Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Emailing Councilwoman Patterson

A couple of weeks ago, after the Lessons from McKinley posting I emailed Councilwoman Patterson about the issues of management and oversight with her proposed DCPS capital spending plan.
Councilwoman Patterson,

Your plan for funding the capital improvements needed at DCPS has the day-to-day management of the improvements being managed internally by the school system. According to this article in the Washington Post DCPS is stating that "qualified staff members" have already been hired to do this. How many staff members are in position to manage these capital projects and what are their experience? i.e. do they have project management experience, especially with large civil rehab projects? If so, how much? Do any have construction management experience? If so, how much?

Thank you for your time.

Regards,

Nathan
A few days later Ms. Patterson replied:
Here are responses to your questions about Bill 16-250, the School Modernization Financing Act and, specifically, the school system's actions. This is based on meetings, hearing testimony, and other conversations with DCPS leaders. Thanks for your inquiry.

DCPS has indicated that they have several capacity building efforts underway. These efforts include the creation of functional areas within the Office of Facilities Management (OFM) for better management accountability, delivery of services and resource enhancement. Specifically, OFM efforts include: consolidating the role of Deputy Director as needed for program oversight over both the Operations and Capital programs; creating a contract services unit for contract management and service delivery accountability (3 positions); creating an energy management unit and developing a solicitation for energy performance contracting (4 new positions); establishing a Strategic Funding Opportunities Office (3 new positions); and building internal design -- architects and engineers -- capacity (10 new positions).

The Strategic Funding Opportunities Office will coordinate public private partnership development, an alternative financing mechanism employed by many school districts and something that holds great potential here in the District. An Acting Chief has been hired and 3 additional positions are expected to be filled in 2006.

Finally, DCPS is working with the business community to identify and develop ways in which the business sector can assist DCPS in managing its asset portfolio and to improve its facilities and project management.

Some of the efforts undertaken by OFM are already showing signs of success. The modernization of Brightwood Elementary School, the first modernization project done fully under DCPS control after ending the relationship with the US Army Corps of Engineers, is on-budget and on-time at $181 per square foot scheduled for opening of the 2006-2007 school year, according to DCPS officials.

As to your other questions regarding specific capabilities of staff hired by DCPS, you would have to direct those questions to DCPS. Both Tom Brady, Chief Business Operations Officer, and Cornell Brown, Director of the Office of Facilities Management are very experienced professionals -- I think it's safe to assume they know what qualifications are needed in the staff that they hire.

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