Choice Partners purchasing cooperative offers quality, legal procurement and contract solutions to meet government purchasing requirements. We also meet all of the EDGAR requirements!

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Third Coast Fresh

Posted on July 20, 2018

GREAT TASTE AND PROFIT TOO!

With the theme, “Feed MORE Teens … Guaranteed!,” Smart Mouth, a Choice Partners awarded vendor, has done just that and more. This pizza manufacturer offers all the ingredients, machinery and training for school nutrition staff members to make personal-sized pizzas in-house for that fresh-from-the-oven experience most middle and high school students desire. It is the only pizza with self-rising dough that is handmade and baked onsite. The focus of the company is helping feed more children and fund the schools. Smart Mouth is a resource to market to teens and help school districts grow their bottom line.

As a site-based pizza program, Smart Mouth creates a pro forma statement before any sale so the district can gauge the effect of introducing its novel way of offering pizza. Customers may purchase the ingredients like dough, sauce, pepperoni and small individual-size boxes as well as 100 percent mozzarella cheese. A pizza conveyor oven is a must for this product. Smart Mouth offers the option to purchase one or a district/campus may use one already onsite. Each customer contract guarantees three days of staff training to ensure proper use and quality control of the product produced. Chris Bomberger, director of child nutrition at Denton ISD, said the program is overwhelmingly successful.  “When you sign the contract, Smart Mouth helps you every step of the way. They train your staff staying for 3 days at every school where the program is implemented to ensure the end result is by their standards. Their follow-up is thorough. Smart Mouth is not a product; it is a concept,” Bomberger said.

As students age (like a good cheese), their interest in school food and cafeteria experiences decline.  Offering onsite fresh pizza engages their attention as well as palates.  This in turn creates a substantial revenue increase for any child nutrition director looking to do both. “I was given a directive by administration to increase revenue.  When I saw Smart Mouth Foods at the SNA conference, they shared their program that included equipment purchase plus product that would do just that,” said Cheryl Rayburg, Boerne ISD food service director. “Our director of purchasing found access to a Smart Mouth contract through the district’s membership in Choice Partners Co-op and we were able to move forward. A portion of the weekly product ordered contributed to the equipment purchase until it was paid in full.  We netted a $100K profit the first year.  It was a big plus for me to be able to use Smart Mouth through Choice Partners.”

Smart Mouth pizza meets all nutritional guidelines and with this company on your team, you have several avenues to build revenue. The pizza may be sold as an a la carte item for profit or can be bundled with a fruit or vegetable to meet the nutritional requirements as a reimbursable meal through Texas Department of Agriculture USDA. Either way helps to increase the child nutrition budget which benefits kitchen staff in meal planning. Frisco ISD nutrition coordinator Katherine Smith said Frisco uses Smart Mouth in special promotional offerings to students. “Smart Mouth has provided us the marketing tools we need to promote limited time offers that increased our reimbursable meals and a la carte sales. We serve over 27,000 reimbursable meals weekly with Smart Mouth.”

Log on to the Choice Partners website for more information about CP Smart Mouth contract #17/035TJ-01.  For more information about Smart Mouth, go to www.smartmouthfoods.com.

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Posted on June 13, 2018

Building on previous business relationships is easy and legal when popular, high-quality JOC vendors become Choice Partners awarded vendors.

Members who have a favorite construction or maintenance trades vendor they want to use should encourage that vendor to register to become a bidder with Choice Partners national cooperative so they can compete for a government-awarded contract. (Learn how to become a vendor

Bidders for the Competitive Sealed Proposal for JOC-Construction Trades may use any of three unit price books: Xactimate (which is used by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Insurance adjustors); RSMeans; or Craftsman National Construction Estimator, all of which offer a digital option. The CSP is applicable for any division of the CSI Master Format system, which are listed below.

We are asking vendors to provide a coefficient for a maximum of one division covering the type of service they are offering to governmental entities.

The Choice Partners administrative fee for our vendors is lower than most of our co-op competitors, which usually translates to lower prices for our members.

This contract will be legally procured under Government Code 2269.

Applicable Divisions:

02           Existing Conditions

03           Concrete

04           Masonry

05           Metals

06           Wood, Plastics, and Composites

07           Thermal and Moisture Protection

08           Openings

09           Finishes

10           Specialties

11           Equipment

12           Furnishings

13           Special Construction

14           Conveying Equipment

21           Fire Suppression

22           Plumbing

23           Heating, Ventilating, and Air Conditioning (HVAC)

26           Electrical

27           Communications

28           Electronic Safety and Security

31           Earthwork

32           Exterior Improvements

33           Utilities

34           Transportation

35           Waterway and Marine Construction

41           Material Processing and Handling Equipment

44           Pollution and Waste Control Equipment

46           Water and Wastewater Equipment

48           Electrical Power Generation

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Posted on October 5, 2016

Anyone who’s ever attempted to clean up a major spill with a minor amount of tissue understands that not all janitorial supplies are created equal. Whether you’re buffing a gymnasium floor or taking out the trash, it pays to know that you can rely on your vendor to deliver products that get the job done.

Buckeye Cleaning Center-Houston, a branch of Missouribased Buckeye International, knows the janitorial supplies industry inside and out, and members using its Choice Partners cooperative contract are riding high as a result.

“Buckeye is an exceptional vendor,” said Manuel Vasquez, assistant director of operations, Pearland ISD. “Floor finish looks as good on the last day of school as it does on the first – it lasts.”

Pearland ISD contracts with Buckeye for chemical supplies, paper supplies, dispensers, trash liners and equipment such as buffers to be used on the district’s 23 campuses. Vasquez gave Buckeye credit for helping his facilities look as polished as can be.

“We have developed a good partnership that has helped keep our schools looking world-class,” he said.

Other members who use Buckeye’s Choice Partners contract for janitorial supplies echoed Vasquez’s statements about excellent customer service and industry-leading knowledge.

“Buckeye’s customer service is top-notch,” said Scott Bryce, operations supervisor, Deer Park ISD. “I can email or call them at any time.”

“Excellent quality, excellent service,” said Nancy Dunn, school district buyer. “Each and every contact with this vendor is pleasant, efficient and leaves me with complete faith that we are in great hands.”

While Buckeye brings the expertise and customer-friendly approach, members said, Choice Partners cooperative purchasing contracts make their jobs even easier.

“I know it saves time, as our operations folks hold a high standard and only want specific products,” Dunn said, “and being able to buy those items through the co-op is an asset.”

Speaking of assets, Bryce mentioned yet another reason why cooperative purchasing is the way to go.

With Choice Partners contracts, “We have certain vendors who are easier to use, and we usually get a better price,” he said.

Buckeye Cleaning Center’s contract is national, so members across the nation may access their products through the Choice Partners contract. To learn more about Buckeye and its Choice Partners contract, go to https://www.choicepartners.org/ vendors/buckeye-cleaning-center-6 or call 281-873-4200. 

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Posted on September 7, 2016

Jesus Amezcua, Pam Perkins and Mark RogersSchool purchasing professionals “have a lot to keep up with,” according to Pam Perkins, program specialist, Consumer Protection Division of the Texas Attorney General’s Office. Perkins, who has spent many years investigating claims of illegal purchasing activity such as price-fixing and bid-rigging, was one of three experts to speak on August 25 at Harris County Department of Education for a joint meeting of HCDE’s School Finance Council and TASBO’s Gulf Coast chapter.

More than 80 school business leaders went to hear Perkins speak, along with Mark Rogers, a longtime procurement specialist, and Sarah Langlois, an attorney with Rogers, Morris and Grover, LLP. The three presenters shared their expertise on a number of procurement-related issues and offered the following as advice.

1. Perception is reality.

Both Perkins and Rogers emphasized the importance not just of transparent purchasing practices but of withstanding varying levels of public scrutiny – from careless speculation to full-fledged audits.

“Avoid the intent and appearance of unethical or compromising practices,” Rogers said, emphasizing that even the appearance of misconduct can be enough to cause harm to an organization. Perkins agreed.

“Welcome the openness,” she said. “Conduct yourself as if everything you do will end up in the newspaper.”

While actual purchasing law does not always match the public’s perception of what it should be – or, as Perkins put it, “just because you think something is hinky doesn’t mean it’s against the law” – both presenters agreed nevertheless that purchasing professionals have an obligation to show the public that their hands are clean.

“Just because you can doesn’t mean you should,” Perkins said, summing it up.

2. Sole source providers are rare.

As many procurement professionals know, the law provides exemptions from the traditional “get three quotes” bidding process for purchases that are so unique that they can’t be acquired from multiple vendors. The relative ease of procuring from so-called “sole source providers,” however, has led many participants in the education and government markets to use the term too loosely.

“There must be no functional equivalent in the marketplace” for a product or service to qualify as sole source, according to Langlois, which means that sole source providers are actually “very rare.”

Perkins pointed out that many companies – particularly those with patented products or proprietary processes, such as software developers – mislead clients into believing that they are sole source providers in order to hurry a deal through to close. Others simply misunderstand the law or interpret it too loosely. Purchasing professionals must do their due diligence to verify that vendors claiming to be sole source providers actually are, while understanding that, in most cases, they probably aren’t.

3. Cooperative purchasing helps.

Membership in a purchasing cooperative – especially one like HCDE Choice Partners that does its due diligence and operates according to the “gold standard” of procurement – has a way of easing concerns about legality and trust, but co-op members still have some work to do to make sure their resources are being used properly.

“Everybody benefits” when it comes to co-ops, Rogers said, pointing out that school districts both large and small can rely on the “toolbox” of cooperative contracts when their needs exceed their own means.

It is the responsibility of the entity, however, to verify that a vendor holds an up-to-date contract with a fully compliant co-op.

“Make sure vendors are on the up and up,” he said.

Learning about a co-op’s contracts, verifying its legality, and making use of networking events to check references are all ways to get the most out of cooperative purchasing. 

For more information about HCDE Choice Partners contracts, or to become a member, go to www.ChoicePartners.org/membership.

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Posted on August 4, 2016

Robots run around the room. 3D printers create architectural designs, dioramas, models of body parts – you name it. Laser machines engrave detailed artwork and maps on wood and carve chess sets out of stone. Is this Earth in the year 2200, perhaps? Actually, it’s today’s STEM-friendly classroom, thanks to Teaching Systems Inc.

“Teaching Systems works on getting the things we need,” said Don Kelly, a career and technical education specialist at Garland Independent School District. With Teaching Systems’ help, Kelly added, Garland ISD was even able to take advantage of a special “buy four, get two free” deal on 3D printers with Makerbot. 

“We just enjoy working with them,” he said.

Teaching Systems employees not only find the right deals and products for their customers, but they never fail to follow through.

‘Easy to work with’ every step of the way

Northside Independent School District Instructional Specialist Rosanna Perez mentioned that if she ever has a problem, Teaching Systems is sure to take care of it immediately. Because “success is the most important thing” to her and her students, the Teaching Systems staff know they need to make every product work
successfully.

Perez was not the only customer who said that Teaching Systems goes above and beyond to meet with Choice Partners members face-to-face and get them what they need.

“What I like about them most is that they actually come to El Paso and present their products,” said Eric Winkelman, director of career and technical education at El Paso Independent School District.

“They come on a regular basis, stop by and visit the teachers,” he added.

Winkelman also mentioned that El Paso ISD has been working with Teaching Systems for almost 20 years, and just one time was there an issue with shipping. However, he said that when Teaching Systems employees became aware of the problem, they apologized, took responsibility and quickly overnighted the product.

“They’ve always been easy to work with,” he explained.

Kelly cited an incident last year in which Garland ISD had difficulty fixing its broken embroidery machines. Teaching Systems not only helped them fix the machines but also set up future trainings for the teachers. Instead of leaving Garland ISD teachers on their own, Teaching Systems remained involved in the training process every step of the way.

Fluent in partnership and success

When Northside ISD knew that it would need learning labs for students taking foreign language AP classes due to a requirement to record and send MP3 files, it had to go with an option that could provide a seamless user experience.


“We wanted something that would work 100 percent of the time,” Perez said.

Naturally, the choice was Teaching Systems, who Perez says has a “really good” relationship with the Northside ISD technology department.

Teaching Systems provided the equipment for the language labs, as well as staff development and training resources for foreign language teachers.

“Our teachers feel comfortable with Teaching Systems,” Perez said. “They are more than a vendor; they’re a partner.”

Accessing Teaching Systems’ awarded contract through Choice Partners has been a plus for members.

“We’re satisfied with how smooth it’sbeen using co-op purchasing for Teaching Systems,” Winkelman said.

Employees at Teaching Systems agreed that working with a co-op has been a win-win. According to President and Vice President of Operations Kim Savage, Choice Partners has allowed for a “streamlined process” in business, bringing purchase orders in quickly through an awarded contract. She noted that the shortened bidding process is beneficial to both Teaching Systems and customers. 

“A lot of purchase orders have been able to come in because we’ve already been awarded a contract and that’s what [customers are] looking for,” Savage said. “When we say that we’re a Choice Partners contract, then it’s an order
immediately for both of us.”

To learn more about Teaching Systems and its Choice Partners contract, go to https://www.choicepartners.org/vendors/teaching-systems-inc-3 or call 817-417-7775 or for local sales representatives, please visit http://www.teachingsystems.com/contact.php

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Posted on May 26, 2016

It’s no secret that when it comes to putting tasty and nutritional food in front of millions of children, today’s schools face a logistical challenge on par with going to the mooooooon and back. That’s why it’s important to contract with a dairy vendor, like Borden, willing to pamper its customers with excellent service.

“Borden responds to concerns in a timely manner. Their customer service team stays in constant communication with us regarding missing orders or other issues,” said Kara Lam, assistant director, Child Nutrition, Humble Independent School District. “They are willing to adjust routes to accommodate holiday schedules, school openings and closings, et cetera. They take care of the logistics so we don’t have to worry.”

“Overall, we’ve been very happy with Borden’s products and service,” said Christopher Kamradt, director, Child Nutrition Services, Spring Branch ISD. “If I were asked if I would recommend Borden, I would unequivocally say yes.”

It’s helpful to know that Borden’s Choice Partners contract is flexible enough to yield more than just milk. The company delivers other healthy and refreshing items such as 100% juices, brewed tea, cultured products and yogurt – all stamped with both Elsie’s signature smile and Choice Partners’ seal of approval.

“[We are] very satisfied with Choice Partners as a whole, with how they do business and how they treat us,” Kamradt said. “Choice Partners makes our lives that much easier.”

La Porte ISD Director of School Nutrition Yvonne Bennett agreed that Choice Partners stays on top of the purchasing process and keeps the lines of communication open.

“We have not had a problem at all,” Bennett said, referring to Choice Partners. “And we know that they are in compliance.”

For more information, contact David Wood at 713-724-5872 or visit https://www.choicepartners.org/vendors/borden-milk.

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Posted on May 26, 2016

Choice Partners contract for commercial refrigerationGovernment and education facilities don’t just want to feed people—they need to feed people. Their kitchens have zero room for unreliable equipment or halfhearted customer service, so when it’s time to make installations or repairs to keep hungry patrons moving through the lunch line, ISI Commercial Refrigeration gets a call.

“I use ISI for large and small equipment purchases, as [Sales Consultant] Chris Wiggins has always been one to be budget-minded to meet our needs as well as ensure quality delivery,” said New Caney ISD Child Nutrition Director Debbie Needham.

Jennifer Douglas, director of child nutrition, Galveston ISD, agreed that ISI “goes above and beyond” when it comes to customer service.

“ISI provides great service – they communicate well,” Douglas said. “Its customer service is very user-friendly and very flexible.”

In an industry where options for customization are all but endless, members said they enjoy working with a vendor that can help them see through the fog.

“I think what I like about [Wiggins] is that he stays on top of what is the going product at the time as well as any updates on equipment,” Needham said. ”He is knowledgeable about comparing products and helping us find which piece of equipment may work best, as it can vary by campus.”

As many governmental entities know, bringing tasty and nutritious food to the serving lines can be an arduous legal process. Luckily, Choice Partners cooperative purchasing contracts speed things up.

“I’ve always appreciated the work that Choice Partners does behind the scenes to make sure contracts are in compliance,” Douglas said.

For more information, contact Chris Wiggins at 713-861-4455 ext. 3508, cwiggins@isi-texas.com or visit https://www.choicepartners.org/vendors/isi-commercialrefrigeration-2.

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Posted on May 26, 2016

Choice Partners provides equipment with Zimmerer Kubota contractBlue skies, outdoor activities, freshly cut grass – these things have us looking forward to summer all year long, but when it’s your job to stay ahead of nature’s budding greenery, summer is less a friend and more that pesky relative that keeps demanding money. To keep grass – and equipment budgets – from growing sky-high, groundskeepers and other maintenance professionals know they need the right equipment and dependable service. In other words, they need Zimmerer Kubota and Equipment Inc.

“Zimmerer Kubota all the way!” said Irving Independent School District Grounds and Environmental Quality Supervisor Todd Lane.

While praising the efforts of Steve Lee, assistant store manager, Governmental & Fleet Sales, Lane emphasized that while many companies tout quality customer
service, the folks at Zimmerer Kubota actually deliver it.

“Once, when we had purchased a mower that had a problem with one of the pulleys, Steve called us ahead of time and told us the company had made a faulty pulley,” Lane said, remembering that he was impressed that the company was aware of the problem before it arose. “Steve came out to the site and replaced the pulleys himself.”

Lane isn’t the only one to find Zimmerer Kubota’s products and service to be top-notch.

“Everything is going fine,” said Joe Brinkley, road foreman, Parker County Precinct #1.

Brinkley recently purchased a ten-foot batwing mower from Zimmerer Kubota using the Choice Partners contract – not exactly your grandmother’s lawn equipment.

In addition to high-power machinery, governmental entities also like the ease of using Zimmerer Kubota’s cooperative purchasing contract with Choice Partners.

“Steve and everyone else at Zimmerer Kubota are well-versed in government purchasing,” Lane said, adding that is not always the case with other vendors.

“If I can buy it through Choice Partners and not have to get three quotes, that’s better for me,” said Lane.

“That’s the thing that’s good about Choice Partners.”

For more information, contact Steve Lee at 817-281-6143 or stevel@zkmail.com or visit https://www.choicepartners.org/vendors/zimmererkubota-and-equipment-3.

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Posted on May 26, 2016

As students leave for the summer, maintenance directors know to expect a list of maintenance projects from principals, along with their demands for the work to be completed before August. Quick deadlines are only possible to meet using a JOC-IDIQ (Job Order Contract – Indefinite Delivery Indefinite Quantity) procured construction contract.

Government code 2269 mandates that facilities construction and maintenance contracts be procured using JOC, which resembles time and materials contracts that were allowed about a decade ago. The unit price book published in the RFP specifies how much the entity will pay per unit, then a multiplier (which is a discount in Choice Partners contracts) is applied to reach final pricing.

Members are amazed to discover JOC is not as expensive as they might think, according to Jim Owens, construction consultant for more than 40 years.

Rely on Choice Partners contracts to be compliant with the law, as they follow the gold standard, with Harris County Department of Education using the Choice Partners contracts awarded by its own board. It’s easy to identify Choice Partners facilities contracts for construction and trades -- look for JOC-IDIQ next to the contract category name. 

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Posted on March 31, 2016

Bell County Expo Center renovated by Heat Transfer SolutionsWhile spring is for many the season of renewal and optimism, for others it means flipping the thermostat switch back to “cool” – a refreshing change until the energy bill rolls in. Rising temperatures can mean spiking operating costs and added risk to budgets already stretched too thin. For such a common problem – and others – Heat Transfer Solutions (HTS) has answers.

“We’re seeing about 40% savings across the board,” said John Dungan, assistant director, Bell County Expo Center, referring to the perks of a roughly $5 million renovation completed using HTS’ Choice Partners contract for HVAC equipment and service (JOC-IDIQ).

Energy savings are not all that have members singing HTS’ praises. The full-service HVAC distributor, which has 16 locations in North America, is known for bending over backwards for its clients.

“[HTS] knows exactly what we are asking for and gets it to us in most cases within a couple of days,” said Vincent Price, assistant director, Dallas County Community College District (DCCCD), before adding: “We have been very pleased with their performance.”

Better quality of light

Situated in the heart of central Texas is the Bell County Expo Center, a multi-venue events space that includes an arena and several exhibit halls. According to Dungan, the Expo’s “mixed bag of buildings” hosts around 250 events annually, including rock concerts, dog shows and high school graduations.

When, at the ripe old age of 28, the Expo Center was in sore need of updates, Dungan braced himself for costly closures and cancellations.

“We only have a handful of dark days during the year,” he said. “We met with several firms, and HTS was head and shoulders the most qualified.”

Many venues like the Expo Center shy away from major renovations that might require them to block out weeks of their calendar, but here’s where HTS obliterates expectations. For the entire span of the renovation project, the Expo Center never had to cancel an event due to renovation.

“We couldn’t shut it down for two weeks while we installed HVAC equipment,” said Bill Schumann, commissioner, Bell County Precinct 3, explaining that the Expo Center’s events are usually booked months in advance. He added that HTS achieved “a phenomenal, logistical success!”

“HTS worked through our event load,” said Dungan, providing not only energy-saving technology and excellent customer service but “a better quality of light” in many areas.

Additionally, HTS installed some “of the most cutting-edge chillers in the state of Texas,” which are more than just energy-efficient. “They’re quiet,” Dungan said.

Single source for multiple needs

Knowing exactly what’s needed to improve a facility often requires specialized knowledge. For example, DCCCD uses HTS’ Choice Partners contract to fill orders for variable frequency drives (VFD’s), which basically stop HVAC motors from going zero to a hundred every time they operate. Co-op members enjoy competitive pricing on these energy-saving devices.

Governmental entities can also benefit from using HTS’ services across a broad platform. “Since HTS was part of the co-op, they were one of the vendors that we could use,” said Schumann. “They were a single source for the engineering, construction, and energy savings that we wanted to achieve.”

Energy savings, logistical magic, one-stop shopping for government purchasing – what’s the downside?


“No downside, all upside,” Dungan said.

To learn more about Heat Transfer Solutions, go to https://www.choicepartners.org/vendors/heat-transfer-solutions-2 or contact Bob Lane at bob.lane@hts.com or 512-470-0580. 

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Posted on February 2, 2016
Imagine the parts of a flower replicated and enlarged so that you can see the smallest details in its stem and petals. Picture a high school classroom outfitted with a life-size command room so that students can simulate sailing a ship. Technical Laboratory Systems (Tech-Labs) makes these dreams a reality by providing 3-D printers, simulators and other equipment using its Choice Partners contract– and the company is making quite the impression on our members.


“Tech-Labs did a stellar job,” Drew Thurman, manager, Career and Technical Education, Houston ISD, said of Tech-Labs’ pivotal role in providing technology for Austin High School’s full bridge simulator, a room built to mimic a ship’s control center that gives maritime students an immersive, hands-on learning experience that’s about as close to actual navigating as you can get.

“Typically you’d see these types of simulators at training facilities or colleges,” Thurman said, clearly proud of the high-tech installation. He added that Tech-Labs “did their homework and were extremely attentive” to HISD’s needs.

On a smaller, but no less impressive, scale, Tech-Labs has also shown members that it is the captain of the 3-D printer world – specifically the education market.

“The printer itself works flawlessly and we have no complaints about the device,” said Aaron Ellis, senior multimedia specialist, San Antonio College – Alamo Colleges, referring to the Stratasys Eden 260-V 3D printer that he acquired using Tech-Labs’ Choice Partners contract. “We have been able to build highly-detailed 3D objects for our faculty to use in their classrooms that they could not have obtained from any other source.”

That’s because Tech-Labs is one of the few platinum distributors for Stratasys, a pioneer in 3D technology and one of the largest suppliers of 3D printers in the world. Tech-Labs is also a full-service provider of educational equipment and software, distributing robotics, e-learning and heavy equipment simulators.

The 3D printer that Tech-Labs sold to San Antonio College using the Choice Partners contract utilizes a unique printing process that offers smooth finish surfaces -- technology ideal for architecture, animation and prototyping.

“Without getting too technical, smooth finish is why people buy this particular product,” explained Jamey Deloney, regional manager, Tech-Labs, adding that the printer offers fine detail with a fast processing time.

Fine detail is the name of the game when it comes to 3D printing.

“Among other things, we have printed miniature replicas of unique artifacts like dinosaur footprints found in San Antonio,” Ellis said. “Our instructors are pleased with the customized 3D-printed teaching aids that we have been able to provide to them.”

Tech-Labs, along with its team of factory-trained technicians, has solidified its reputation for quality customer service – a touchstone of many Choice Partners vendors.

“Tech-Labs has been great and has provided excellent service and responsiveness,” Ellis said. “Jamey Deloney was very helpful and James Rorls from Stratasys got everything set up and working perfectly.”

“If something is not right, they help you get it right,” Thurman said.

For more information about the Technical Lab Systems products, go to https://www.choicepartners.org/vendors/technical-lab-systems-4 or call Lisa Stewart at 281-391-7010.
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Posted on October 5, 2015

HydroStop roofing application

Anyone who’s ever needed roof repairs knows that the process can be messy, expensive, and time-consuming. Not so with Hi-Mark Roofing and Waterproofing.

The company uses the Choice Partners cooperative purchasing contract to install a roofing system that keeps water out and energy bills low – all under tight deadlines and at a reasonable price.

The beauty of the HydroStop roofing system that Hi-Mark installs, according to owner John Follis, lies in its simplicity. The work requires but a few simple tools – a brush, a hose, a pair of scissors and a paint roller.

“We do work while the building is occupied,” Follis explained. “It’s clean, easy, and safe, and it eliminates all the points of failure commonly seen in roofing.”


Hi-Mark Roofing and Waterproofing installationHi-Mark’s customers are pleased with the company’s professional level of service and thrilled with the savings on energy costs. Curtis “Robbie” Robinson, Sheldon ISD maintenance coordinator, contracted Hi-Mark to install its product on top of a 50-year-old roof at Royalwood Elementary. Now, Hi-Mark is Sheldon ISD’s preferred applicator of the Hydrostop system, which has been approved by the school district’s board of trustees for use on all campuses.

“That cool roof has made a big difference,” Robinson said. “We used to have roof leaks every day, and I haven’t had a leak since.”

Robinson added that he’s satisfied with the seamless roof, which is self-cleaning, except for the drain lines. Other school districts that have used Hi-Mark’s contract have seen energy savings ranging between 10 and 20%.

Hi-Mark’s contract for IDIQ roofing, waterproofing and moisture control—first approved by Harris County Department of Education’s (HCDE) board of directors in 2014—is a primary example of how Choice Partners contracts meet the gold standard in purchasing. When HCDE’s Westview Drive facility was in need of an update, Hi-Mark rose to the occasion.

“We had a unique situation with our roof,” Les Hooper, HCDE executive director of facilities, explained. “This was a 480,000 sq. ft. facility that was a combination of two buildings with two different roof systems.”
Hi-Mark Roofing applies HydroStop coating

Hooper went on to say that energy efficiency and long-term durability were primary factors in the selection of Hi-Mark; its ability to complete the project in a short time frame made the choice a no-brainer.

“Hi-Mark was able to easily accomplish what we needed more so than what conventional roofing would have,” he said.

Last year, Hi-Mark installed roughly half a million square feet of roofing on schools. This year, the company is on track to double that. Follis credits cooperative purchasing with bringing simplicity and reliability to the government bidding process.

“My company’s utilization of the purchasing cooperative is why it’s working great for schools,” he said.

For more information about Hi-Mark, go to https://www.choicepartners.org/ vendors/hi-mark-roofing-and-waterproofing or contact owner John Follis at john@ hi-markroofing.com or 832-434-4170. 

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Posted on August 11, 2015

Texas recently passed a new law requiring security cameras in self-contained special education classrooms if requested by a parent, trustee or staff member. Because the law applies at the start of the 2016-2017 school year, officials have one year to plan for implementation. While that may sound like enough time, schools may still feel like they’re scrambling to manage the new legal, technological and budgetary demands.

Choice Partners has contracts that can help. Our cooperative purchasing contracts for audio visual and for safety and security equipment provide good options for schools looking to fill orders without having to handle every detail of the procurement process themselves. If you’re looking to simply add classroom cameras to a preexisting security or monitoring system, Choice Partners also has contracts for IT consulting and integration. An interlocal contract with Harris County Department of Education gives you membership status, which connects you to vendors who specialize in streamlining operations and making equipment user-friendly.

Understanding the new bill is the first step towards knowing specifically which services should be provided and when. For example, schools do not need to obtain parental consent to use the cameras in the classroom, but they are required to retain the video recordings for at least six months. Such technology could mean an even greater expense for schools.

New laws can leave school districts grappling for ways to implement them, but there is no need for the burden to be borne alone. It’s moments like these when belonging to a purchasing cooperative like Choice Partners can make a real difference. If you're interested, view our legal, competitively awarded job order contracts for security camera installation.

Remember that installing new camera equipment is most likely a public work and as such, should be procured under Texas Government Code Chapter 2269. The Choice Partners contracts listed above are job order contracts procured in accordance with Chapter 2269.

 

If you only need equipment and your own district staff will install them or you need some consulting advice, these contracts might be helpful:


If you work for a school district that has not yet sent in your interlocal contract, visit choicepartners.org/membership, then download the form for your board of trustees to approve.  Send the form to HCDE Choice Partners and now you can access any of the legal, competitively bid contracts.

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Posted on August 3, 2015

Texas’ 84th Legislative Session passed a budget that increased funding for the Texas Education Agency (TEA), but school finance experts argue that the increase is significantly smaller than it may seem. Joe Wisnoski  of Moak, Casey & Associates covered the highlights of the session at a recent Harris County Department of Education School Finance Council and TASBO Gulf Coast meeting.

“Despite all the rhetoric, the actual investment is not as high as you might have expected,” Joe Wisnoski, a legal consultant from Moak, Casey & Associates, said. The Austin-based firm specializes in school finance policy.

All funds for the TEA went up 5.6%, Wisnoski explained to those gathered at the School Finance Council and Gulf Coast TASBO meeting at the Harris County Department of Education on July 23, but when homestead exemptions are factored in, the increase amounts to about 3.2%.

The main priority for the legislative session, the first for both newly elected Governor Greg Abbot and Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, was tax relief for Texas homeowners.  Lawmakers signed a bill that would increase the homestead exemption from $15,000 to $25,000, but voters must first approve this measure in November.

While the Texas House and Senate passed a little over a hundred bills, only three will have a meaningful effect on Texas schools, according to Wisnoski.

“Roughly one sixth of the legislation could have had an impact on school districts, but many of the bills did not pass,” Wisnoski said, adding that while ten education bills did pass, “only three are really impactful.” The three he mentioned are the basic allotment in the budget (House Bill 1), the homestead exemption increase (Senate Bill 1), and the fractional funding fix in House Bill 7.

With expenses on the rise and weak funding hikes barely making up the difference, school districts may be looking for ways to stretch their budgets even further. Becoming a member of Harris County Department of Education (HCDE) and its purchasing cooperative, Choice Partners, is a good way to maximize available funds. By signing an interlocal agreement, school districts gain access to contracts for facilities, food, technology, supplies and services. These contracts meet all procurement law, and membership is free.

Next week’s blog will discuss the implications of another Texas law requiring schools to install security cameras in special education classrooms. The law is scheduled to take effect at the start of the 2016-2017 school year.

Harris County Department of Education creates value, delivers opportunity and provides service for Texas educators and schools                                            Choice Partners cooperative

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Posted on July 28, 2015

Setting up a fair and logical process with written procedures will improve your purchasing practices, according to consultant Mark Rogers, who spoke at a workshop about purchasing practices at Harris County Department of Education’s School Finance Council and Gulf Coast TASBO event last week. Rogers presented with Jesus Amezcua, calling Amezcua “Mr. EDGAR” due to his knowledge about the new federal law.

Rogers discussed professional and consulting services contracts. He stressed the need to appropriately categorize services, strictly observing the most restrictive of policy or law, carefully documenting each step along the way and making sure that processes are transparent and legal.

“The most important thing when you select someone to provide services is that the process you use needs to make sense and be defensible,” said Rogers, who boasts 35 years’ experience in public purchasing. “Hopefully you didn’t do it just because the guy is your brother-in-law.”


Another key to purchasing is categorizing services appropriately. Professional services, such as those provided by an accountant or architect, are distinguished from manual or so-called “practicable” services.
In Texas, some professional services, enumerated by the Professional Services Procurement Act (PSPA) in Chapter 2254 of the Texas Government Code, are prohibited by law from being procured through the bidding process outlined there and in section 44.031.

“The theory behind this is that the bidding process would select the least competent person and you don’t want to procure brain surgery on the lowest bid,” Rogers joked.

The PSPA explicitly lists accounting, architecture, landscape architecture, land surveying, medicine, optometry, engineering, real estate appraising, and professional nursing as services that cannot be acquired through competitive bid. Instead, they are selected on the basis of demonstrated competence and qualifications, then negotiated for a fair and reasonable price.

HCDE and its purchasing cooperative, Choice Partners, follow the competitive procurement requirements of Chapter 44 of the Texas Education Code when contracting with services providers such as speakers, education consultants and other service providers that do not fall into the category of statutorily defined professional services. For construction-related goods and services, HCDE follows procedures outlined in Chapter 2269 of the Texas Government Code. Both Chapter 44 and Chapter 2269 require application of the PSPA to certain types of contracts.


When determining the proper process for selecting services, Rogers suggested caution in setting the dollar threshold for when and what selection process to use.

“Observe the most restrictive of board policy or state law, and then you’ll keep yourself out of trouble,” he said.

Rogers also mentioned the importance of following precedent when making purchasing decisions, jokingly referring to “bleeding edge” purchasers whose cleverness ends up compromising the legality of their practices.

“If you’re going to be a pioneer and do something for the first time, then you need to be particularly careful,” he explained.

In addition to professional services and consulting services, Rogers talked about the legal challenges of procuring “sole source” services. A sole source purchase, he explained, should be made only after a good-faith review of available sources has been conducted. There must be only one source for the required services.

“Most of the time services are not sole source,” said Rogers, although he recognizes that it is common for administrators to want exceptions and call something sole source. ”Patented or copyrighted items may be sole source, but most of the time they are not. If the functional equivalent is available, it is not sole source,”  he said.

He stressed that documentation is critical throughout any purchasing process.

“It’s got to be defensible,” Rogers said, adding words for any purchasing professional to live by: “Everything we do, we should be able to defend how we got there.”

EDGAR

The new federal Education Department General Administrative Regulations (EDGAR) apply to new and continuation federal grants awarded on or after Dec. 26, 2014. Jesus Amezcua, HCDE assistant superintendent for business services, said that HCDE has made a number of changes to ensure that HCDE is compliant and is following the appropriate EDGAR regulations on all of its procurements and contracts. Amezcua said changes to procedures are already taking place and policy changes are forthcoming from TASB Policy Services. Additionally, vendors are required to execute EDGAR certifications as part of the procurement process for both HCDE and Choice Partners.  

“From a cooperative perspective, know that if you buy something from us, be assured that Choice Partners folks are complying with the new EDGAR rules and will supply members with documentation showing that,” said Amezcua.

Robert B. Fazakerly, Fort Bend ISD director of purchasing and materials management, said, “My experience is that Choice Partners is further along on that.”

                        Harris County Department of Education                         Choice Partners national cooperative - the HCDE purchasing cooperative

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Posted on July 16, 2015

Storm clouds, bolts of lightning, people and pets running for cover—the images called up by the word “disaster,” right? But if you attended the Choice Partners disaster preparedness workshop at Harris County Department of Education on July 15, you are probably picturing dollar signs, legal pads and mounds of paperwork. According to presenters at the three-hour lunch meeting, that’s what a disaster, in the legal sense of the word, amounts to.

“The only thing worse than a disaster is having to recover without the available funds you need,” said Tony Alaniz of Adjusters International, which holds an HCDE awarded contract through Choice Partners cooperative.having fun at the disaster workshop


Speaking to a group of facilities, procurement and safety managers from entities around Houston, Alaniz emphasized the financial—and legal—nature of disaster planning.

“It can be critical that the I’s are dotted and T’s are crossed throughout the process,” he said, on the subject of insurance claims and working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). “Insurance claims can be drawn out, unforgiving and, if it’s a presidentially declared disaster, highly scrutinized,” Alaniz added.

In addition to FEMA and insurance best practices, learning about topics such as mitigation, procurement and greater safety and security for schools were major goals of the workshop.

Attendees reported that the speakers made an impact. “This is good training for us, very informative and practical,” said Sophia Chang, an assistant director for the city of Houston. “The presenters are very experienced and knowledgeable.”

Chang added that the workshop was “a very good foundation” for members of her staff, who “do a lot of ‘number crunching’ and tracking of all the disaster supporting documentation.”

The importance of documentation during a crisis emerged several times throughout the workshop. “Document, document, document,” Alaniz repeated.

“Documentation was emphasized, especially taking pictures,” echoed Jeff Spears, purchasing coordinator, city of Friendswood. “That is always a good thing to do.”

But be reasonable, cautioned Sheree Kroeger, safety program specialist, HCDE Center for Safe and Secure Schools (CSSS). “Don’t stop in the middle of an emergency situation to write things down,” she said. The absurdity drew laughs from the crowd.shaking hands on a good deal

The emphasis on legal note-taking, however, was not meant to undermine the emotional turmoil that a crisis situation can cause, whether it’s a drought, flood, tornado, train derailment, shooting or other type of natural or man-made event. Disasters require preparedness simply because, in the moment, they can be chaotic. The goal is to learn from past mistakes and not to be unnecessarily naïve about the likelihood of an event.

“Crises will occur in schools,” Kroeger said. “It’s not a question of if, but when.”

She went on to describe the importance not just of having a plan, but of reviewing, updating and practicing it.

Kroeger got the point across. “It was interesting, being from the city, I really learned a lot about the school district side of purchasing,” Spears remarked. “As an outsider, you take for granted all that schools have to do to be prepared for a disaster.”

Spears added that the presentations by Kroeger and her CSSS colleagues opened his eyes about the processes needed to protect schools from intruders. He also enjoyed getting to meet vendors who use Choice Partners cooperative contracts.

“I talked to all of them,” Spears said. “I’m going to be working on a synopsis of the vendors that there were and present it to the city.”

One of the vendors present was Gary Shoemake, part of the disaster recovery team at ServPro, which also has an awarded contract for Disaster Mitigation available through HCDE's purchasing cooperative, Choice Partners. Spears said talking to Shoemake was “very interesting,” and that he would consider working with ServPro in the future.

“Since ServPro is part of the Choice Partners co-op, we can use them without going through the bid process again,” he added.

Choice Partners purchasing cooperative offers many contracts that help purchasing officials prepare for and recover from a disaster. For general disaster mitigation, recovery and restoration, Choice Partners has legal, competitively bid contracts needed to prepare facilities for a crisis, recover facilities during a crisis and restore facilities after a crisis.

    · Disaster Mitigation

    · HVAC                                                     Choice Partners awarded contract holder

    · IDIQ Construction and Trades     

    · Industrial Equipment  

    · Janitorial Supplies 

    · Roofing – Building Envelope, Weatherproofing Services 

    · Blue Tarps

    · Tree Trimming

    · Waste removal


The Center for Safe and Secure Schools at Harris County Department of Education provides a Web-based Emergency Operation Planning solution, which meets state mandates and can be customized to address individual campus needs, including

  • Facility Safety and Security Audits that meet Texas Education Code Requirements and
  • All Hazard Emergency Operation Planning, using a web-based platform Emergency Response Information Portal (ERIP), which enables the reviewing and updating of current plans to meet NIMS standards.  In addition, districts have the option to add the capability of giving first responders access to cameras, floor plans and site mapping information.


Once a plan is in place, training and practice are critical steps to effectively carry it out. The Center offers:

  • NIMs training, tabletop exercises and certification opportunities - U.S. Department of Education and Department of Homeland Security National Incident Management
  • Threat Assessment Training
  • Intruderology (Active Shooter)

For more information, call on HCDE’s Center for Safe and Secure Schools at 713-696-2127 for a professional, comprehensive and effective emergency response planning service.

                     Harris County Department of Education logo          HCDE Center for Safe and Secure Schools

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Posted on June 12, 2015

“Are you off in the summer?” When someone asks that question, you know they have never worked for a school district.  Between graduation and convocation is when construction, maintenance and custodial staff power through their list of projects that have been waiting in the wings. It is when the purchasing and business offices wind down from one year and gear up for the next. There is no need for frustration for these annual headaches: Resources are available.

Annual Maintenance 
Cypress-Fairbanks ISD in the Houston area planned ahead several months and reserved a specialized Teupen lift, known for saving manpower and time. Carey Ramsey, CFISD facilities supervisor, will use it for several weeks this summer to replace lights above the seats in the high school auditoriums. The lift will navigate between aisles and self-level, so staff will only have to set it up in four places to reach the lights above the auditorium seats.

“It looks really neat,” said Ramsey. “We’ll remove just a few seats for the outriggers, but it will be a lot less work than building a lift, moving it and manhandling it down the steps.”

He hopes to get the lights replaced faster and more economically than the single-man lift, which takes three men to put together and move around.

“We haven’t used it yet, but are hoping it will work,” said Ramsey. “We’re keeping our fingers crossed!”

He is renting the lift from United Rentals, using their government-awarded Choice Partners purchasing cooperative contract.

“The time they really need us are odd or are emergencies,” said Brad Laws, senior manager, state and local sales, United Rentals Government Solutions. “That’s where United Rentals really fits.”

Gabriela Santana, government sales specialist, United Rentals, noted that people do take that seriously, as she has been called at 1 a.m. when a high school had no power. She was able to get a generator to the site in time for school to open later that morning.

“I told them they could call me any time and they believed it,” said Santana with a smile.

The Choice Partners contract also includes rental of unique equipment, purchase of equipment, and on-line capability to track rentals and rental history.

“There is value in rental, and that’s where we thrive,” said Laws. “That’s our specialty.” 

Purchase used equipment
Cory Conner, public works director from Sweet Grass County, Mont., believes the best value was not in renting, but in purchasing used equipment using the United Rentals cooperative purchasing contract with Choice Partners.  They purchased a used loader using the contract and “saved about $140,000,” according to Conner.

“It was a very positive experience,” said Connor. “United Rentals really bent over backwards to make sure we got what we wanted.”

“It saved us a lot of money,” said Conner. “[It] is a really nice, well kept up machine. One thing about getting equipment from United Rentals, you know it’s been taken care of,” Conner said. “It’s been working great!”United Rentals logo

“It was really nice to be able to work with United Rentals and Choice Partners; we were able to make everybody feel comfortable.”

Special Events
But it is not only in the summertime that specialized equipment is needed. The city of Grand Prairie in the Dallas / Fort Worth area rents boom and scissor lifts from United Rentals in the fall for their Prairie Lights Christmas Park, which showcases four million lights in two miles of large custom displays in Lynn Creek Park.  More than 190,000 visitors visit during

Prairie Lights Christmas Park in Grand Prairie

the 40-day event to experience Christmas lights, food, carnival rides, a laser show, Santa and Santa’s gift shop.

“The event is absolutely wonderful,” said Beverly Grogan, Grand Prairie’s community events coordinator. “United Rentals has been a very good partner through the years. They are good and reliable and if we have any problems they get right on it.”

With 880 locations in the U.S. and Canada, there are many United Rental locations to serve Choice Partners members nationwide.  

• general equipment;

• power and HVAC;

• pumps and fluid handling;

• trench safety and shoring;

• tools (air, power and hand); and

• supplies.

For more information, go to https://www.choicepartners.org/vendors/united-rentals-2 or call 877-874-4468.


Choice Partners logo             WhatIsHCDE.org

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Posted on June 5, 2015

National news recently focused on Texas, as homes and cars were washed away in the deluge of rain and flooding in May. Although the rain was needed to help ease the drought conditions across the state, it left a path of destruction in at least seven counties. These devastating storms were before hurricane season began June 1.

Don’t get caught unprepared to deal with the unexpected. Develop a plan specifying the steps to take to prepare for disaster, to mitigate the damage, recover facilities and services, and then restore to normal operations as efficiently as possible. There are many online resources and in the Gulf-coast area, one can find hurricane preparedness/disaster recovery workshops that provide a plan outline and assist in identifying critical areas of focus. Choice Partners cooperative is hosting disaster recovery workshops in Houston and east Texas in July with best practices on dealing with disasters.

Then implement the preparedness steps outlined in the plan. This should include
     a. Reaching out to local and federal emergency management authorities to establish a working
         relationship for collaboration and coordination during an emergency;
HCDE Center for Safe and Secure Schools logo
     b. Executing interlocal contracts for
         · mutual aid and cooperation with neighboring districts

         · purchasing with a governmental entity such as Choice Partners
           national cooperative, to ensure that when a disaster hits, you have
           immediate access to the legal contracts you need.

     c. Test the plan and train staff

     d. Evaluate and revise

Now when disaster hits, your previous planning saves you. You have established the steps you will take, connected with emergency management authorities, signed interlocal contracts and practiced what to do when disaster hits. You can immediately swing into action to mitigate the damage and being to recover facilities and services using government cooperative purchasing contracts that are already competitively and legally bid.

For general disaster mitigation, recovery and restoration, Choice Partners has the legal, competitively bid contracts needed.

    · Disaster Recovery and Restoration 

    · HVAC 

    · IDIQ Construction and Trades     

    · Industrial Equipment  

    · Equipment purchase 

    · Janitorial Supplies  

    · Roofing – Building Envelope, Weatherproofing Services  

    · Blue Tarps 

    · Tree Trimming 

    · Waste remova

When hail, high winds, rain and tornados storm through members look to Choice Partners cooperative for mitigation, recovery and restoration.

If your school district is not a member, go to www.choicepartners.org/membership to download the interlocal agreement for your governing board agenda. Once approved, send to HCDE Choice Partners so you can quickly access the contracts you need to recover from a disaster.

Harris County Department of Education                                      HCDE Choice Partners national cooperative

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Posted on May 29, 2015

Millions of lunches are served to students every day, thanks in part to Choice Partners cooperative. In Harris County schools alone, more than 85 million lunches are served annually that include food processed by Choice Partners contract holders and delivered from schedules coordinated by Choice Partners staff under guidance from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA).

With more than 40 food manufacturers holding an HCDE-awarded commodities contract, Choice Partners cooperative offers many popular menu items, all produced according to the USDA nutrition guidelines. School districts choose the manufacturer and the type of unprocessed donated food commodity to be processed into healthy menu items that are then served in their schools. Truck loads of bulk product (e.g.  Chicken, pork, beef, fruits, vegetables and staples) are shipped to a manufacturer that follows USDA guidelines to process the commodity into nutritious prepared foods. These are delivered to a warehouse and then stored and loaded into trucks to be delivered to the school districts.

Choice Partners coordinates these truckloads to be processed, which gets the food from the plant to the tray.

While the majority of commodity contract users are in the greater Houston region, Choice Partners has member use from the valley, Dallas-Fort Worth and other regions. There are a number of regional food cooperatives in Texas, so when Choice Partners members are not able to build full truckloads (which is a requirement), Choice Partners and these other food cooperatives collaborate with the help of TDA to build a full truckload to be further processed.

The food commodity processing program offered by Choice Partners increases variety for students, while stretching school district food dollars.

In addition to the commodity processing program, Choice Partners offers contracts for healthy school foods and products, including

·         Bread Products

·         Chemical Products and Services

·         Commodity Processing

·         Dairy Products

·         Food Equipment and Small Wares

·         Food Service Management

·         Food Service Supplies

·         Fresh Produce

·         Frozen Beverages

·         Groceries

·         Ice Cream

·         Site Based Pizza Program

Contracts were recently renewed for many of these items and are effective Aug. 1, 2015.

For information on how to join, please Become A Member. There is no fee to join and members are not required to purchase specific amounts from these food contracts.

For more information, visit https://www.choicepartners.org/food or contact Trisha Jensen at Trisha@ChoicePartners.org.

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Posted on April 27, 2015

It’s May. Have you lined up your contracts for your summer facilities projects?  It takes about 60 days

to write and advertise a Request for Proposal before responses arrive. Then it is at least another 30 days to evaluate the responses and send the award recommendation to the board of trustees. If you have not done that, what are your options? 


Use your annual on-call contract with a facilities services provider who has already provided pricing based on a published construction/maintenance unit price book which covers 99% of all project types, or on pricing established in the competitive sealed proposal for Construction Unit Price Bookconstruction and maintenance projects (not time and materials). Frequently called Indefinite Delivery Indefinite Quantity or IDIQ, these on-call contracts specify a coefficient of the published construction/maintenance unit price. If you have already awarded such a contract to facilities services trades companies, then you have the contract and staffing needed for your summer facilities projects.

Use a cooperative contract that has already been awarded for facilities services. If you have specific vendors you wish to work with, you might search for those vendors and then see what cooperative contracts they have been awarded. In that case, ensure that the cooperative you are choosing is based in a government agency or at least has a lead government agency that awards the contracts. There are nonprofit organizations that use the name “cooperative” that are offering contracts that are not legal in Texas. Their agreements do not name any government, and thus are not an interlocal GOVERNMENTAL contract, as required by Interlocal Cooperative Contracts - Chapter 791.


If the cooperative purchasing organization you have selected to use is legal, next check to ensure that the vendor contract you want to use was issued with IDIQ standard price-book pricing. Facilities services contracts for construction and maintenance must follow Texas Government Code 2269, (with the exception of energy savings conservation contracts). Maintenance work that provides some type of improvement or upgrade, such as an upgrade of old lighting fixtures to newer efficiency bulbs, would be procured under Government Code 2269.

See examples of more than 100 IDIQ facilities services contracts.  Choice Partners recently added (IDIQ) after the contract category name on the ChoicePartners.org website to indicate which contracts have been procured for facilities services under Texas Government Code 2269.

Other contracts that may be helpful for getting construction and maintenance work completed over the summer include new Choice Partners facilities contracts awarded in April for maintenance and operations.

      Industrial Cleaning Equipment - Alklean Industries Inc;

     Janitorial Supplies - Micro-X1 Inc;

     LED Lighting - LEDs Unlimited LLC;

     Mechanical, Electrical and Plumbing (MEP) Supplies - City Supply Co Inc; Coburns Supply Co Inc;

           Crawford Electric Supply Company

     Maintenance and Operations Parts and Equipment - D&G Supply Division;

     Generator Power Equipment - Clifford Power Systems Inc and
     Solar Power Equipment - Texas Solar Resources Inc.

In addition, a new contract was added for Crowd Control Equipment - Visiontron Corporation.

To use these Choice Partners national purchasing cooperative contracts, become a member. Questions? Call Choice Partners toll free number 877-696-2122.

Choice Partners is a division of Harris County Department of Education.

www.WhoIsHCDE.orgwww.ChoicePartners.org

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Posted on April 13, 2015

Beyond Bonds and BuildingsUnderstanding current new building operational trends will help facility managers and building owners create new and improved building operational trends, according to Greg Lookabaugh, senior manager of facility planning, Harris County Department of Education, who recently presented a workshop at an all-day TASBO Bonds, Buildings and Beyond program. He says the following trends need to change: buildings with comfort issues, excessive energy use, mold and indoor air quality, leaking roofs and windows, insufficient maintenance staff training, and lack of building awareness training for building occupants.

Lookabaugh recommends setting some new trends in facilities, by first establishing that the facility / building owner is the one who must require optimal performance requirements in new facilities. The architects /engineers are responsible for design and informing the owner if contractors do not employ appropriate construction means and methods. However, design Means and Methods are not building construction means and methods, and architects do not control or take charge of construction means and methods. Contractors hold their own physical means and methods of construction. But it is the owner and the owner’s representative who must take responsibility to ensure that the facility is built to maximize maintenance and operations.

“We need to stop building new buildings that already have deferred maintenance issues,” said Lookabaugh, who is certified as a Quality Control Commissioning Process Provider (QxCP).

Lookabaugh suggests four steps to reset trends to ensure efficiency and economy of building operations:

  • Ensure positive working relationships with contractors, including architects and engineers, construction contractors, materials testing and financial agencies
  • Set and clearly communicate expectations for performance requirements in all contracts
  • Maintain a strategic communication plan through project completion
  • Ensure building quality meets expectations

“What if we thought beyond the typical design, bid, build to begin with the end in mind?”  Lookabaugh asked. “Can we reorder our thinking to reflect ‘beyond bonds and buildings’?”

Instead of just design, bid, build, Lookabaugh recommends incorporating a quality commissioning process to plan and ensure owner performance requirements (OPR) are met.

brickPlanning:   Begin the planning phase with your OPR and Qualified Commissioning Process
Design: Include the commissioning specifications developed for the building
Construction: Include submittal review, site visits, record drawing review, and operations and maintenance document review
Turnover: Training Review, Functional Testing, Commissioning Report
Operations: at periodic intervals conduct an existing building commissioning process, which includes identifying current facility requirements against the current operating condition. Create a plan, make changes, update manuals and train staff to bring the building condition up to required performance.

Quality commissioning processes at the start of new construction and then at periodic intervals thereafter will improve efficiency and economy of operations, and should extend the facility’s life cycle. Start by conducting an existing building commissioning process, then ensure your next new construction project includes operating performance requirements.

“Commissioning is another highly effective tool in the facility manager’s tool box,” said Les Hooper, HDCE executive director of facilities.  “You’re  wasting money by operating an inefficient facility.”

For more information, go to www.choicepartners.org/facility-planning, or contact Lookabaugh at glookabaugh@hcde-texas.org or 281-386-6042.

HCDE

CP

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Posted on April 3, 2015

If you think you know what the inside of a library looks like, try to hold that image in your mind while you click on over to the website for Library Interiors of Texas. The Austin-based company is using its Choice Partners contract to reshape run-of-the-mill bookshelves and outdated checkout counters, transforming traditional libraries into beautiful and interactive research facilities that attract and inspire patrons.

And it does the whole job from start to finish.

“Overall, it’s the best project we’ve ever done in our library,” said Jerry Hedgecock, director of public information services, city of Brownsville, referring to the design overhaul that LI-TX performed on the city’s public library.

The improvements, completed in 2012, are staggering: a revamped lobby, a new space for teens, and a public computing center that went from housing 14 machines to almost 100.

“We helped manage the project,” said Trevor Taylor, LI-TX vice president, “including design of all custom furniture, procurement of all loose and fixed furniture, and complete interior fit-out.”


Taylor, whose design expertise stems from international origins, collaborated with Hedgecock and the project architect early in the process. “Working in SketchUp, we produced full 3D rendering of the space for presentation to city management,” he said.

“Library Interiors was integral from the very beginning on the designs,” Hedgecock confirmed, explaining that the unique demands of libraries cannot be met by store-bought office furniture. Taylor’s team also helped figure out how much room the typical library patron needs to feel comfortable, measuring it to the inch.

Hedgecock added that the Choice Partners contract facilitated the library’s “gigantically well-received” renovation. “Working with Choice Partners on our library project was exceptionally easy. It was the best co-op purchase we’ve ever done, and our city participates with other purchasing cooperatives,” he said.

The city of Pflugerville agreed that Library Interiors and Choice Partners are a winning combination. Pflugerville was glad it used the Choice Partners contract when it expanded its 13-year old library from 12,500 sq ft. to 28,000 sq ft. in 2013, crediting LI-TX for allowing the facility to stay open during the project.  It only had to close for 12 days over the 18-month project, never more than three days at a time.

“I loved how Library Interiors moved whole shelving units at a time,” said Lisa Charbonnet, library director, Pflugerville. “It simply wouldn’t have been possible in the time allowed otherwise.”

Charbonnet explained how LI-TX moved the whole library into the new wing while the old space was being refurbished and then quickly moved it back again at the end of the project.

Furniture deliveries were also carefully staged to arrive at the appropriate times during the process. Meeting room furniture wouldn’t have been welcome while the room was full of book stacks, but it needed to be in place for the library’s grand opening.

“What was unique and wonderful was the staging,” said Charbonnet. “That was amazing. I know of libraries that close for years to do this.”

“We loved using Choice Partners,” Charbonnet added. ”It saved us time and money — we think that’s important.”

In addition to cities, LI-TX works with school districts, counties and universities using their Choice Partners contract. They are currently finishing projects for the Texas A&M Medical Science Library in College Station and for the city of Irving. For more information about Library Interiors of Texas, go to https://www.choicepartners.org/vendors/library-interiors-of-texas-2 or call 888-689-5489.  

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Posted on March 31, 2015

Get best-value, hard bid pricing on 1,300 items

It’s not unusual for trustees to talk about awarding contracts to the lowest bidder, but a rock-bottom price seldom comes with the quality hoped for. Anyone who has ever attempted to close a lowest-priced three-ring binder knows the frustration when those three rings don’t meet. Lowest-bid prices are only good when a specified standard or quality is assured.

For the last decade Harris County Department of Education has secured hard-bid pricing for more than 1,300 competitively bid line items, which are available to any school district through HCDE’s Choice Partners cooperative. These items meet the quality specified by purchasing professionals who served on a committee to assist in the request and evaluation of the bids. Categories include supplies for art, athletics, classroom teaching, fine paper, food service, health and medical, office, janitorial and technology. Contract pricing is effective from April 1, 2015 through March 31, 2016.

Examples of best-value supply items include watercolor marker sets, desk top delivery paper, food-related items, janitorial plastic bags, alkaline rechargeable batteries and more.

Marker Sets, Watercolor
Pyramid School Products provides broad-tip, washable, watercolor markers, perfect for budding artists and creative students alike. Priced at $1.45 per 8-piece set, these versatile supply items can be used to draw lines and shapes precisely, like a marker, or to color in large swaths of paper uniformly, like watercolors. Marker Set

Crayons
A classic example of when the lowest bid without a standard quality results in a product that even young children recognize as inferior, crayons need to be durable, colorful and safe. They also need to be made by manufacturers that understand art supplies. Standard Stationery Supply Company provides large, 4-inch crayons that come in 8-packs of red, orange, yellow, green, blue, violet, brown and black—all the colors necessary for inspired art projects. More importantly, the crayons conform to the ASTM #D4236 safety standards, meaning that they are ready to be used by children. (Adults can use them, too.) The crayons are priced low at $.59 per pack.

Desk Top Delivery Paper
For schools in need of a steady stream of printing and copying supplies, Bosworth Papers provides 20 lb., 8.5 x 11 in., white, dual-purpose paper for desk top delivery. At $27.64 per case, this premium paper arrives ready to be fed directly into desk top publishing process.

Mop BucketMop Bucket with Sidepress Wringer 
Once in a while, it’s time to replace the old mop bucket with a more capable and durable mop bucket with wringer and sidepress from Buckeye Cleaning. At $38.18 per item, these buckets help janitors expedite the floor-cleaning process, wringing out excess mop water that can cause harmful slips.

Plastic Bags
When bought too cheaply, janitorial supplies can be highly inconvenient and possibly hazardous. But when a specified standard of quality has been ensured, Calico Industries delivers gusseted, 100% linear, low-density .48 mil. polyethylene bags. Used for garbage or other purposes, these medium brown or black bags have been tested for a dry weight performance standard of 30 lbs. They are shipped 250 per case, which is priced affordably at $8.94.

GlovesGloves
When medical gloves are needed, they may be needed in large quantities. For ease of use and guaranteed safety, NAO Global Supply provides disposable, non-sterile, powder-free latex gloves that cannot be marked “non-medical.” At $4.12, they come 100 per box.


Pencils
As with crayons, it’s easy to tell when a box of pencils has been procured at the lowest possible bid. The lead breaks, the wood splinters, and the eraser smudges. Pyramid School Products does not deal in bottom-dollar pencils. Instead, it provides good-quality, hexagon-shape, wood case with eraser No. 2 yellow pencils. A dozen of these pre-sharpened writing utensils costs $1.46 per box.

AA BatteryAlkaline-Rechargeable Batteries
With increasingly more processes becoming digitalized, no office or school can afford to run out of batteries. Standard Stationery Supply Co. provides size AAA alkaline-rechargeable batteries, conveniently packaged in fours. Each package costs only $.93.


Games
BSN Sports keeps the ball rolling with 30-game, 15-player basketball scorebooks at $3.18 each. Scorekeeper not included.


Flatware, Disposable Plastic
Keeping hungry picnickers from gnawing at their fingers, Wallace Packaging provides disposable, plastic, white, medium-weight spoons packaged 1000 per case. At $6.71 per case, these spoons make eating ice cream even more enjoyable. Spoon


2015-2016 Supply CatalogStill not sure Choice Partners has the supplies you’re looking for? We have more than 1,300 items. Download your own copy of the supply catalog contracts at www.ChoicePartners.org/SupplyCatalog.  Become a member so you can use this best value pricing!

Harris County Department of Education

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Posted on March 25, 2015

How efficient is your facilities program? Do you have enough custodians, maintenance and grounds personnel to effectively staff your facilities department? How can you prove that? Do you have a benchmark to evaluate efficiencies? Do you have a formula or the experience for staffing that is related to square feet, your desired quality level, student population, building occupancy and age of the facilities? How has your budget changed over the past several years? Where is the bulk of your spending going and can it be justified?

If you do not have the answers to these questions, you may need to do a facility trending analysis. Establishing a benchmark and evaluating the efficiencies of your facilities program will provide data for budgeting, energy reviews and audits, discussions of outsourcing, training and bond planning, Knowing what is working well and what needs attention, is a great management tool. The report includes data that shows progress made over the past few years and estimates for what to expect in the future.

Data Analysis Generates Trends and Projections


While most facilities personnel (maintenance, custodial, grounds, etc.) have a good grasp of the skills required for their jobs, many facility managers are not versed in data collection, efficiency analysis and staffing methodology.  That is where Harris County Department of Education can help by providing facility trending as part of a facilities review.  This trending program is a facilities training tool that is informative, built entirely from your data.  The objective is to develop your facilities staff to understand trends experienced with the facilities budget, staffing, energy, growth and more. A plan of action is developed for areas that require improvement.

“Facility Trending has performed very effective consulting work with me in the past, said Scott McKnight, who was director of facilities at the school district where the work was done. “Facility Trending’s work has helped me reorganize an Operations Department in a large school district, which saved the district a significant amount of money, increased efficiency and improved processes and procedures.  I would recommend Facility Trending for any maintenance and operations consulting work your company or school district needs performed.”

In addition to generating a plan for the facilities program, the Facility Trending analysis and report helps:

     · Identify correlation between district growth/decline and staffing for maintenance, custodial and grounds

     · Establish a proven staffing methodology from analyzing square footage per full-time equivalents,
        facility age, quality standards, student population and building occupancy

     · Assist in providing cost of labor per project

     · Compare and analyze budget line items and facility spending

     · Generate energy reports by cost per square foot by building and facility typeStudying data gives the facilities director management tools

     · Analyze maintenance work orders to report labor efficiency

     · Monitor use of district funds and identification of potential cost savings

“The facility trending data is great information,” said John Craig, Brazosport ISD facility director, “which allowed us to look at where we actually stood in comparison to standards and to better understand where we could be more efficient or what we may have need in order to perform our daily operations at a higher level.”

Trending brings value to all districts through benchmarking your current status for future years and in training your facility department, according to Greg Carver, Facility Trending, who has more than 30 years experience working in various facility positions in dozens of small and large school districts, serving in many leadership positions as both a district administrator and early in his educational career as an outsourcing agent.  “I understand the value that our trending analysis provides for administrative leadership and the facility employees,"   said Carver.

For more information about requesting an in-depth, detailed, on-site facility management review, contact Greg Lookabaugh, Harris County Department of Education Choice Partners cooperative at glookabaugh@hcde-texas.org. The HCDE Facility Trending team has been performing analyses for school districts for the past three years through Harris County Department of Education.  

WhoIsHCDE.org

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Posted on March 4, 2015

Expert purchasing professionals have had to learn the new legal requirements for procuring contracts for construction and maintenance under Government Code 2269. Once a school district has determined that the construction project is not maintenance (replacing like-for-like), then the construction project is a public work contract where requirements for bonding and prevailing wages are triggered.



When is a payment bond or a performance bond needed? Are there times you will need both?

When do school districts have to meet the prevailing wage rate for construction projects?



Performance bonds cover the payments for the scope of work performance for a project, e.g. the quality of the work according to the plan, specifications and contract documents. Performance bonds are required from the prime contractor IF the public works contract is in excess of $100,000.

Payment bonds cover general or prime contractor payments to sub-contractors, and the materials and used and equipment used for the contracted project. Payment bonds (in the amount of the contract) are required if the contract is in excess of $25,000.

One cannot be substituted for another. [Texas Government Code 2253.021]

Prevailing wage requirements
Prevailing wage requirements do not apply to maintenance work, when like is being replace for like. But many projects that come from the maintenance department today are now properly classified as construction or public works contracts, which trigger the prevailing wage requirement.

School districts must either use the prevailing wage rate as determined by the United States Department of Labor (Davis-Bacon Act) or the board of trustees must set the prevailing wage rate by conducting a survey to determine what the general prevailing rate of daily wages is their community where the work will be completed. Each craft or type of worker needed, plus the rates for legal holiday and overtime work must be included.

Once the board has determined the general prevailing rate (or decided to use the U.S. Department of Labor’s Davis-Bacon rate) then contracts and Requests for Proposal must specify the wage rates. If the district does this but the contractor or subcontractor violates that wage requirement, that contractor must pay $60 for each worker employed for each calendar day or part of the day that the worker was paid less than the wage rates stipulated in the contract. If the district does not specify the wage rates in the contract and the contractor does not pay the wage requirement, then the district will be liable for the $60 for each worker employed for each calendar day or part of the day that the worker was paid less than the wage rates stipulated in the contract. If the employee knows the above and does not comply, then a fine and jail time or both could be the punishment. So, by including the prevailing wage rate in the contract and RFP or CSP, the school district will protect the district and put the responsibility and risk on the contractor instead of the district.



Learn more details in the presentation made at the Texas Association of School Business Officials Maintenance and Operations conference.


Using a quality purchasing cooperative can be a good solution for school districts, as the cooperative will have already procured the contract, with language requiring the vendor to comply with the wage rates specified by members. Choice Partners cooperative, a division of Harris County Department of Education, is such a cooperative. HCDE uses their own Choice Partners cooperative contracts, which is said to be the gold standard in cooperative purchasing.


See more information about IDIQ Construction contracts procured through Job Order Contracting or see the IDIQ Construction contracts offered through Choice Partners.



Download the interlocal to become a member, so your district can immediately take advantage of the more than 600 contracts that have been legally procured through a competitive bidding process.  For more information, call 877-696-2122.

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Posted on February 11, 2015

Procurement professionals and contracts are under increasing scrutiny, with news reports about audits of state agencies and their purchasing procedures. Governor Greg Abbott has issued a letter to state agencies about purchasing, requesting that they follow procurement law, responsibly maximizing value and using open and transparent contracting processes. News reports implying that a cooperative purchasing contract was a “no-bid contract” are incorrect, unless the cooperative happens to be awarding contracts to any and all responders, (which is not a competitive process.)

Purchasing professionals are taught to avoid any conflict of interest or breach of ethics, and to ensure that the contracts they use provide best value for the district and are procured legally. Using an interlocal contract for purchases of $50,000 or more is one of seven allowed procurement methods under Texas Education Code section 44.031. While in the law specifies that interlocal government-to-government contracts are legal (Governmental Code Chapter 791), purchasing professionals still have to do their own verification to ensure that the cooperative they propose to use is following the law.


Check to see if the cooperative is a government entity. For example, an independent buying group that could be legal in some states is NOT legal in Texas, as it does not qualify under Government Code 791. Does the government entity require an interlocal contract to be signed (creating the member relationship)?

Ensure contracts are compliant with the law and competitively awarded. Does the cooperative have and share the evaluation tabulations with members to provide evidence of competitive process? If a cooperative automatically awards a contract to any vendor who responds to a Request for Proposal, there is no proof of competition.

Are their processes transparent?  Will the cooperative share the details of the cooperative contract with the member?

Is there oversight on contract usage, either through an annual audit process or regular contract management?  ( See the checklist for tips. )



Cooperative contracts are not the right solution for every purchase, but where it can save time and money while providing best value, it can be a great benefit for school district purchasing staff. 

Harris County Department of Education was established in 1889 by the Texas Legislature and is required to follow Texas purchasing laws. Since the 1960’s, HCDE has shared its contracts with school districts, through the HCDE Purchasing Cooperative. Today that program is called Choice Partners cooperative and includes other cooperative purchasing contracts for facilities services and food/cafeteria related supplies. It has been called The Gold Standard when the government entity of the cooperative purchasing program uses its own contracts, which is the case with HCDE and Choice Partners cooperative.

State agencies and personnel can rely on Choice Partners national cooperative, where there is transparency, compliance and oversight for procurement and contract management. HCDE Choice Partners staff are serious about their goal “to help government and nonprofit entities by providing quality services, legal procurement and contract solutions.” Choice Partners contract managers have all taken ethics classes and are either certified or are completing TASBO certification, which requires procurement courses.

Choice Partners contracts are compliant. No vendors are awarded a contract without going through a competitive bidding process. (Learn about the Choice Partners procurement process.) When the law changed for facilities services (Sept. 1, 2011, Texas Government Code 2269), Choice Partners was in the lead, researching then implementing changes in procurement to ensure compliance.

Choice Partners contracts are transparent. Members have access to the contracts after they log on to the website. Choice Partners contracts have the oversight of an assigned contract manager, plus an annual audit. It is an everyday occurrence for contract managers to verify for members what items/services can be procured under the terms of the HCDE/Choice Partners contract.

Members can trust in HCDE/Choice Partners contracts. To become a member, download the interlocal.

For more information about Choice Partners, go to www.choicepartners.org.

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Posted on February 5, 2015

School district budgets are as tight as ever, with student enrollment at a record high in Texas. The Texas Education Agency’s report “Enrollment in Texas Public Schools 2013-’14” produced in November 2014 documents that

  • The largest percentage of enrollment in Texas public schools was Hispanic,
  • More than 60% of all students in 2013-‘14 were identified as economically disadvantaged,
  • The percentage of students receiving bilingual or English as a second language instructional services grew to slightly more than 17 percent, and
  • The percentage of students identified as English language learners grew to 17.5 percent.

Schools have additional needs as the population changes. It can cost more to educate children who are learning English as a second language and who face economic disadvantages. So at a time when the majority of districts have funding difficulties, school districts have additional needs. This includes the need for technology, which is increasingly important, so students will be prepared for the challenges of higher education or the work world after high school.


At the Texas Association of School Administrators conference in January, several sessions included discussion of technology use in the classroom. School district policies have changed from restricting cell phone use in school to almost requiring students to bring their own device to class. Technology is being incorporated in the curriculum and students are using online devices to do research in the classroom.

Although smart phones are more prolific in 2014 even in lower socio-economic households, according to data from the Pew Research Center, not every student has a smart phone or tablet to bring to school. Given the tight budgets, how can school districts accommodate the need to purchase technology to give all students the same classroom opportunity?

Harris County Department of Education has some good options. The HCDE technology division offers Learning Management System hosting, training for LMS administration and course design training through their Cirrus Learn program. For more information, contact David McGeary at DMcGeary@hcde-texas.org or go to www.hcde-texas.org/CirrusLearn .
The HCDE Choice Partners cooperative offers more than 100 contracts for technology, including labs, hardware, software, equipment, supplies and services, so buyers can access the technology they need. Many of the contract holders are dealers, so a wide variety of product brands are available. The awarded contracts have “not to exceed” pricing, so members can negotiate reduced rates for higher quantity purchases.

For more information, see all the technology contracts on the Choice Partners website.

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Posted on January 28, 2015

If you are responsible for facilities at multiple campuses, which each have their own yearly, monthly or (in some cases) daily hiccups, then you know that there are some jobs even your most skilled maintenance staff can’t handle on their own. From major renovations to minor-but-challenging electrical repairs, some multi-trade tasks require the services of a qualified and dependable general contractor where experienced multi-trade coordination is required.

Even if your maintenance staff are skilled to do ANY task, having the time to do it is another issue. When they perform the big jobs, it takes them away from the daily work, which if that is ignored can suddenly turn into a bigger repair.

Because it is no longer legal for school district purchasing professionals to use time and materials annual on-call contracts where vendors are on standby for Heating Ventilation Air Conditioning, electrical, plumbing or other such repairs, one good solution is to use a cooperative contract that has been legally and competitively bid, where the CSP specifies line item pre-described and pre-priced tasks by utilizing a published, nationally averaged, construction unit price book.

Government Code 2269 now requires maintenance service contracts to be procured using Job Order Contracts (Indefinite Delivery-Indefinite Quantity Construction), which by definition allows the use of a published construction/maintenance unit price book. The JOC procured contracts can be for individual trades or can be a JOC company (general contractor) that subcontracts for all component work. JOC contracts can be procured by individual school districts or through a cooperative via an interlocal contract (Government Code Chapter 791.)

School district “public work” maintenance repairs, alterations, remediation, renovations, and minor construction can no longer be classified as time and material or catalog procured maintenance, and include such things as: adding an electrical outlet; removing old carpeting and replacing with a different or upgraded flooring surface; adding a wall; replacing HVAC units with higher efficiency units; replacing lighting with improved efficiency bulbs, etc.

Millennium Pressure Washing  and Painting Multiple Campus  Exteriors at Pasadena ISD  in 2014One example of a Job Order Contractor that has a cooperative purchasing contract is Millennium Project Solutions. Based in Crosby, Texas, Millennium has been serving the greater Houston area since 1998, and since HCDE awarded its initial contract in May 2010, the company has been fixing up area schools as a highly regarded Choice Partners vendor.

Just ask Chuck Murray, maintenance director, Crosby ISD. “When our guy needs help, we call Millennium to help us troubleshoot,” Murray said. “They have an excellent master electrician [Brian McArthur].”

But it’s more than just electrical work that makes Millennium the go-to for superior service. One of the company’s specialties is foundation repair—and they’ve proven their reputation, particularly, with Friendswood ISD.

“We were very satisfied,” said Joel Hannemann, executive director of maintenance and operations, Friendswood ISD, referring to Millennium’s completion of multiple foundation repair projects at various campuses across the Houston-area school district. “It was a good partnership.”

Hannemann added that Millennium’s quality communication and on-site supervision of the projects made him willing to use the company’s Choice Partners contract again in the future.

“By using Millennium, we were able to have a highly qualified foundation vendor do the work while maintaining proper purchasing guidelines and gaining good supervision of the projects,” he said.

That may not be surprising for a company with over 35 of years of commercial construction experience and whose motto is “Our Customer Needs First and a Safe Work Place Always.” What’s surprising is when you see such a high level of service across multiple disciplines, including mold and asbestos remediation, ADA and LEED upgrades assistance, disaster relief support services and many others.

You might say that Millennium is the kind of partner a school district needs on speed-dial, for whichever construction-related need arises, but Tom Douglas, director of maintenance, Pasadena ISD, summed it up best.

“They do good work, and I’d use them again in a heartbeat,” Douglas said.

For more information about Millennium, contact Jeremy Morgan at (281)328-2200 or jmorgan@mps-team.com. Members can log in and see the details of Millennium's Choice Partners contract here. [www.choicepartners.org/vendors/millennium-project-solutions-inc-3]


Millennium Project Solutions is one of over 20 of HCDE's competitively awarded contract holders for construction IDIQ (job order contracting). See all the contract awards for IDIQ Construction here.  

See a map of vendor contract awards by region.  

 

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Posted on January 28, 2015

Partnership with Millennium Project Solutions receives high satisfaction

If you’re a school district overseeing multiple campuses, each with their own yearly, monthly or (in some cases) daily hiccups, then you know that there are some jobs even your most skilled maintenance staff shouldn’t handle on their own. From major renovations to minor-but-challenging electrical repairs, some tasks require a qualified and dependable general contractor like Millennium Project Solutions.

Based in Crosby, Texas, Millennium has been serving the greater Houston area since 1998, and since HCDE awarded its initial contract in May 2010, the company has been fixing up area schools as a highly regarded Choice Partners vendor.

Just ask Chuck Murray, maintenance director, Crosby ISD. “When our guy needs help, we call Millennium to help us troubleshoot,” Murray said. “They have an excellent master electrician [Brian McArthur].”

But it’s more than just electrical work that makes Millennium the go-to for superior service. One of the company’s specialties is foundation repair—and they’ve proven their reputation, particularly, with Friendswood ISD.

“We were very satisfied,” said Joel Hannemann, executive director of maintenance and operations, Friendswood ISD, referring to Millennium’s completion of multiple foundation repair projects at various campuses across the Houston-area school district. “It was a good partnership.”

Hannemann added that Millennium’s quality communication and on-site supervision of the projects made him willing to use the company’s Choice Partners contract again in the future.

“By using Millennium, we were able to have a highly qualified foundation vendor do the work while maintaining proper purchasing guidelines and gaining good supervision of the projects,” he said.

That may not be surprising for a company with over 35 of years of commercial construction experience and whose motto is “Our Customer Needs First and a Safe Work Place Always.” What’s surprising is when you see such a high level of service across multiple disciplines, including mold and asbestos remediation, ADA and LEED upgrades assistance, disaster relief support services and many others.

You might say that Millennium is the kind of partner a school district needs on speed-dial, for whichever construction-related need arises, but Tom Douglas, director of maintenance, Pasadena ISD, summed it up best.

“They do good work, and I’d use them again in a heartbeat,” Douglas said.

Millennium Project Solutions is one of over 20 of HCDE's competitively awarded contract holders for construction IDIQ (job order contracting). For more information, contact Jeremy Morgan at (281)328-2200 or jmorgan@mps-team.com. Members can log in and see the details of the Choice Partners contract at https://www.choicepartners.org/vendors/millennium-project-solutions-inc-3

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Posted on January 14, 2015

Facilities Services, Business and Purchasing:  RESOLUTIONS for 2015

 Read on for resolutions that might help you improve your ISD’s facilities, business and purchasing operations in 2015!

FACILITIES

Get control of your key control

Get a better grasp of true spending for facilities (Conduct trending analysis and operations review)

Make sure all buildings operate correctly (Contract for Retro-commissioning)

Catch up on preventative maintenance (Use co-op JOC and trades contracts)

Plan for staff development (put CMAT on list for custodial managers)

Get more efficient with travel and cut down on windshield time

Solve employee attendance issues (use JOC contractors and co-op trades to fill in)

Get blueprints and drawings in order (use data archiving service)

Equip maintenance staff with hand held devices or smart phones (electronic work orders)

BUSINESS OFFICE

Become acquainted with new tax law dealing with uniform grant guidelines from Office of Management and Budget – new super circular

Stay attuned to upcoming legislative proposals

Find new revenue sources

Build relationships and network to find solutions and be more efficient (learn about and use co-op contracts)

Strive to be innovative, resilient, flexible and resourceful: Help staff release their brilliance

Implement Best Practices (look to ASBO, GFOA, HCDE)

Pay attention to cash flow, enrollment and staffing

Encourage use of advanced analytics dashboard for budget tracking

Improve customer service

PURCHASING

Roll out on-line vendor access center to increase efficiencies for all divisions

Apply for and receive awards: TASBO Award of Merit, NIGP award

Develop contract user’s manual with forms, instructions and requirements

Continue to provide information through monthly purchasing newsletter to all staff

Encourage and support staff in becoming TASBO certified

Create a workflow approval process for P.O. change orders

Improve customer satisfaction – adjust current process to ensure meaningful feedback

Create short, fun videos to train staff on such things as gifts, ethics, procedures, etc.

Use purchasing cooperative contracts whenever possible to save time and money

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Posted on December 3, 2014

School district business and purchasing professionals know they need to follow the law to make purchases. School board trustees want to be reassured that staff are getting best pricing and value, while following the law. So the purchasing professional frequently needs to educate trustees about how and why various procurement methods are appropriate.

Different tools are used for varying procurement needs, from Requests for Qualifications, Requests for Competitive Sealed Proposals, Requests for Proposals or bids. Sometimes it is most prudent, efficient and cost effective to use a purchasing cooperative contract where the appropriate procurement laws have already been followed. Procurement professionals should validate purchasing cooperatives they plan to use so they can be confident about the contracts available for use.

Five answers to common assumptions/questions a board of education may have about using a cooperative contract:

           1.  Why is it legal to use a co-op contract as a school district contract?
                Title 7 of the Governmental Code Chapter 791, known as the Interlocal Cooperation Act, encourages governments to
                contract with one another to increase efficiency and effectiveness.

  Section 44.031 of the Texas Education Code specifies that school districts are allowed to use an interlocal contract
  for purchasing once the governing board approves and signs an interlocal contract with that government entity.

2. How do we know that the co-op contracts are legally procured?

a. The solicitations and awarded contracts should be procured legally, using and referencing the correct procurement law. (For example, facilities services contracts for construction must follow Texas Government Code 2269, with the exception of energy savings conservation contracts)

b. The cooperative should have and share proof of due diligence, including:
      · Advertisement dates should be available for each contract award.

      · Receipt date and time of each submittal should be timely, recorded and available for review

      · Evaluation tabulation worksheets should be available for each contract award. (If the co-op awards a
        contract to all proposers, there may not be an evaluation, and the contract may not be competitively bid.)
        Purchasing professionals are encouraged to ask for proof of evaluation.


      · The applicable procurement law should be used for each proposal and contract award. 

            3. What kind of reassurance is there that the cooperative will stand behind the contract award?

    The cooperative should provide contract review/audit services; address any problems with
    orders / deliveries / substitutions; and maintain current product/pricing lists, etc.


4.  Do the solicitations for proposal encourage participation by historically underutilized businesses or minority-
     or women-owned business enterprises?

     Look for evaluation criteria that include HUB/WMBE.


5. Does the government entity offering the contract use these contracts? 
   The “gold standard” is for cooperatives to use their own contracts.


School districts are invited to sign an interlocal contract with Harris County Department of Education and then have access to use more than 500 Choice Partners cooperative contracts. Membership is free and there are no usage requirements, so joining provides options that are priceless. 

Choice Partners has its roots as the first cooperative in Texas, established in the 1960s as HCDE Purchasing Cooperative. In 2012, the three HCDE purchasing cooperatives, HCDE Purchasing Cooperative, Gulf Coast Food Co-op and Choice Facility Partners, merged to become Choice Partners.

For more information, go to ChoicePartners.org or call 877-696-2122.

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Posted on November 19, 2014

Micki Morris, partner, Rogers, Morris & Grover LLPAs the legislature readies for its next session, school districts and governmental entities are still grappling to interpret purchasing law changes for facility services from 2011, when Government Code Chapter 2269 (initially listed as Chapter 2267) was introduced. What are construction services? What can be classified as minor facilities services and/or maintenance?  Harris County Department of Education has done extensive research and has made the following clarifications to assist purchasing and facilities personnel.

“This used to be so much easier,” said Micki Morris, partner at Rogers, Morris & Grover, LLP, as she explained that all construction projects were previously under procurement rules of Chapter 44 of the Education Code.

“Anything construction is now Chapter 2269 of the Government Code. That made everybody’s life a little more difficult,” said Morris.Ms. Morris spoke at a recent TASBO Gulf Coast Maintenance and Operations chapter meeting at HCDE.

Using school district or budgetary interpretations of what used to be defined as construction or maintenance are not relevant. Texas Education Code Chapter 44 specifies that Chapter 2269 of the Texas Government Code applies for all “construction services,” which is not defined. Sarah Langlois, HCDE general counsel and partner at Rogers, Morris & Grover, LLP, notes that “generally, construction contracts can encompass both maintenance and public works projects.” Ms. Langlois spoke at a recent HCDE School Finance Council meeting.

So purchasing and facilities professionals must distinguish between projects that replace like-for-like and projects that involve a “public works contract,” which triggers bonding and prevailing wage requirements.​

Morris says the legal definition of maintenance is very narrow. She notes that the Texas Attorney General’s definition of “maintenance refers to ordinary upkeep necessary to preserve something in good condition; to ‘keep up, keep from change; preserve’ and includes ‘ordinary repairs necessary and proper from time to time for that purpose.’”

“Generally, if a construction contract does not fall within the definition of ‘maintenance,’ it is safe to consider it a ‘public work contract’ if it involves construction work related to a public building,” said Langlois.

“With advancements in technology, it is becoming more and more difficult to replace like for like,” said Les Hooper, RTSBA, executive director, HCDE facilities services.

It is no longer legal for school district purchasing professionals to use time and materials contracts with vendors on standby for Heating Ventilation Air Conditioning, electrical, plumbing or other such repairs. Under Government Code 2269, maintenance service contracts should be procured using Job Order Contracts (Indefinite Delivery-Indefinite Quantity Construction), which by definition uses a construction unit price book. The JOC contracts can be for individual trades or can be a JOC company that subcontracts for all component work. JOC contracts can be procured by individual school districts or through a cooperative via an interlocal contract (Government Code Chapter 791.)

Minor repairs and renovations that school districts can no longer classify as maintenance and procure under time and materials contracts include such things as: adding an electrical outlet; removing old carpeting and replacing with a different or upgraded flooring surface; adding a wall; replacing HVAC units with higher efficiency units; replacing lighting with improved efficiency bulbs, etc.

“If you are doing time and materials for construction services under Chapter 44, it is going to get flagged by the auditor,” said Morris.

This information was developed by Jim Owens, retired school facilities administrator and HCDE consultant, and Sarah Langlois and Micki Morris, partners, Rogers, Morris & Grover, LLP. Ms. Langlois and Mr. Owens are presenting a session on this topic at the TASBO Facility Masters conference in November 2014. Article written by HCDE Client Development Services.

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Posted on November 12, 2014

Although dire economic forecasts and predictions of a major stock market crash can be heard on late night radio, the revenue picture and climate for education funding in Texas looks better than ever. The rosey revenue picture was painted by Joe Wisnoski of Moak Casey and Associates at a recent meeting of the Harris County Department of Education School Finance Council and Gulf Coast chapter of the Texas Association of School Business Officials. Oil and gas revenues, plus tax collections that exceeded the controller’s estimates, have created a higher amount of funds available to the legislature than ever before.

“We’re looking at a legislative session that has an extraordinarily high amount in the rainy day fund and extraordinarily high amount of eligible funds to allocate in the general fund in the state,” said Wisnoski.

Public education will probably cost the legislature less in the next biennium than in the past because of increasing property tax values. So there will be decreased demand for education funding at the same time that “revenue is going through the roof,” according to Wisnoski. He said the legislature will have a great opportunity to reinvest money and increase support for education in the next legislative session.

“So they have the money – the question is ‘are they willing to spend it?’” asked Wisnoski.

Contributing to the positive revenue picture is voter approval of the majority of proposed bond elections in November. Of the education bond election proposals, 81% passed: 43 of 49 school district elections and all four community college issues passed, which represented 96% of the bond proposals on the ballot, according to the November 2014 Bond Election Report prepared by David Webb, first vice president, Texas Municipal Finance Division, George K. Baum and Company.

The legislature faces other challenges in addition to education funding, including hearing proposals from newly elected officials who have pledged to reduce property taxes. Wisnoski listed major issues for this legislative session as

·         Achievement school districts

·         Taxpayer savings grants

·         Opportunity scholarships (Vouchers)

·         Virtual schools

·         Charter Expansion

·         Property Tax, Transparency

“We have a lot of resources that we haven’t had for some time and a lot of demands other than public education,” said Wisnoski. “And we have a district court saying we have a constitutional mandate to do something. It’s going to take a while for everything to shake out.”


Summary article provided by Harris County Department of Education, Client Development Services. To be added to the HCDE School Finance Council listserve, send an email to JAmezcua@HCDE-Texas.org.  For more information on HCDE, go to www.WhoIsHCDE.org.

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Posted on November 5, 2014

Charlotte Stallings presents

Custodial managers from school districts, colleges, universities, cities and counties gathered last week in Addison to network, increase their leadership skills, learn about new technology, see available vendor equipment and supplies and share best practices. The Custodial Management Association of Texas is geared strictly toward the custodial profession.

“It’s a wonderful organization,” said Greg Lookabaugh, chairman of the CMAT board and senior manager of facility planning, Harris County Department of Education. “The only thing we’re going to talk about is custodial services --not maintenance – and how to be a better provider of custodial services.”


Speakers Charlotte Stallings and Arthur J. Johnson spoke on leadership, exemplifying the conference theme, Custodial Leader, Past, Present and Future. CMAT members led break-out sessions on topics such as regulatory compliance for fire alarm testing, gas pressure testing and playground safety. Although the organization focuses on custodial services, members and conference participants include individuals who may also be responsible for other areas, such as safety or maintenance and operations.

Wayne Mack, former Montgomery County Custodial Services director who has held numerous positions on the CMAT board, was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award. Mack was vocal about his appreciation for CMAT, rousing the group to join him in his cheer “I love CMAT!”
Wayne Mack accepts the CMAT Lifetime Achievement Award


Mack, who was recently elected Montgomery County Justice of the Peace, said “I can tell how I went  from janitor to Judge and all the cr** I cleaned up in-between.”

B
obby Davis, Rice University, and current CMAT president, and James Dodson, Montgomery County, and secretary treasurer, invited custodial services managers to mark their calendars for next October 2015 when CMAT will celebrate its 37th year at a conference in San Antonio.

CMAT Employee Excellence Award“The conference helps members establish a partner to call when they have a need or challenge,” said Lookabaugh.  “It is a place to share opportunities for improvement and successful solutions to issues we face.”

There were nearly a dozen vendors exhibiting at the conference including Choice Partners national purchasing cooperative and two Choice Partners vendors -- Tandus Centiva and Buckeye Cleaning Center.

Choice Partners provides legal, competitively awarded government contracts for school districts, colleges and universities and other government organizations to use to procure facility services, carpet maintenance and janitorial supplies and equipment. In addition, the unique supply catalog includes hard bids for best pricing with specific quality parameters for mop buckets and mop bucket wringers; plastic bags; laundry detergent; hand soap; disinfecting wipes; personal hygiene products; absorbent; toilet tissue; facial tissue; towels: cloth, multi-fold paper, single-fold paper, and paper roll; trash containers and wastebaskets.

Choice Partners national cooperative

For more information, visit www.ChoicePartners.org or call 877-696-2122.

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Posted on October 29, 2014

When you hear “healthier school lunches,” you probably don’t think pizza and ice cream, but Blue Bell Creameries and Smart Mouth Pizza want you to think again. These innovative companies, who along with about 65 other vendors attended the Choice Partners Child Nutrition Food Spectacular in October, have products that meet the new USDA regulations that have been rolling out since the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids’ Act was passed in 2010. Child nutrition staff from about 30 school districts and more than 150 students got to taste-test and grade the new, healthier options at the event, which was designed to help nutrition directors plan for the 2015-16 school year.Students sample foods at the Choice Partners Child Nutrition Food Spectacular

When the new USDA guidelines were announced, Blue Bell added to their line of products designed specifically for schools. These included frozen juice bars, low-fat ice cream that satisfies dietary fiber and sugar requirements, and other items portioned into the correct serving sizes.

"
Blue Bell has a long history of providing healthy ice cream and frozen snacks as part of our school program," said Rob Hungate, Blue Bell Creameries, "so it was no surprise that many products in our current lineup already met the new Smart Snack guidelines.

Blue Bell is not the only company working to make popular foods fit under the new guidelines. Exhibitors at the Child Nutrition Food Spectacular included other vendors that have contracts through Choice Partners, including Borden Dairy, Kurz & Co. (The “Good Bread” Company), Smart Mouth Pizza, and grocery suppliers Labatt Food Service and Glazier Foods Company.Katy ISD dhild nutrition staff visit at the LaBatt booth at the Choice Partners food expo

Smart Mouth Pizza has developed a fresh-baked, personal pan pizzeria style pizza, which uses whole-grain in their rising dough, low-sodium cheese and premium toppings.  The pizza meets the nutrition requirements so it is a USDA reimbursable item.

"Our program promotes brand appeal that the kids talk about. Smart Mouth Pizza has pioneered a program that helps create a food court feel for today’s kids, who are more accustomed to eating at a mall food court than the cafeterias of old. This in turn is an effective way to increase participation and profits in any school cafeteria,” said Jamie Cerutti, Smart Mouth Pizza’s profit and participation consultant.

Smart Mouth Foods’ uses a simple “satisfaction guaranteed” approach with no upfront cost.

“There is absolutely no risk starting this program in a school,” said Cerutti. “Training and marketing support is provided every step of the way at no cost to the operator.”

New packaging and new ingredients are a few of the challenges facing schools under the USDA’s changes. Choice Partners members and vendors are taking them in stride.

David Bienvenu, nutrition services director at Channelview ISD, said they order all their groceries, through Glazier Foods Company, which has been quick to resolve issues for them. From products that did not meet the guidelines to items that the children did not like, Glazier has helped find substitutes, according to Bienvenu. 


“We have a lot of needs,” said Bienvenu, “and there have been a lot of changes this year with new guidelines for children.  They have been real quick to respond to our needs.”


Bienvenu characterized the Glazier Food Company delivery drivers as “extremely dependable,” which is important when relying on a weekly delivery. Channelview ISD orders all the regular staples from Glazier Foods, such as pre-cooked foods like chicken fried steaks, canned fruits and vegetables, as well as supplies such as trays and cutlery.

“Dependability is so important,” said Bienvenu. “They are like clockwork. We never have to track a Glazier truck.”

Channelview ISD uses many other Choice Partners cooperative contracts, such as Brothers Produce for fresh produce, Borden for dairy products, Kurz for bread, Blue Bell for ice cream, Auto Chlor for chemicals and others.

“We always want fresh products, quality and good prices,” said Bienvenu, “as we try to get the best for our students.”

Bienvenu said they have worked with Glazier Foods staff for more than 10 years and have developed a great working relationship.

“We do love Glazier,” he said. “They are part of our family. ... The people we deal with answer their phones and return their calls,” said Bienvenu. “It’s a relationship … Sometimes I feel like I spend more time with them than I do at home.”Glazier Foods Company

Glazier Foods Company is a broad-line food service distributor with two distribution centers, located in Houston and Dallas.  Geographic coverage extends into seven states, with Glazier serving a broad customer base including restaurants, both local independent operators and regional chains. Service to the education segment is primarily focused within the Texas border.  Glazier distributes a wide variety of products including meat, dairy, fresh produce and grocery items, plus disposable items such as cutlery, packaging and small wares.

“We are able to serve our customers by offering a wide variety of choices from each of the product categories,” said Marc Mosley, education sales manager at Glazier.

The company was recently purchased by Gordon Food Service.  Integration was postponed until June 2015 to ensure there are no disruptions during the 2014-15 school year.

Food contracts are one of Choice Partners’ specialties. The cooperative provides contracts for commodity-processed food products, such as USDA-approved meat, poultry, egg, cheese, peanut butter and fruit. In addition, the co-op procures contracts for food items such as bread, grocery products, produce, frozen and chilled beverages, plus food equipment and supplies. When districts use the cooperative contracts, they maximize their resources while saving time on the procurement process. For more information, go to www.choicepartners.org/food.
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Posted on October 17, 2014

Exterior facility cleaning easily handled

When it comes to facility exterior cleaning, Ameri-Clean cannot wait to get its hands dirty. The multi-faceted company provides an array of specialized cleaning services ranging from the soaring (historic county building facades and sports stadiums) to the microscopic (mold testing and animal waste removal). No wonder Ameri-Clean’s clients boast about its spotless record.

“They did a really good job,” said Glenn Green, Sam Houston State University carpentry, paint, and sign foreperson, referring to Ameri-Clean’s work on the exteriors of nine campus buildings, including windows. 

“Everybody on campus was happy with the way the buildings looked when they got through, and they are easy to work with,” said Green, adding: “They worked around our schedule so well we hardly knew they were here working.”

For Ameri-Clean owner Richard Davis, his job is to make facility exterior cleaning look that easy — even when it’s not.

“It’s more than garbage pickup,” said Davis. “You have to know how to handle it.”

By “handle it,” Davis refers to an astonishing range of full service work, including algae removal from intricate, historic architecture, adding moisture barrier sealant, rooftop cleaning and waterproofing, cleaning windows of hard water stains, such as calcium, and restoring bronze window frames faded by the sun, mold testing, and removing such hazardous waste materials as paint, computers, dissected frogs and mercury thermometers from science classrooms. 

“Our clients like using us for things they can’t clean,” said Davis. “We don’t promote all of these, but our clients understand all we do and rely on us for it. We work together to get the job done so others can do what they need to do.”

Oftentimes, working within a tight schedule is a big part of Ameri-Clean’s job, especially when academic buildings must be ready before school starts. Davis said his team recently completed 38 buildings on a university campus in 10 days. “We had to do all those projects with quality and precision within a three week time period, yet we didn’t skimp on any of these,” he said proudly.

Angleton ISD can attest to the company’s range and performance. The Houston-area school district has used the Choice Partners contract to access Ameri-Clean for multiple projects, including cleaning building facades, roofs and stadiums.

“[Davis] stands behind his work,” said Rudy Santos, director of maintenance, Angleton ISD. “He’s a great partner to have, especially in preserving the biggest investments the community has.”

Santos has even recommended Ameri-Clean to others when their buildings need attention. “[Davis] is the right person to take care of it,” he said.

Ameri-Clean works across Texas — Dallas, Austin/San Antonio, Beaumont, Port Arthur, Hidalgo and Corpus Christi — though at its home in Houston the company regularly cleans facilities at the Harris County Department of Education.

“We have him clean the exterior of our buildings on a regular schedule,” said Les Hooper, executive director of facilities at HCDE. “They do a great job. They always go the extra mile to give us the level of service we desire.  This is another instance of us using our own Choice Partners contracts.”

For more information about Ameri-Clean or their Choice Partners contract, go to https://www.choicepartners.org/vendors/americlean or call Richard Davis at 713-876-0786.

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Posted on October 8, 2014

Meet 65 vendors with government-awarded contracts at exhibit

One of the challenges procurement professionals face is recommending contract awards that provide best value at the lowest possible cost. Sometimes details of the purchase are so technical that it can be difficult to explain in a few minutes why the very lowest bid might not have been the one that was recommended. In addition, school board trustees are sometimes pressured to award contracts to specific companies. Ultimately, procurement officials benefit from transparency in the evaluation and award criteria used and from ensuring that all contract awards follow competitive bidding laws.

The actual cost of procurement includes the time required to do necessary research, determine if a contract exists that can be used by the district or if an original RFP must be issued. In the August/September 2014 issue of Government Procurement, an article on spend analysis [“Define saving to show value” ] clarifies the difference between savings that release cash (the item was purchased at a lower price) versus savings that are non-cash releasing (they save time and resources or provide more services for the same price.)

Using cooperative purchasing contracts awarded through a competitive procurement process can help.

TRANSPARENT AWARDS INSPIRE PUBLIC CONFIDENCE

Using cooperatives provides transparency for school districts.  Allegations of inappropriately awarding a contract to a vendor are nonexistent when using a cooperative contract, since the cooperative is responsible for the research, development of the RFP, advertising, evaluation and award.  All the district needs to do is ask the cooperative for evidence of the due diligence for the competitive bid/proposal. Some cooperatives work to award regional contracts throughout Texas, providing the slightly smaller or regional companies an opportunity to work with governmental entities in their area.

SELECTING THE COOPERATIVE CONTRACT

Frequently, once a procurement professional discovers the benefits of shared services through a cooperative, they may propose that the board approve interlocal contracts with multiple procurement cooperatives. Cooperatives may have an area of specialization, from acquisition of technology, commodity supplies or specialty items to facility services contracts. While procurement cooperatives generally have similar missions, they operate slightly differently. Districts should ensure that each cooperative can provide evidence of the due diligence for each contract and are willing to provide details of the contract for their members when it is requested. Because each RFP and awarded contract differ, it is important for the school district business official to know what the terms and conditions of the awarded contracts are. For example, if a district is ordering an item that requires installation, does the cooperative contract include that? Does it include shipping? Does the cooperative allow the vendors to negotiate a lower price?

Cooperatives may award multiple contracts in one category if the evaluation justifies it.  This may include a best-value proposal that is not the lowest price, but is extremely competitive, with added value items and a higher quality product / service. Also, because of the cost to the proposer to go through the bidding process, one-shot responses to a RFP/bid may be higher than the pricing the vendor might offer to a cooperative. Consequently, districts can frequently get a better value with a cooperative than they could get by independently doing a RFP or bid, which becomes a cost savings that releases cash.

In the article “Selecting the right cooperative contract” in the Feb/March 2012 issue of Government Procurement, Wayne Casper, group director-west of the National Intergovernmental Purchasing Alliance and retired procurement director of the state of Arizona and the city of Tucson, Ariz., suggested that three elements be considered in addition to price when choosing a cooperative contract:  process, competitiveness and transparency.

LEARN FIRST-HAND ABOUT COOPERATIVE CONTRACTS

Purchasing professionals can see value and savings face-to-face at the Annual Vendor Exhibit sponsored by HCDE Choice Partners national cooperative on Oct. 31, 2014 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in Houston. More than 65 vendors will showcase their products and services, from facilities services to educational materials, food service supplies and technology.

Choice Partners Director Derek Gillard says it is a great option for purchasing staff.HCDE awarded contract-holder seal

“Seldom do purchasing people have time to visit with vendors or even get out of the office, so it is a good opportunity for them to meet with vendors, put a face with the voice and build relationships," said Gillard. “It maximizes their time out of the office by seeing 65 vendors all at once. Just like our co-op, it is a time savings. They can learn about new vendors and their products and services all in one place on one day.”

Learn more details about the event or call 877-696-2122 for more information about Choice Partners cooperative.

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Posted on September 17, 2014

Maximize dollars with best-value purchasing contracts

School district officials might hope that school funding could improve in a few years due to Texas District Judge John Dietz’s recent ruling that the state’s school funding is unconstitutional. But for now, funding remains tight and limited for the 2014-15 school year, challenging school districts to be smart and efficient while following school board policies and the government code that dictate how to legally spend public funds. Since districts spend about 80 percent on salaries, the remainder of the budget has to be maximized, making the purchasing function critically important.

Purchasing consultant Mark Rogers said when he began working in a school district, purchasing law was just a paragraph or two. In his presentation at a recent School Finance Council meeting at Harris County Department of Education, Rogers said he had the purchasing statutes for independent schools districts and community colleges memorized in 1974. Today the purchasing statutes for ISDs and community colleges are spread out in the education code, the local government code and the government code.

Effective Purchasing Tools
Save Time through cooperative purchasingBut with procurement best practices, school districts can avert common problems in the purchasing office. One of the tools Rogers advocates using is cooperative purchasing.

"Everybody benefits," said Rogers. “It doesn't matter how big or how small you are, you will get some benefit from cooperative purchasing." 

Rogers says districts using cooperative purchasing contracts may save money, and they definitely save time. Using a cooperative purchasing contract can help you “get things done quickly,” said Rogers. “It can really save your day.”

Choice Partners, the purchasing cooperative of Harris County Department of Education, is one of the oldest cooperatives in Texas. From its beginning as the HCDE Purchasing Cooperative in the 1960s, the cooperative served school districts in the greater Houston area. Today, there are benefits for school districts in any location to use the contracts and save time and money.

Best Value Contract

Rogers advises purchasing offices to look at the quality of the contracts and the quality of the product or service.  Sometimes people assume if you bought it on competitive bid basis, you bought an inferior product, he said.

“Avoid the low-bid syndrome,” said Rogers. “We want to buy good quality.”

He advises thinking about the life-cycle of the product to ensure that significant factors other than acquisition costs are considered in making the purchasing decision.

Review co-op contracts
Choice Partners publicizes a list of things to look for to ensure districts are accessing quality, valid, legal contracts when using a purchasing cooperative.

· Are the contracts procured under current law?

· Is there proof that the proposals were evaluated? Can you get the evaluation tabulation?

· Are the contracts offering a quality, best value product or service or is it low bid of a low-quality item?

· Does the co-op require an interlocal agreement according to Texas Government Code 791?

· Was the contract awarded by a governmental entity as required by Texas Government Code 791?

· If the co-op offers facilities services contracts for such things as maintenance, renovations or repair, were these contracts procured through Job Order Contracting as required by Texas Government Code 2269?

Gold Standard for cooperatives

Other factors include any added value the cooperative provides.  Does the purchasing cooperative audit the contracts for compliance? 
Do they offer HUB or MWBE contracts? Do their evaluations include weights for HUB or MWBE status? Are the HUB contracts clearly designated on their website?  Does the cooperative’s government entity follow what is known as the “gold standard” by using its own contracts?

Other best practices recommended by Rogers include:

·  Operate with a code of ethics remembering that any behavior that could appear unethical needs to be avoided;

·  Cross train staff so at least two people can perform every task;Best Practices in Purchasing

·  Recognize employees for exceptional performance;

·  Hold pre-bid conferences, but don’t make them mandatory, which could severely restrict competition;

·  Keep contract  information  readily available for staff on an up-to-date website;

·  Network; and

·  Don’t reinvent the wheel.

“I don't care how much expertise you have,” said Rogers. “If you start from scratch, you will almost certainly omit something or find something you could have done better if you had started with somebody else's wheel.”

For more information on Choice Partners cooperative, go to www.ChoicePartners.org.  School districts can download the interlocal contract to become a member at www.ChoicePartners.org/membership.

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Posted on September 3, 2014

From implementing changes in the arrangement of food in the cafeteria to the way school district business offices apply for reimbursement, school districts are working to be more efficient while serving affordable and healthy food. 

With more than 5 million students returning to about 9,500 Texas schools, millions of breakfasts and lunches are being served every day.

Just less than two months ago, updated national standards for school nutrition went into effect from the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids’ Act. Although the Act was passed in 2010, new standards have been added each year. This year, a whole cup of fruit must be offered at breakfast, and all breads need to be rich in whole grains and lower in sodium. The new regulation addressing calories, saturated and trans fats, salt and sugars, applies to all foods. So to address the new healthy options requirements, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) changed the nutrition standards for snacks and beverages sold in schools whether in vending machines, cafeterias, school stores or for fundraising.

From accounting for indirect food costs and increasing meal appeal to minimizing plate waste, schools are strategizing to ensure that these new meal standards are successfully implemented, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest.*

Many districts are working to ensure students have the energy and stamina to learn by providing free breakfast and lunch for at-risk students, sometimes with funding through the USDA’s Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) program or the 2010 Hunger-Free Kids Act.

Changes in requirements for school-served foods made by the USDA, are challenging to the suppliers.

“The USDA handing down changes is one of the biggest challenges my company faces,” said Douglas Kurz of Kurz & Co., who supplies bread products for school districts.

“Beginning July 1, the USDA requires all bread products in the schools to be at least 51% whole grain, and Kurz has helped get us to that point as quickly as possible,” explained Shirley Parker, assistant director and dietitian at Humble ISD. “They knew about the change immediately and started talking to us about it, listening to our needs and helping us figure which products were our priorities.”

Rebecca Kenefic, dietetic supervisor of Child Nutrition Service at Spring Branch ISD, said making the transition to whole grain bread products was not difficult for Spring Branch ISD, which started ordering Kurz & Co.’s qualifying “white wheat” bread products four years ago.

“We have already been using Kurz’s whole grain products for several years,” she said. “We love their bread.”

WHOLEHEARTED COMMITMENT
Labeling itself the “Good Bread” Company, Kurz & Co. specializes in delivering fresh bread, buns, rolls, tortillas and other baked goods to large institutional customers, particularly schools. Choosing not to deliver to grocery stores and restaurants means its energies are more focused.

Douglas Kurz said that other companies that strive to serve schools under the USDA’s regulations often have to resort to frozen options, but Kurz & Co. is committed to producing and shipping fresh bread.

“We are the only company that can do it fresh,” Kurz boasted. “Our company is unique – we don’t serve any retail. We are the only company that meets the USDA recommendations to develop the product specifically for schools.”

BAKING UP A STORM
Kurz & Co.’s reputation for reliable delivery, quick communication and excellent customer service – even in spite of inclement weather – has helped the company expand in recent years.

“Since 2004 we have grown tremendously,” Kurz said, mentioning that he’s added 600 schools each year for the past two years to his delivery routes.

He has also found loyal customers through use of the Choice Partners cooperative contract. Kurz & Co. is HCDE’s only competitively awarded contract holder for bread products. They can deliver in the Houston, San Antonio and Dallas areas using the Choice Partners contract.

 “We love Choice Partners!” said Spring Branch ISD’s Kenefic. “It’s really great having the freedom to go between the vendors we like. It’s a great co-op to be a part of.”

For more information, contact Doug Kurz at 713-861-9955, dougkurz@kurzco.com.   Choice Partners members can log in and see the details of the Choice Partners contract at https://www.choicepartners.org/vendors/kurz-and-company

*http://www.cspinet.org

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Posted on August 27, 2014

School districts, cities and other governmental entities that use the Dahill contract for copiers and printing services get more than just cutting-edge equipment—they get access to Dahill’s friendly, knowledgeable and fast-moving support team.

        Galena Park ISD uses the Dahill contract through Choice Partners cooperative and has been satisfied with the results—particularly its online service platform. With a variety of Xerox 

copiers across its campuses, the Houston-area school district knows that maintenance problems can arise, whether it’s a paper misfeed or an empty toner cartridge.

        Lynn Nutt, logistics coordinator at Galena Park ISD, said she’s happy with Dahill’s set up for service requests and supply orders.

        “We do it all online so you get a confirmation right away,” Nutt said. “We can order supplies or place a service call—it’s really easy.”


The online maintenance and supplies service is so simple, in fact, that Nutt trains the campus staff to go directly to Dahill instead of calling her! 

         Considering that most Galena Park ISD campuses have a copier that can print 30 pages per minute (ppm) and at least one that runs 95 ppm, the added speed with supplies and service calls really adds up to time saved in the work room. It’s no surprise, then, that Nutt called her Dahill contract “very satisfactory overall.”

        The city of Brownsville is also pleased using the Choice Partners contract with Dahill, primarily for networked “all-in-one” machines that can copy, scan and fax.

        “Our experience has been great,” said Gerardo Noriega, purchasing agent for the city of Brownsville. “We have not had any issues with salespeople or the service team. Our departments are happy using their services.”

        Noriega said Dahill continuously follows up to ensure the city’s needs are met.         

        “They are a very attentive company,” Noriega said.

        Furthermore, members appreciate that the Choice Partners contract covers more than just hardware. 

        “Everything we’ve asked for, supplies, maintenance, service parts, all of the consumable supplies, are included in the contract,” said Nutt. “It allows us to do more with less!”

        Nutt also notes “it’s easier and more efficient” using the Choice Partners contract than those of other cooperatives.  Plus she appreciates that the Choice Partners contract allows for flexibility in how Galena Park ISD sets up its reconciliation.

    Noriega said the city of Brownsville has also had good experience using Choice Partners contracts. “We have not had any issues with the co-op or with the co-op’s vendors,” he said.
        To see details on any of the four Dahill contracts, go to www.ChoicePartners.org/vendors/php and type Dahill in the search box. 

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Posted on August 20, 2014

Grandview ISD students returning to cool, air-conditioned classrooms in the midst of blistering August heat have a few people to thank.

One is Joe Perrin, superintendent of the small, rural 2A district south of Fort Worth—so small that Perrin wears (and shares) many hats, from purchasing agent to curriculum leader to chief executive officer. Another is Greg Lookabaugh, Harris County Department of Education (HCDE) senior manager of facilities planning, who along with consultant David Simmons worked with Superintendent Perrin to finish a heating ventilation air conditioning (HVAC) project in a couple of months.

Perrin said the legalities of the bid process and the steps needed to replace over a dozen 30-year-old HVAC units might have taken him a year if he had done it alone, but with HCDE’s help the job sped up rapidly.

“The help allowed us to complete the project before this school year, which probably wouldn’t have happened otherwise,” Perrin said.

Lookabaugh and Simmons walked Perrin through the planning and development stages first, ensuring that Grandview ISD was matched with a quality engineer. Then, for installation, the time came to select a vendor with a legally procured HVAC contract.

“I involved several Choice Partners awarded vendors, inviting them to quote the project based on the engineer’s designs and specifications,” Lookabaugh said.

Grandview ISD chose The Brandt Companies—yet another hero in this story.

Construction took the company about seven days from the day the crane arrived until the project was finished.

“The big drama on this project was the equipment,” said Danny Ramirez, business development, The Brandt Companies. “We were not sure it would be here on time.”

But The Brandt Companies got the order pushed up, and the equipment arrived. They finished the project on budget, on time and with customer satisfaction.  Ramirez said what “went great” was the coordinating done by HCDE.

“[Lookabaugh] did an awesome job on his end, which made everyone else’s job easier,” Ramirez said. “He stayed on top of everything, communicating to make sure everyone was in the loop.”

A local contractor familiar with Grandview ISD’s building controls also worked with The Brandt Companies to connect new equipment to the existing operating system.

“The process went really well,” Perrin said. “I was very pleased. I’d definitely do it again.”

Lookabaugh added that the success seen in this project exemplifies HCDE’s unique brand of collaboration.

“I brought coordination and efficiency in implementation, and I utilized legally procured Choice Partners vendor contracts,” he said. “This is a facility management service that no other co-op offers.”

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Posted on April 1, 2014

MEMBERS RELY ON AUTOMATED LOGIC
When Choice Partners members need easy-to-use building automation systems that provide maximum energy efficiency, they leave the light on for Automated Logic Corporation (ALC). The company, which has operations across the globe, is known for excellent, client-specific service, and its HVAC  and Building Controls contracts with Choice Partners makes its services easy for members to access.

“Their response has always been great,” said Paul Gutowsky, energy coordinator at Lamar CISD, which used the Choice Partners contract awarded to ALC to change out the controls in portable buildings. ALC removed the manual thermostat and installed one that can be controlled off-site in the centralized control system.

“I’ve always received the service I needed and any issues have been addressed both quickly and professionally,” Paul added.

The energy team at La Joya ISD knows what Paul is feeling. It used the Choice Partners contract with Automated Logic Corporation for a digital controls lighting project and has done work with them through their own RFPs, which were awarded before La Joya ISD became a member of HCDE Choice Partners.

“If I could put all my schools on ALC, I would,” said Rey Cedillo, energy management director, La Joya ISD.

Rey said the teamwork of ALC providing training to the La Joya ISD technicians has alone saved the district about half a million dollars over a six-month period.

“If you are going to build a campus that requires controls, you cannot go wrong with Automated Logic,” said Rey. “As long as you have internet, you can access the controls.”

Too bad ALC’s golfing skills are not on par with their construction abilities, Rey joked, referring to a recent fundraising golf tournament during which the ALC team received high scores.

“Their products are very good – they are just not good at golf!” said Rey, acknowledging their participation contributed to funds for scholarships.

While ALC may not have every golf tournament in the bag, it does seem to win at a wide range of construction projects. Just ask Dayton ISD, which relies on ALC’s clear and efficient work ethic.

“They installed a chiller a couple of years ago and did an outstanding job,” said Steve Bell, facilities director, Dayton ISD.

 “They showed up when they said they would, finished when they said they would, and had it cranked up on time,” added Steve. “It was excellent and everything I expected.”

ALC also did a campus retrofit for controls and partnered with another Choice Partners vendor, Custom Air Products, who did the custom mechanical work. Steve said he would “absolutely” use both of them again.

Steve appreciates the structure of the Choice Partners IDIQ contracts that use R.S. Means, as all the quotes show exactly where the money goes. “That’s just what we need,” said Steve, “because we are spending taxpayer dollars.  With Choice Partners everything is laid out, money-wise, which makes it easy for facilities people like me to account for the dollars.”

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Posted on February 3, 2014

K12 AlertsEducational institutions have another resource for improving communications and student safety with the new technology contract awarded to K12 Alerts®/Anonymous Alerts® hosted systems now available through Choice Partners.

For communications, K12 Alerts® offers parent and staff notifications via instant voice, email and text, social media or RSS integration, newsletters (templates provided), and customized iPhone and Android apps. The patented system also features automated calls for attendance reporting and low lunch funds.

For bullying reporting and other sensitive student issues, K12 Alerts® has a program called Anonymous Alerts® which offers students and parents the ability to anonymously report suspicious activity, bullying or other sensitive issues before they exacerbate into a tragedy. Students or parents can have a 2-way anonymous dialogue with campus officials. The system is simple and secure for students, parents and campus officials. Students can download mobile phone and tablet apps for free to place reports. The fully hosted system offers campus officials quick receipt of reports via email and text, robust reporting, note taking and more to comply with bullying laws/requirements.

"We’re excited to have a Choice Partners contract so school districts, colleges and universities can more quickly deploy our hosted communications systems. Choice Partners’ leadership team understands our mission of keeping student safe and everyone informed,” said Gregory Bender, president and chief executive officer, K12 Alerts®. “Our Anonymous Alerts system empowers students to discuss sensitive issues without fear of retaliation by their peers, to improve student campus safety.”

For more information, go to https://www.choicepartners.org/vendors/K12Alerts or http://www.anonymousalerts.com or call 888-291-2090.

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Posted on November 19, 2013

Six new contracts for janitorial, 54 for educational materials,two for elevators and one for flooring were awarded in November: eleven contracts were renewed. 

The contracts for curriculum instruction, assessment and intervention materials and supplies were awarded through a collaborative process between Choice Partners and Houston ISD.  The contracts will be used district-wide by Houston ISD schools and may be used by any members.

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Posted on August 1, 2013

If you’re like most people, you associate the summer months with warm, sandy beaches and relaxing vacation days. But if you’re Tommy Klein, vice-president of HCDE contractor Tommy Klein Construction, the word summer makes you think of round-the-clock labor.
“In our summertime, there is no summer,” Tommy Klein said. “It’s 10 –12 hours a day.”
That high level of commitment during Texas’ blistering summer months is what keeps Tommy Klein’s renovation projects running on schedule — and his clients happy.
“I have only good things to say about Tommy Klein Construction,” said Stephanie Laughlin, senior interior designer, Texas Tech University Student Housing. “Their quotes are usually equivalent to the price of the project, and they are always on top of their scheduling.”
Tommy Klein Construction, as its name suggests, is the perfect example of how a dedicated family working together
can (literally) build a multi-million dollar company from the ground up. Tommy got his start digging ditches as a teenager and in 1986, after nine years as construction superintendent for another company, he decided to strike out on his own. Tommy’s wife, Karen Klein, is the company’s business manager and president, and their son Jonathan Klein manages all the job order contracts for Texas Tech. Keeping it in the family has worked very well,
according to Laughlin.
“When you work with some construction companies, they won’t ask you what to do when a problem comes up
— they’ll just make a decision without asking, but Jonathan calls to make sure we’re OK with the plan,” Laughlin said. “They’re really good about communication.”
Finding innovative ways to work around the unforeseen complications of renovating old university buildings is another Tommy Klein trademark.
“The buildings we work on are so old, we don’t always have the most accurate floor plans from the time they were originally built, so many things can come up — structural components not where you thought they were, foundations that may have settled unevenly — things that affect the space we’re trying to renovate,” said Daizy Duede, interior designer, Texas Tech University Housing, adding that Tommy Klein Construction’s problem-solving prowess recently saved the day on a renovation of the University’s Hulen Clement building.
“We were working with another contractor for the windows, but the windows didn’t come in the correct size.
Tommy Klein Construction worked with me to help me find a resolution to create and install the blinds,” Duede said. “This was something that could have been a really difficult problem, but they were very proactive and worked with their subcontractors to find a solution instead of throwing it in my lap and making me deal with it.”
Honesty, communication, anticipating problems, doing the best possible job on time no matter what — these words are Tommy Klein Construction’s brick and mortar. “If we see a problem beforehand, we don’t sit there and wait till the problem hits,” Tommy said. “We try to catch it beforehand. We get it all figured out and go. If we mess
up, we call them.”
Karen pointed out that at the end of the day the business really comes down to making a lasting, positive connection with the client.
“It’s really about relationships,” Karen said. “That’s what we’ve built with them.”
Tommy Klein Construction is one of 27 competitively awarded contract holders for job order contracting and is a Texas HUB certified vendor. For more information, contact Karen at (806) 438-3811.

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Posted on June 1, 2013

No balanced diet is complete without a healthy helping of fruits and vegetables, and through their Choice Partners cooperative purchasing contracts with Houston-based distributor Third Coast Fresh, member schools are keeping their students nourished, satisfied and informed.

Awarded its first Choice Partners contract in 2011, Third Coast Fresh is a unique distributor of fresh fruits, vegetables and dairy products, priding itself on a customer-friendly, “hands on” approach to the ever-changing food industry. Member schools who have contracts with Third Coast Fresh speak highly of its level of service, and of BJ Nix, the company’s director of school sales and the principle liaison between directors of school nutrition and the latest crop of healthy food.

“I love working with Third Coast Fresh, and I love BJ,” said Oleta Rushing, child nutrition coordinator of Shepherd Independent School District. “If I have any problem, I call BJ and she gets on it immediately till we get it fixed. She is very dedicated.”

Lettuce Be Prepared

The challenge of delivering fresh produce to school children is not always easy, according to BJ, especially when growers have to contend with unpredictable changes in weather.

“We had a rough year,” BJ admitted, because two of her main farm-to-school food items – lettuce and watermelon – were negatively impacted by harsh weather conditions. “Lettuce doubled in price due to a freeze in the growing region, but the co-op contract pricing is locked in,” BJ explained, adding that the burden of the price increase was not shouldered onto schools due to the terms of the Choice Partners contract. “We have an option to increase prices if we have to, but we were able to keep all our prices steady,” she said.

Watermelon-lovers, on the other hand, were not so lucky.

“This year from March to April we had unusually cool weather, which affected Texas watermelons,” BJ said, disappointed that Third Coast Fresh was not able to offer watermelon as a result. A typical, school-ready watermelon weighs between 22 and 24 pounds, BJ pointed out, but this spring’s cool temperatures produced small melons that weighed about five to eight pounds less than that.

Learning Made Tasty

The level of Third Coast Fresh’s commitment to child nutrition goes beyond just delivering a quality product. BJ and her team offer cooperating schools a “health fair” where she brings students samples of unfamiliar foods and gets them pumped about nutrition.

“BJ came out and did a physical education night with us,” Rushing said. “We had fresh fruit and vegetables. BJ came and helped me set up. She served the kids, visited with them, talked to them about fresh fruits and vegetables, served them jicama with little chili sprinkles and fresh lime – the kids were so excited.”

Other schools have also taken BJ up on her offer of a healthy food demonstration and found the experience well worth the extra planning. Dinah Redden, director of child nutrition at Coldspring-Oakhurst Consolidated ISD, described such a night intended for middle and high school students in her district. BJ came bearing more jicama, sweet potato sticks and other products, getting the students enthused about trying new foods.

“She’s very good at that,” Redden said, adding that BJ has also invested time in educating food service employees. “BJ has been to a couple of my in-service days, [where she] taught us how to make figurines out of vegetable sticks for our cafeteria lines,” she said.

Third Coast Fresh is one of five competitively awarded contract holders for produce. For more information, contact BJ at 832-553-5628 or bnix@tcfresh.com. Members can log in and see the details of the Choice Partners contract at https://www.choicepartners.org/vendors/third-coast-fresh.

No balanced diet is complete without a healthy helping of fruits and vegetables, and through their Choice Partners cooperative purchasing contracts with Houston-based distributor Third Coast Fresh, member schools are keeping their students nourished, satisfied and informed.

Awarded its first Choice Partners contract in 2011, Third Coast Fresh is a unique distributor of fresh fruits, vegetables and dairy products, priding itself on a customer-friendly, “hands on” approach to the ever-changing food industry. Member schools who have contracts with Third Coast Fresh speak highly of its level of service, and of BJ Nix, the company’s director of school sales and the principle liaison between directors of school nutrition and the latest crop of healthy food.

“I love working with Third Coast Fresh, and I love BJ,” said Oleta Rushing, child nutrition coordinator of Shepherd Independent School District. “If I have any problem, I call BJ and she gets on it immediately till we get it fixed. She is very dedicated.”

Lettuce Be Prepared

The challenge of delivering fresh produce to school children is not always easy, according to BJ, especially when growers have to contend with unpredictable changes in weather.

“We had a rough year,” BJ admitted, because two of her main farm-to-school food items – lettuce and watermelon – were negatively impacted by harsh weather conditions. “Lettuce doubled in price due to a freeze in the growing region, but the co-op contract pricing is locked in,” BJ explained, adding that the burden of the price increase was not shouldered onto schools due to the terms of the Choice Partners contract. “We have an option to increase prices if we have to, but we were able to keep all our prices steady,” she said.

Watermelon-lovers, on the other hand, were not so lucky.

“This year from March to April we had unusually cool weather, which affected Texas watermelons,” BJ said, disappointed that Third Coast Fresh was not able to offer watermelon as a result. A typical, school-ready watermelon weighs between 22 and 24 pounds, BJ pointed out, but this spring’s cool temperatures produced small melons that weighed about five to eight pounds less than that.

Learning Made Tasty

The level of Third Coast Fresh’s commitment to child nutrition goes beyond just delivering a quality product. BJ and her team offer cooperating schools a “health fair” where she brings students samples of unfamiliar foods and gets them pumped about nutrition.

“BJ came out and did a physical education night with us,” Rushing said. “We had fresh fruit and vegetables. BJ came and helped me set up. She served the kids, visited with them, talked to them about fresh fruits and vegetables, served them jicama with little chili sprinkles and fresh lime – the kids were so excited.”

Other schools have also taken BJ up on her offer of a healthy food demonstration and found the experience well worth the extra planning. Dinah Redden, director of child nutrition at Coldspring-Oakhurst Consolidated ISD, described such a night intended for middle and high school students in her district. BJ came bearing more jicama, sweet potato sticks and other products, getting the students enthused about trying new foods.

“She’s very good at that,” Redden said, adding that BJ has also invested time in educating food service employees. “BJ has been to a couple of my in-service days, [where she] taught us how to make figurines out of vegetable sticks for our cafeteria lines,” she said.

Third Coast Fresh is one of five competitively awarded contract holders for produce. For more information, contact BJ at 832-553-5628 or bnix@tcfresh.com. Members can log in and see the details of the Choice Partners contract at https://www.choicepartners.org/vendors/third-coast-fresh.

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Posted on March 1, 2013

Members are controlling and managing fuel costs through a Choice Partners cooperative purchasing contract for fleet fuel with Wex, Inc., formerly known as Wright Express. The program helps government entities manage fuel expenses through a universal fuel card, which is accepted at more than 90% of U.S. retail fuel stations. Plus there are discounts for using Exxon/Mobil through member buying power. Benefits of the Wex Inc. fleet fuel management program include having just one card which has no fee, an online control center, and customizable setup and reports. Many users are fans of the billing system.

Howard Payne University-Brownwood

Howard Payne University-Brownwood uses the Wex Inc. fleet fuel monitoring contract.  Bill Fishback, assistant vice president of business, reports that they are “very satisfied” with their “maiden voyage” in using a fuel card. They issue the cards to individuals and to the public safety vehicles, and do not require all departments to use the program. Athletic teams are the biggest users.

Fishback said he was attracted to the program because it helps control spending. The card can be used for fuel and minor services, but it isn’t a credit card that can be used for other items. He said he has had no complaints about it and the person handling accounts payable is very pleased.

“In my line of work, I’ve learned to take the absence of complaints as a compliment,” said Fishback. “The billing process is handled quite well.”

This was their first use of Choice Partners cooperative, which Fishback said was “quite easy.”

City of Kilgore

The City of Kilgore is using the Wex Inc. fleet fuel card program for about 100 city vehicles, from parks, public works, police, and fire to their off-road fuel tank, and any employee who drives a city vehicle can use the card.

Lawanna Williams, finance director, City of Kilgore, said they are pleased with the program and “like having a go-to person” if there are any issues.

“We love the billing,” she said, as it is set it up by department, so they don’t have to sort the fuel charges.  They also use an automatic payment bank draft, so it is all handled on line and payments are never late.

“It was easy,” said Williams, to access the contract via Choice Partners cooperative.

Lone Star College

Lone Star College System-Houston has used the Wex Inc. fleet fuel card program for at least five years. They issue the card to individuals as well as link cards to specific cars, such as their police vehicles. 

Helen Kubiak, Pcard administrator, appreciates that the card system “runs very smoothly without a whole lot of attention.”

 “It works very well for us,” said Kubiak.

She especially appreciates the on-line system, which allows for “quick and easy” set up of users and access to download invoices and monthly usage reports.

Using the card also tracks vehicle performance, as the user enters an ID number and odometer reading with each use.

“Working with Choice Partners members has been a rewarding experience,” said Jim Smith, regional sales manager, Wex Inc. “We have developed a program that helps better manage fuel costs associated with maintaining a fleet of vehicles.  Our first step is to listen to member’s needs, wants and concerns so we can work together to obtain our member’s desired results.”  

Wex Inc. is one of three awarded contract holders for fleet fuel monitoring. For more information, contact Smith at 866-561-5931 or jim.smith@wexinc.com ; members can login and see the details of the Choice Partners contract at https://www.choicepartners.org/vendors/WexInc .

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Posted on February 7, 2013

Cloud computing contracts for Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) and Software as a Service (SaaS) were recently awarded, positioning Choice Partners purchasing cooperative to help meet needs of school district information technology divisions. Cloud computing systems can secure your information, but make it accessible anyplace, anywhere, anytime from your smart phone, tablet or PC computer.

David A. Wanner, executive vice president of corporate and healthcare strategic alliances for Reach IPS, a vendor partner of Choice Partners cooperative purchasing contract holder ARC, says he is frequently asked: “How can I depend on the cloud for my IT system needs?”

Wanner recommends an adequate comparison of both onsite server systems and cloud-based technology for infrastructure as a service and software as a service. Even if a school or government entity uses a cloud computing provider to host applications, they still own the data.

Wanner recommends considering the following for infrastructure as a service and software as a service:

  • Initial and ongoing expenses. Cloud-based technologies allow conversion of standard capital expenses to operational by leasing the hardware and software instead of purchasing it. This may lower expenses by an amount as modest as 1% to an average of 30%. School districts will consider where they have more funding capability -- annual operations or bond funds.
  • Reduced IT expenses. Cloud companies have service desks which answer calls 24/7 as part of the monthly service, eliminating the need to call an IT service technician to the site. Significant savings can also be seen in reduced server and network infrastructure costs, desktop management costs, and future server and application upgrades.
  • No requirement to invest in upgrades. Most monthly cloud infrastructure as a service and software as a service initiatives use Service Level Agreements to complete all software upgrades while avoiding any system downtime. SLAs are key to ensure that the cloud company does as promised for infrastructure as a service and software as a service. The purchasing cooperative vendor is responsible to ensure the terms of the SLA are satisfied.
  • Built-in compliancy. Ever increasing federal, state and organizational regulations can require more know-how. Partnering with the appropriate cloud provider for infrastructure as a service and software as a service can significantly reduce the risks of non-compliance and ensure a safer, more robust data environment. Look for a Choice Partners cooperative cloud provider that offers a holistic approach as an IT partner instead of just selling a service. The Choice Partners purchasing cooperative vendors combine cloud applications along with on-premise services to bring a seamless environment offering compliance, security and proven results, and can include risk reduction services, such as disaster recovery. Look for companies that have multiple data centers with rollover capability to ensure that you have 24/7 support.

When moving to the cloud for Infrastructure as a Service and Software as a Service, consider Choice Partners purchasing cooperative contracts for best value.

This information was provided by Choice Partners Cooperative contract holder ARC.

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Posted on February 1, 2013

Cooperative purchasing contracts with Choice Partners purchasing cooperative made it easy for school districts to bring in the SmartLab from Creative Learning Systems to teach STEM (science, technology, engineering and math).  The SmartLab provides students student-centered, hands-on STEM program while giving them the opportunity to invent and create.

In a SmartLab, students can make robots, models, high-tech gadgets and more. The SmartLab is an integrated system of furniture, hardware, software, electronics, multimedia equipment, construction kits, manipulatives, curriculum and assessment for STEM learning.  As students use the labs, they learn STEM technology skills for mechanics and structures, computer graphics, science and data acquisition, publishing and multimedia.  They apply these STEM skills to projects which may include robotics, circuitry, computer simulation and alternative energy.    

Lytle ISD, San Antonio ISD and Cotulla ISD have implemented the Science Technology Engineering and Math advancement program using the Choice Partners contract with Creative Learning Systems. While SmartLabs prepare students for real-world problem solving using 21st century technology to engage students in critical thinking and innovation , the labs are available for any grade level from elementary through high school.  They are fully adaptable for any budget, curriculum or class size, according to Gary Nelson, president, Creative Learning Systems.

Lytle ISD, which implemented a SmartLab for both high school and junior high using the Choice Partners cooperative purchasing contract, plans to add a SmartLab to their elementary school in 2014, making the district one of very few across the country to emphasize the STEM initiative from elementary through secondary grades.

Lytle ISD Superintendent Michelle Carroll Smith calls the program “phenomenal” and noted that the engaging work done in the lab “meshes very well with our philosophy.” Smith said the project-based learning environment is a good model for their teachers in other core subject areas, plus the class is popular with students. 

“It’s all hands on, where students can learn at their own pace and make their own choices,” Smith said.

In San Antonio ISD, the district’s 2010 bond provided funding for high tech STEM career exploration SmartLabs in 11 middle schools and more than half of those are complete. The remaining labs are planned for 2013 and future years.

Cotulla ISD was the first district to use the Choice Partners cooperative purchasing contract to purchase the Creative Learning Systems SmartLab for STEM education.

Nelson noted that each SmartLab solution is unique, tailored to the STEM learning objectives, design considerations, existing resources and needs of the customer. They work nationwide and “customize the lab to every school and district,” he said.

For more information about the Creative Learning Systems cooperative purchasing contract go to https://www.choicepartners.org/vendors/creativelearningsystemswww.creativelearningsystems.com or call 800-458-2880.

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Posted on January 4, 2013

Innovations in terrazzo floor care mean fewer chemicals and labor to clean terrazzo tile while creating a glossy floor finish that lasts longer. Scott Uselman of High Point Sanitary Solutions, a janitorial supply company that is a Choice Partners cooperative purchasing vendor, reports that the new diamond polishing process they use creates a shine on the terrazzo that can’t be duplicated. “I couldn’t apply enough wax to get this much shine,” said Mr. Uselman.

The method cleans terrazzo tile and produces beautiful, glossy floors without the labor, chemicals, equipment and time needed to scrub, strip, recoat with wax and buff. Plus, the glossy floor finish lasts longer.

Sheldon ISD purchased the service through the Choice Partners cooperative purchasing contract and used the new polishing method, saving significant dollars while also improving the appearance of their facilities.

Christine Derryberry, Sheldon ISD coordinator for facilities and safety, credits Choice Partners contract holder High Point Sanitary Solutions, with making it possible to get a return on investment in just four months at the first campus where they tested the process. Mr. Uselman trained the Sheldon ISD custodial staff to do the job themselves, which worked perfectly, and cost less than half the estimate.

“Scott is such an honest, good guy—he has saved us a ton of money. Diamond polishing is probably the best thing we’ve done in this district,” said Ms. Derryberry of the janitorial supply company High Point Sanitary Solutions. “The key was training our crew and doing it in-house.”

Because of that success, Sheldon ISD phased in the process of cleaning terrazzo tile district-wide, using up all the floor maintenance products they had on hand. Ms. Derryberry reports there is no wax on the floors in Sheldon ISD, yet the floors are so shiny they “look like a mirror.” Having such glossy floors has made their high school look like a million bucks, according to Ms. Derryberry. She reported that recently someone was visiting the high school and couldn’t believe the facility was 50 years old.

“I just can’t recommend it enough,” said Ms. Derryberry. “It’s very cost effective when purchased through the Choice Partners cooperative contract, and the results are fabulous.”

Before diamond polishing was implemented, they had to purchase all the janitorial supply products needed—wax, stripper, special shoes—and then do the work to strip and recoat the floors. About every year someone fell on the slick floors, so there was also related workers compensation expense.

“Now that cost is gone and the floors are maintenance free, with the exception of the small riding scrubbers, which does the work of about three people. Every time we ride the scrubber, it polishes the floor,” said Ms. Derryberry. “It looks like a mirror!”

With Mr. Uselman’s help, Sheldon ISD purchased a used machine to do the initial polishing for the terrazzo tile, and then they were able to sell it for slightly more than they bought it.

She appreciates Mr. Uselman’s help in recommending custodial products to clean terrazzo tile. One product he suggested took the place of 17 others. All the products are available through the Choice Partners cooperative purchasing contract.

“He really is my advisor,” she said. “The stuff he has works.”

High Point Sanitary Solutions is working with other school districts in the Houston area, but the process of cleaning terrazzo tile works for courthouses, government buildings or wherever there is terrazzo.

“We teach clean,” said Mr. Uselman, “We will go anywhere we are needed.”

For more information about High Point Sanitary Solutions Choice Partners cooperative purchasing contract 09/017LB-B-03, call 713-694-8300 or email scott@highpointss.com.

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Posted on December 10, 2012

In a recent Wall Street Journal article, cooperative purchasing was touted as one way towns, cities, counties and school districts can save money. The article included a list of things, such as using graduate students as substitute teachers, deputizing volunteers and retirees to perform simple police functions, and using a cooperative purchasing network such as Choice Partners.

Economies of scale provided by cooperative purchasing programs help towns, cities, counties and school districts save money. Choice Partners is a comprehensive, full service cooperative purchasing network that helps save money on everything from janitorial supplies to construction services to food and equipment for cafeterias.

The article stated that local officials and their boards need to do their own homework. Some states have agencies, such as Harris County Department of Education, that provide resources to   help educational entities, towns and counties.

When using a Choice Partners contract to procure goods or services, you still deal directly with the vendor. The only difference is that you will use a competitively bid, government awarded Choice Partners contract in lieu of your own.

If your town, city, county or school district is looking for ways to save money, consider Choice Partners purchasing cooperative. It’s the easiest way for a small entity to get the same volume pricing as a large entity. Plus many Choice Partners contracts include related services in addition to commodity pricing.

For more information on Choice Partners purchasing cooperative, call 713-696-2122.

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Posted on November 16, 2012

Purchasing cooperative membership with Choice Partners opens the door to an exclusive cooperative purchasing contract for the Nook eReader.

Today’s students are digital learners, taking in the world through cell phones, handheld game devices and tablets. Schools are working to appeal to the learning styles of this generation; consequently Choice Partners purchasing cooperative looks for contract solutions that meet these needs.

In Conroe ISD, McCullough Junior High Middle School Library Media Specialist Pat Perez tested the use of eReaders for the district. The technology warehouse staff purchased Nook eReaders using the Choice Partners purchasing cooperative contract with Barnes and Noble, negotiating pricing and then stocking them for campuses to order. Ms. Perez picked out the books to be downloaded and made the Nook eReaders available to the students.

“They are just eating it up,” said Perez. “It is unbelievable!” Perez said it is “one of the most exciting things” in her 25-year career as a librarian. “We cannot stop doing this,” she said. “It thrills me to no end to put the Nook e-Readers in their hands.”

Opening up electronic resources to her students not only reaches students in the world of their generation, but the Nook eReaders also have functions that engage the reader as well as meet varying reading needs. Students can make the text larger or smaller, look up a dictionary definition, and read multiple books of one genre on one lightweight device. In addition, digital versions of books cost less than new printed copies.

“I’ve already got big plans for this fall,” said Perez. ”We’ve got to address electronic resources in our school libraries. If we don’t, we will become dinosaurs.”

Barnes and Noble will register the Nook e-Reader devices, create account groups, and customize bundles as required; purchasers can use a purchase order or government credit card. All versions of the Nook, including the Nook Color, Nook Simple Touch and Nook Simple Touch with Glowlight, are available via the Choice Partners cooperative purchasing contract 11/062DG-04.

Choice Partners purchasing cooperative is the only cooperative that has a cooperative purchasing  contract for the Nook. Ebooks are also available through contracts with Gallopade International, Gareth Stevens Publishing, and Rosen Publishing.

Members can access these contracts immediately. Go to www.choicepartners.org, login, then select contracts and then Barnes and Noble. Nonmembers who are outside of Texas just need to register to become members. Inside Texas, governmental entities need to register, download the interlocal contract,  have it signed by the governing body and return it to Choice Partners/HCDE.

For more information, contact Derek Gillard, Choice Partners purchasing cooperative contract manager, at 713-696-0786 or at Derek@choicepartners.org.

 

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Posted on November 12, 2012

Job order contracting provided a solution at Texas Tech Health Science Center in El Paso, where Vaughn Construction used their Choice Partners government contract to extend a parking lot and renovate the Regional Academic Health Center façade.

According to Luke Vaden, Vaughn Construction senior project manager, the space for the parking lot extension was to be created by demolishing a structure previously known as Tequila Frogs. As they progressed, it was discovered that the structure had a shared wall with another building that was made out of adobe brick, which was a building material more commonly used 100 years ago.

The adobe wall made the Job Order Contracting demolition more surgical in nature as some of the structure was built into the wall.  In order to protect the existing building, a CMU wall was built out from the Adobe wall and waterproofed and plastered, once demolition was complete.

The façade renovation included removing old sealants and resealing, cleaning calcium deposits from windows, and repainting. Normally this would be an easy process, especially using job order contracting, but the building was surrounded by sidewalks and the entrances could not be disrupted. To remedy this obstacle Vaughn worked closely with the Health Science Center staff to reroute traffic when appropriate and used tunnels to protect staff when entering and existing the building.

In order to get the job done on time and within budget, they used a legally awarded cooperative purchasing contract with Choice Partners for the Job Order Contracting project.






    

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Posted on November 1, 2012

Featured Contract

Terrazzo floors shine like mirrors with new process

Innovations in terrazzo floor care mean fewer chemicals and labor, while creating a glossy floor finish that lasts longer. Scott Uselman, High Point Sanitary Solutions, reports that the new diamond polishing process creates a shine on the terrazzo that can’t be duplicated.  The method produces beautiful, glossy floors without the labor, chemicals, equipment and time needed to scrub, strip, recoat with wax and buff.

“I couldn’t apply enough wax to get this much shine,” said Mr. Uselman.

Sheldon ISD used the new polishing method and saved significant dollars while also improving the appearance of their facilities. Christine Derryberry, Sheldon ISD coordinator for facilities and safety, credits Choice Partners contract holder High Point Sanitary Solutions, with making it possible to get a return on investment in just four months at the first campus where they tested the process. Mr. Uselman trained the Sheldon ISD custodial staff to do the job themselves, which worked perfectly, and cost less than half the estimate of $30 - $45,000.

“Scott is such an honest, good guy -- he has saved us a ton of money. Diamond polishing is probably the best thing we’ve done in this district,” said Derryberry. “The key was training our crew and doing it in-house.”

Because of that success, they have phased in the process district-wide, using up all the products they had on hand. Ms. Derryberry reports there is no wax on the floors in Sheldon ISD, yet the floors are so shiny they “look like a mirror.”  Having such glossy floors has made their high school look “like a million bucks,” according to Ms. Derryberry. She reported that recently someone was visiting the high school and couldn’t believe the facility was 50 years old.

“I just can’t recommend it enough,” said Ms. Derryberry. “It's very cost effective and the results are fabulous.”

Before diamond polishing was implemented, they had to purchase all the products needed – wax, stripper, special shoes – and then do the work to strip and recoat the floors. About every year someone fell on the slick floors, so there was also a related workers compensation expense.  Now that cost is gone and the floors are maintenance free, with the exception of the small riding scrubbers, which “does the work of about three people,” she said.

“Every time we ride the scrubber, it polishes the floor,” said Ms. Derryberry. “It looks like a mirror!”

With Scott's help, Sheldon ISD purchased a used machine to do the initial polishing, then was able to sell it for slightly more than they bought it.

She appreciates Scott’s help in recommending custodial products also. One product he suggested took the place of 17 others.

“He really is my advisor,” she said. “The stuff he has works.”

High Point Sanitary Solutions is working with other school districts in the Houston area, but the process works for courthouses, government buildings or wherever there is terrazzo.

“We teach clean,” said Mr. Uselman, “We will go anywhere we are needed.”

For more information about High Point Sanitary Solutions Choice Partners contract 09/017LB-B-03, call 713-694-8300 or email scott@highpointss.com.

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Posted on October 25, 2012

Obesity among children in the United States has become a serious problem. Rather than slowing down, obesity is on the rise.  U.S statistics reveal that approximately 12.5 million children are obese. Underlying medical issues such as diabetes, thyroid disease, and high blood pressure are contributed to these poorly chosen foods.


Bringing Healthier Foods into Schools


To combat the problem, this year the federal government issued new rules, which were finalized in October that mandated healthier food in schools. As part of the new rules, students must be served:


  • At least a half cup of a fruit or a vegetable at lunch every day

and be offered:

  • At least a half cup of one fruit and one vegetable daily,
  • Plus a dark green, red/orange or other vegetable weekly.


This change in the final rules was announced in October 2012. But anyone who knows kids realizes that serving something doesn’t mean it’s going to be eaten. Some students have fought the rules, posting photos of fruit and vegetables thrown in trash bins.


Choice Partners has selected best value food vendors and commodity processors to provide school cafeterias with high quality breakfast and lunch alternatives that are attractive to educators, parents and kids, and meet the new federal guidelines. 


Nutrition directors from local Head Start centers are using Choice Partners contracts to buy Tilapia fish, which provides high nutritional value food choices. Not only is Tilapia low in contaminants because it is fished from fresh waters, but kids also love it because of the remarkably "un-fishy" taste. 




Schools are also reducing the amount of carbohydrates they serve, such as bread and rice. Some of the food options offered by Choice Partners contracts are whole grain carbohydrates, such as whole wheat bread and brown rice, which meet the new federal guidelines. Commodity processors with cooperative purchasing contracts available through Choice Partners have also altered their recipes to include whole grains.


Choice Partners purchasing coop provides legal, competitively bid contracts for groceries, dairy products, breads, produce and other food products.  In the Houston area, schools serve more than 600,000 meals to students daily.  With the growing need for healthier foods, schools are turning to Choice Partners purchasing coop to fill the need for healthier cafeteria food.




Choice Partners has the opportunity to contract best value food vendors to provide the best choices for school cafeterias. Choice Partners cooperative purchasing contracts are not only cost saving for schools, but also provide excellent exposure for vendors that are awarded these contracts.




Choice Partners Hosts Its 11th Year Annual Food Expo


Choice Partners recently held their Annual Food Expo to provide school district nutrition directors and students the opportunity to taste and evaluate foods that are available through Choice Partners cooperative.  This year 171 school nutrition directors and staff and 348 students attended, sampling food from 54 commodity processors. Six food service equipment vendors with Choice Partners cooperative purchasing contracts also exhibited their wares.


As part of the expo, more than 2000 pounds of food was donated to a local food bank, Humble Area Assistance Ministries!


Choice Partners cooperative purchasing agency is a valuable resource for schools looking to provide healthier food choices for their students. Learn more about becoming a member with Choice Partners cooperative today!

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Posted on October 10, 2012

Choice Partners all-in-one purchasing cooperative allows government entities to access competitively bid contracts for Job Order Contracting with companies like Vaughn Construction.


At the University of North Texas Health Science Center in Fort Worth, Vaughn Construction has used their Choice Partners cooperative purchasing contract to help them with several Job Order Contracting projects to reconfigure and modernize space. Vaughn created a lecture hall with a sloped floor and elevated seating, created labs out of a storage room, and renovated space for faculty and administration offices.


Brian Jordan, UNTHSC construction manager, said one of the issues was working inside an occupied facility.


“We needed to get classrooms up and running in a short amount of time,” said Jordan.  “So that’s where using the Choice [Partners cooperative purchasing] contract [for Job Order Contracting] was most beneficial, in that we didn’t have to go through a time consuming bid process.”


They used Choice Partners legal, competitively bid and government-awarded contract with Vaughn Construction.  Jordan said the Job Order Contracting process also allowed them to move more quickly.


For the research lab project, Jordan said the biggest challenge was converting the HVAC for the small 1,500 sq. ft. storage room into five individual rooms, each with their own specific controls and their own HVAC requirements. The labs feature stainless steel casework, epoxy floors and a clean environment, with controlled air pressure and unique HVAC system.


Jordan said UNTHSC was pleased with the end result, as it was critical to have a controlled environment.


“If the environment is out of kilter it can have a huge impact on the results of these animal experiments,” said Jordan.  “This is one of the best functioning labs we have on campus, with respect to the performance of the pressure differentials within the lab space and maintaining constant temperature.”

For more information about Job Order Contracting or about the benefits of cooperative purchasing through Choice Partners, call 877-696-2122.

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Posted on September 1, 2012

Featured Contract

Vaughn Construction Completes JOC Project at UNT


Awarded contract holder Vaughn Construction has been using their Choice Partners contract at the University of North Texas Health Science Center and at Texas Tech Health Science Center.

At the University of North Texas Health Science Center in Fort Worth, Vaughn Construction has done several projects, including reconfiguring and modernizing space to create a lecture hall with a sloped floor and elevated seating, creating labs out of a storage room and renovating space for faculty and administration offices.

Brian Jordan, UNTHSC construction manager, said one of the issues was working inside an occupied facility.

“We needed to get classrooms up and running in a short amount of time,” said Jordan. “So that’s where using the Choice contract was most beneficial, in that we didn’t have to go through a time consuming bid process.”

The university used Choice Partners legal, competitively bid and government awarded contract with Vaughn Construction. Jordan said the Job Order Contracting (JOC) process also allowed them to move more quickly.

“You price it out in [RS] Means [price book] and we’re good to go,” said Jordan.

For the research lab project, Jordan said the biggest challenge was converting the HVAC for the small 1,500 sq. ft. storage room into five individual rooms, each with their own specific controls and their own HVAC requirements. The labs feature stainless steel casework, epoxy floors and a clean environment, with controlled air pressure and unique HVAC system.

Jordan said UNTHSC was pleased with the end result, as it was critical to have a controlled environment.

“If the environment is out of kilter it can have a huge impact on the results of these animal experiments,” said Jordan. “This is one of the best functioning labs we have on campus, with respect to the performance of the pressure differentials within the lab space and maintaining constant temperature.”

At Texas Tech Health Science Center in El Paso, Vaughn Construction projects included extending a parking lot and renovating the Regional Academic Health Center façade.

According to Luke Vaden, Vaughn Construction senior project manager, the space for the parking lot extension was to be created by demolishing a structure previously known as Tequila Frogs. As they progressed, it was discovered that the structure had a shared wall with another building that was made out of adobe brick, which was a building material more commonly used 100 years ago. The adobe wall made the demolition more surgical in nature as some of the structure was built into the wall. In order to protect the existing building, a CMU wall was built out from the Adobe wall and waterproofed and plastered, once demolition was complete.

The façade renovation included removing old sealants and resealing, cleaning calcium deposits from windows, and repainting. Normally this would be an easy process, but the building was surrounded by sidewalks and the entrances could not be disrupted. To remedy this obstacle, Vaughn worked closely with the HSC staff to reroute traffic when appropriate and used tunnels to protect staff when entering and existing the building.

Vaughn Construction offers a detailed and comprehensive approach to projects, with company owners and principals involved in every project.

“We like to say we combine sophisticated construction management techniques with the hands-on approach of a traditional general contractor,” said Tom Vaughn, chief executive officer of Vaughn Construction.

For more information about Vaughn Construction, go to www.vaughnconstruction.com or call Rodney Moore at 713-589-7400.

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Posted on June 4, 2012

June 4, 2012

To better assist members and optimize HCDE processes, HCDE’s three procurement cooperatives have been combined into Choice Partners Cooperative. Choice Facility Partners, the HCDE Purchasing Cooperative and the Gulf Coast Food Co-op have merged and are housed together at HCDE’s 6005 Westview Dr., Houston office, under the direction of Executive Director Les Hooper. Combining the contract procurement services for facilities, food, supplies and services will make it easier for client members to find the contracts they need.

Choice Partners will provide quality services, legal procurement and contract solutions for governmental entities, including school districts, private and charter schools, colleges and universities, municipalities, counties and nonprofits.

“Cooperative purchasing contracts are win-win-win,” said Hooper. “Our members benefit from the time and leveraged cost savings in procurement, our vendors benefit by having an awarded contract that has been competitively procured, and the cooperative wins by receiving a small percentage for their work in bidding, awarding and managing the contract.”

“I really believe this is going to improve our ability to serve our clients,” said John Sawyer, Ed.D., HCDE county superintendent.

During the transition to the combined cooperative effort and website www.choicepartners.org, members can continue to save money by accessing contracts at the above address, which connects members to contracts for choice facilities at www.choicepartners.org, for choice food at www.GulfCoastFoodCo-op.org and for choice supplies at www.HCDEPurchasingCooperative.org.

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