BY EMILY MORENO
Herff Jones, a company dedicated to supplying schools with graduation apparel such as caps and gowns, has recently lost their control over Broward County Public Schools (BCPS). A request for proposal (RFP) entailing the new policies surrounding BCPS and their cap and gown vendors was approved by the School Board of Broward County (SBBC). Lasting until December 31, 2024 high schools around the county will hold the power to choose their own vendors.
“I graduated from public school in Miami 30 years ago and it’s the same two companies that did the class rings and the caps so [Herff Jones and Jostens] have been monopolizing South Florida for a long time,” senior parent Yaneth Hernandez said.
Herff Jones has a long history in South Florida and has worked with BCPS since 1920, supplying the county with graduation products such as class rings, cap and gowns and senior class apparel. Their last contract with BCPS, signed in 2016, guaranteed them exclusivity over the county.
Overall, the general consensus was positive with the 2019 survey by the SBBC giving Chuck Puleri and Associates/ Herff Jones high scores on customer service, satisfaction of quality and overall performance. However, issues with the vendor were recently brought to light.
In past years, students would pay around $70 for the rental cap and gown; however, the SBBC price agreement from 2016 states that caps and gowns should be priced at $29 and remain the same until 2020 when the agreement expired. Problems of vested interest arose due to a relationship with school board members. Additionally, Herff Jones has been accused of making their ordering system complicated to confuse buyers into buying the more expensive package and making the cheaper graduation package nearly impossible to find. During the research for this article, that theory was proven as the website was difficult to navigate.
“Senior pictures are very expensive, the class trip is very expensive, [so is] applying to colleges … [and] prom tickets,” Hernandez said. “So any little bit that helps would go a long way.”
The approved RFP states new policies for the selection process of each school’s vendor. Every high school is required to have a committee made up of staff members, student representatives and parents of the senior class. After reviewing the material presented by the vendors, they vote on a vendor they believe will best suit the school.
“I think it was effective,” 12th grade Vice Principal Dr. Carla Hozebin said. “It was very fair both vendors presented, both vendors answered questions and we had a group of parents, students and staff members and we were able to make a decision based on the information we were given and the questions we asked.”
Jostens was announced a week after the vote as the official provider for CCHS in a Canvas announcement sent out to the senior class. Seniors can start making their orders February 17 and will have an informational meeting with Jostens on February 2. The announcement also addressed the students who had already placed an order with Herff Jones which will be transferred over to Jostens.
“My son and I are gonna place the order in the next couple of days,” Hernandez said. “As long as the vendors can make their deadlines I don’t think it changes anything.”
Despite the change in vendors there seems to be little to no concerns. Instead there is a sense of relief now that graduation information has been announced and the class of 2022 approaches their graduation on June 7.
“Not an opinion per say for or against the vendor,” Hozebin said. “Just glad to have a vendor and [so] parents and families can start purchasing [caps and gowns] and moving forward so we can have an awesome graduation.”