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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Vendor Spotlight

Commodity Processing: What's for Lunch?

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 or contact Trisha Jensen at

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Three Options Available for Summer Facilities Work

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 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.

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Improving New Building Efficiency, Economy and Delivery Begins With Owners

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, or contact Lookabaugh at or 281-386-6042.



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Library Collaboration Checks Out

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 or call 888-689-5489.  

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2015-2016 Supply Contracts Active

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

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.

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.

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.

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  Become a member so you can use this best value pricing!

Harris County Department of Education

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Facility Trending

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 The HCDE Facility Trending team has been performing analyses for school districts for the past three years through Harris County Department of Education.

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