Online Legal Support for
Education Technology Acquisitions
New York Law School
Our Five-Step Approach
Contract Commons Strategy
Schools (and vendors) lack access to the
technology contracts that reflect actual
business needs and requirements.
Without legal and strategic assistance in the
technology acquisition process, public education
cannot acquire the best technology to support
The public school technology procurement and contracting
process faces numerous challenges due to a lack of:
Knowledge about how contract terms relate to business realities.
Useful contract models or alternatives to vendor-drafted contracts.
Legal and strategic advice when drafting technology contracts.
Access to resources about consultants and vendors that exist to help identify
Understanding of open source options.
Ways to connect with others facing similar challenges.
Time to address these challenges.
Why Does This Matter?
Enabling Education Reform
Education reform depends on having good technology.
With appropriate technology, public education institutions can better serve
Better informed decision-making produces licenses with terms that support
school district’s needs and creates more productive vendor relationships.
Effective contracts can improve upon the quality, reliability and performance
of technology by:
creating more specific and attainable goals.
focusing negotiations on critical issues early, to prevent project failure
Contribute to education reform through the use of
technology by developing a strategy
for an online system that offers legal and strategic
assistance to school districts during the
technology acquisition process
Our Client: The Stupski Foundation
A non-profit organization that works directly with public school districts,
providing human, financial, and technology resources to support the districts
in implementing education reform strategies
The Foundation’s Open Educational Data Systems Initiative, directed by
Stephen Midgley, aims to promote education reform by
– integrating educational systems
– helping educators make better purchasing decisions
– creating an environment where educators make better use of data to help
– bringing strategies of openness to bear to improve the use, acquisition
and design of technology for education
Our Five-Step Approach
1. Target Audience Brainstorming
2. Process Brainstorming
4. Contract Analysis
5. Designing the Contract Commons System
Step One: Target Audience Brainstorming
– What audiences could benefit from this resource?
– What are the needs and interests of these audiences?
– How could Contract Commons benefit each audience?
– Which audience(s) do we want to support?
We identified six potential target audiences
Contract negotiator > School district rep or administrator; negotiates contract with
Vendor sales rep > Software vendor’s sales rep; negotiates with school on behalf of
Attorney > School district’s inside or outside counsel; legal review of contract
Technology user > School district personnel; will use the software/technology upon
Policymaker > School board member or state/local educational policymaker; sets
policies that require software or technology solutions
Consultant/CIO > Educational consultant or school CIO responsible for identifying
software/tech solutions in support of policies and initiatives
We developed a hypothesis about their needs and wants
Example: Contract Negotiators’ Needs and Wants
Assistance in creating a complete contract, ready for execution
Education about contents of contracts they negotiate
– Legal and business considerations for various provisions
– Learn about possible legal implications of business terms
– Relative priority of provisions for purpose of negotiating
– Help in selecting provisions, deciding what to include
– Full model, sample contracts
Dialogue and community
– With other contract negotiators, school districts, vendors, etc.
Education about negotiating strategies and tactics
Vendor information, feedback, reviews
– Confer “preferred” or “certified” vendor status on those who engage positively
We identified the potential benefits for each audience
Example: Benefits for Contract Negotiators
More informed decisionmaking, better contracts
Creates a better foundation for the vendor-school district relationship
Obtain favorable terms for school district
Ability to gain a better negotiating position
Opportunity to create incentives for vendors to positively engage in
Step Two: Process Brainstorming
We identified four primary processes that would support the target audiences
1. Contract Drafting Bucket > model contracts accompanied by a library of
2. Negotiation Know-How > repository of educational tools, checklists, tips,
to-do lists, blog, translation engine, memo library
3. Dialogue and Community > using the web to connect the people involved
to build a community through the use of wikis, blogs, and/or discussion
4. Vendor and Technology Information > rating which vendors are best at
providing which solutions
Step Three: Target Audience Interviews
We interviewed six school district participants in the technology acquisition process
What are the needs of the target audience of school administrators?
– What technology needs do they have regarding choosing a solution?
– What legal needs do they have regarding negotiating a solution?
– What business needs do they have regarding implementing a solution?
What process do schools currently follow in making technology purchases?
– What are the steps of the negotiation process?
– Who is involved in what steps? Who are the stakeholders?
– Current business process consequences and possible solutions
– Policy change benefits
– What parts of the contract are most important?
“I need to learn what the elements of a good technology contract are so I can recognize if these
provisions are in the contract and make sure they get added if they aren’t.”
-- Manager, Research & Assessment,
California school district of 45,000 children
“Vendor-provided agreements are one-sided and too restrictive. And we lack the resources to
negotiate the terms to our favor.”
-- Information Technology Director,
Small School District, California
“If I’d had a good model contract, I could have stood alone better and handled the negotiations on
-- Director of Educational Services in Tennessee
“We knew we needed our reports to print out in the color-coding to which we had all become
accustomed, but we didn’t think to put it in the contract. Once the deal was inked, the vendor could
not or would not modify the software to produce the color-coded reports.”
-- Chief Academic Officer,
Northern California School District
Step Four: Contract Analysis
We gathered best of breed software/technology acquisition
agreements and analyzed them provision-by-provision
– Model contracts and examples of real public education software licenses
– What problems are school districts having in drafting contracts?
Then we reviewed our analysis with an experienced attorney
We produced a Collaborative Development of Taxonomy
Document (using Writely)
Substance - legal taxonomy
Model contract provisions
Business explanations of what legal terms mean
Step Five: Designing the System
– Overall schema
– Communication Forum
– Clause Library
– Model Documents
– How users can quickly and efficiently navigate the site
Page layout and design
– How the content and functionality can be presented to the user
The Contract Commons Strategy
Presented at the Consortium for School Networking Conference (CoSN)
in Washington, D.C. on March 6, 2006
The Goal of Contract Commons
Support the effective use of software and technology in public education.
Help vendors and districts to clearly define their needs up front.
Build a community to learn about the content and process of contract
Connect the legal and public school education communities.
What is Contract Commons?
An online system to assist school district personnel, vendors and their lawyers
in negotiating and drafting technology and software agreements.
Choose a Acquire a
Define Project Contract Basics
Define Needs Reading the Contract
Identify Options Making the Deal
Choose a Solution
Budgeting and Planning
Working as a Team
Building an open community for knowledge sharing
Create a collaborative system to leverage the wisdom of the
Connect vendors, educators, lawyers and procurement
Enable members of the community to share content
Provide resources on closed and open source
Contract Commons: What Will it Do?
Legal terms and contract provisions explained in a library of clauses
Model Contracts Library
Best of breed technology contracts with annotations provided by top legal and
Vendor, legal and business information to help choose, acquire or implement a
Resources provided by the community to help choose, acquire or implement a
Dialogue and Forum
Connecting members of the community to discuss technology acquisition
Choosing a System
Advice to Keep in Mind When Deciding Whether to Buy or Build or How to Identify the Right Vendors
and their Products
1. Take an exhaustive inventory of data sources, survey user needs and goals, and
choose whether to implement a data system using local staff or contracted help.
2. Get input from potential users and survey their needs.
3. Communicate with others that use the same vendor, hardware or software product.
4. Systems should be accessible from anywhere.
5. Make sure you accurately calculate the cost of a product, including maintenance and
Acquiring a System
Advice to Keep in Mind When Negotiating and Contracting:
Far more than a statement of legal rights, a contract memorializes the business deal.
1. Define what you want to do with a technology, in detail, before you sign a contract and
review those goals with users, constituents and vendor.
2. Spread your payments out over time and tie the payments to project deliverables.
3. Detail desired milestones and deliverables in your contract.
4. Know the conditions for ending the relationship and terminating the contract.
5. No matter what anyone says to the contrary, your agreement with a vendor is always
Have you ever seen a nightmare clause
like this in your contract?
8. LIMITED WARRANTY. The following warranty is supplied with respect to Licensed Product provided to
8.1 Conformity to Specifications. Vendor cannot assure that the performance of Licensed Product will be
uninterrupted or error-free, or that all Licensed Product problems will be corrected, despite Vendor’s reasonable
efforts to do so. Vendor does, however, warrant for a period of twelve (12) months after the original shipment of
Licensed Product hereunder that: (a) such Licensed Product (other than Custom Programs supplied by Vendor
pursuant to Vendor’s Services Policies), as originally delivered under this Agreement, will substantially conform to
the applicable description and specifications contained in the Documentation delivered with such Licensed
Product; and (b) Custom Programs supplied by Vendor pursuant to Vendor’s Services Policies will substantially
conform to the specifications set forth in the applicable Statement of Work pursuant to Vendor’s Services Policies.
The foregoing warranty shall not apply to Licensed Product that has been modified, damaged or used in a manner
that does not conform to the instructions and specifications contained in the Documentation for such Licensed
Product. In the event that Licensed Product does not meet the requirements of this warranty, Customer shall be
responsible to so notify Vendor in writing during the warranty period and provide Vendor with sufficient detail to
allow Vendor to reproduce the problem. After receiving such notification, Vendor will undertake to correct the
problem by programming corrections, reasonable “work-around” solutions and/or Documentation corrections. If
Vendor is unable to correct the problem after a reasonable opportunity, Vendor will refund the license fees paid for
such Licensed Product and Customer’s license to use such Licensed Product will terminate. The foregoing states
the complete and entire remedies that Customer has under this warranty. Vendor shall have no responsibility for
any warranty claims made outside of the warranty period.
Implementing a System
Advice to Keep in Mind When Implementing a Technology System
1. Assign a project manager to the project who will maintain a project roadmap and up-to-
date project status documents.
2. Develop and communicate a clear messages about the project for your users and other
stakeholders so they understand what it is, why it’s useful, how they can be involved.
3. Integrate your new training plans with work that’s already going on in the school district.
4. Order equipment and materials with plenty of lead time.
5. Work out username and password policies and systems early.
Contract Commons and Implementing a System
Feedback & Response
IT Directors, Superintendents
– Importance to schools
– Willingness to use system
– Willingness to share experiences and
– Usefulness of the features
Future ownership of the Initiative
Ways to involve the legal community