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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Is This Purchase Legal? Top 5 Answers for Purchasing Professionals

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 or call 877-696-2122.

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Follow Purchasing Law for Facilities Services

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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Funding Forecast for Legislative Session

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  For more information on HCDE, go to

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Custodial Managers Study Leadership

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.”

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 or call 877-696-2122.

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Healthy Options Showcased for Child Nutrition

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
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Exterior Facility Cleaning Handled Easily

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 or call Richard Davis at 713-876-0786.

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