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Vendor Spotlight

K12 Alerts Notifications

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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Tommy Klein Construction

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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Third Coast Fresh

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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Members Manage Fuel Costs

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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High Point Sanitary Solutions

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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University JOC Projects

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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