January 29, 2020 by HCDE-Texas
The unique story of Choice Partners–the Harris County Department of Education one-stop cooperative for facilities services, supplies and food–is best told through its loyal clients and vendors.
On Jan. 24, approximately 100 vendors and members were honored at Choice Partners’ annual appreciation luncheon. Guest speaker HCDE Superintendent James Colbert Jr. praised attendees for supporting public education through providing and utilizing competitively bid contracts with Choice Partners.
View photos: https://tinyurl.com/rf3tys7
“Today we provide even more services to area school districts and have lowered the tax rate five years in a row,” the superintendent said. “A lot of that is because of the vendors and members in this room today who work with us through Choice.”
Colbert pointed to the funds which flow from Choice and are leveraged to supply services to area school districts, including the new Fortis Academy, the county’s first free drug-and-alcohol recovery public high school.
Revenue generated through Choice has grown from $92 million 10 years ago to $343 million today, allowing for local tax rates to be lowered while pumping money into new education initiatives to serve Harris County students. Profits from Choice are unique in the fact that the funds go back to the education community, said Jeff Drury, Choice Partners director.
Co-op customer and member Rick Gay, procurement director with Spring Branch Independent School District, says his district uses Choice for its reasonable and competitive pricing and time-saving processes.
“Choice Partners gives us an opportunity to very quickly bring to end-users the materials and supplies they need on a day-to-day basis for us to get the job done, which is to educate our children,” Gay said. “Our mantra is every dollar we save is a dollar we return to the classroom.”
His district depends heavily on Choice for job order contracting which allows for small construction jobs or quick repairs: a door replacement, air-conditioning problems or painting.
“These JOC contracts are reasonable and easy-to-use and allow us to move quickly to solve a problem,” Gay said.
Vendor Facilities Sources was the top vendor honored at the luncheon. Company president David Terry said the competitively bid, line-item contracts available through Choice were critical during the rebuilding period, post-Harvey.
Humble Independent School District called Facilities Sources as a Choice Partners vendor. FEMA approval for repairing the 500,000 square-foot Kingwood High after the category five hurricane came quickly because of the transparent pricing.
“Pricing was established prior to the storm, so clients could be assured they weren’t getting some inflated, out-of-town contractor pricing,” said Terry. “It allowed students to be back into school within 90 days, whereas they thought they were going to lose an entire school year because of the damage from Harvey.”
As a cooperative, Terry said he values the Choice Partners reputation for servicing clients and auditing the process while maintaining the quality of vendors.
“That reputation helps you get in the door because our clients know it’s a valid co-op, a local co-op,” Terry said. “If they need something, HCDE is responsive to their needs.”
Spring Branch ISD director Gay said he is very satisfied with the service he gets from Choice, as well as the clear contracts and pricing.
“I would encourage everyone to take a look at co-ops in general, but Choice Partners is probably one of the premiere cooperatives out there,” he said. “Their customer service is second to none.”
For more information: https://www.choicepartners.org.