports team photos are cherished mementos of a high school career. The USD 428 Board of Education will need to decide if a contract for photography service will be awarded to a national company or a local business person at an upcoming meeting. - photo by Dale Hogg, Tribune Staff

School sports is an important part of education, both for students and parents.  Showing up to the game, cheering from the stands, they gain a sense of pride watching their children reach new milestones like making a critical play.  And sharing those moments with friends and family sends a message to teens that they are supported.
That’s why every three years, the USD 428 Board of Education accepts bids and awards a new contract for photography services.  Details of the most recent bidding process was presented  at Monday night’s board meeting.  
Lifetouch National School Studios, Inc., an Eden Prairie, Minn. company, received the contract for individual portraits for the next three years.  It was agreed by board members that it simply made the most sense logistically for a large company with ample staff to handle the needs of seven schools in the district.  
In the past, the contract included individual and team sports photography, but this year the board decided to split up the bidding in order to see if local businesses could provide competitive services.  Only one local photographer, Amy Stein, submitted a bid this time around.
In addition to individual and team photos, optional spirit items could include photo buttons, posters, pennants, novelty tickets, and more.  The decision to split the bidding was due in part to patron complaints that it took too long to get these items back from Lifetouch.  In some instances, the items had not been delivered until the season was nearly over.
The bids requests included pricing for individual team portraits, group team pictures, wallet-sized photos and photo buttons.  Lifetouch provided two packages. The first would include an 8x10 team picture, a 5x7 portrait, and four wallets for $18; the second included a team picture, a 3x5 portrait, and a photo button for $19.  
Amy Stein Photography provided an ala carte list of items which included a composite team picture for $12, an 8x10 portrait for $8, a “memory mate” (5x7 team picture and 3x5 portrait in one) for $14, a photo button for $6, four wallet sized photos for $5, 4x6 prints for $5 each, magazine covers for $12, trader cards for $15, and personalized sports tickets for $15.
Assistant Superintendent Khris Thexton recommended approving the bid from Lifetouch because the overall package pricing was less expensive than the ala carte pricing.  
This is in line with the USD 428 purchasing policy, which states, “If merchandise is equal in quality and if service is equal in all respects, the Board’s obligation to all taxpayers, rather than those desiring to conduct business within the district, requires the contract be awarded to the lowest responsible bidder, regardless of location of the firm.”  
However, board member Cheryl Rugan questioned both the quality of the finished product offered by Lifetouch, and also the ability for the company to follow through on its two to three week turn around promise.  Rugan has children of her own in the district, and agreed with patrons who contacted her personally that both have suffered in recent years.  
Board member Doug Bender voiced support of spending locally.  He had also received feedback from patrons, as well as local businesses, that it is a high priority to keep local dollars circulating locally, but also that some local businesses were reluctant to bid because the district would likely go with the out of town company.  
Superintendent Brad Reed reaffirmed the district’s desire to work locally when feasible, and suggested ways to encourage more local photographers to bid next year.  But Rugan reminded Reed that the bid was for a three-year contract.  After some discussion, Reed promised to speak with representatives of Lifetouch to see if they would be agreeable to changing the term of the contract.  The board agreed to table the discussion and further action until he has an answer.