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FF&E team busy outfitting schools with items they need

2013 February 21
by HISD Communications

Every work environment has special furniture needs, and HISD classrooms are no exception.

Items used in a learning environment include everything from student and teacher desks to science lab stations, bookshelves, and cabinets.

The Construction and Facilities Services’ Furniture, Fixture, and Equipment (FF&E) department makes sure every district office or common area is properly supplied.  The manager of FF&E, Cheryl Hughes, has been with the district for more than 34 years. She says her three-person team is always planning ahead to meet deadlines and deliver all required items on time to outfit a school, a task that is especially important as work under the 2012 school bond gets started.

“We start three to six months in advance of the proposed delivery date for a school’s furniture and equipment. This is when we sit down with the principal and pore over the catalogs to choose the right furniture and equipment,” she said.

Lorraine Texada is the official buyer of office items that can come from as many as 14 different vendors for a new or renovated school. Keeping track of the orders is a time-intensive task that requires much organization.

“I scrutinize the goods and services that we purchase through our Procurement department,” Texada said. “Although every order is complex, that doesn’t stop me from negotiating with the vendor to make sure we are getting the best possible price and accurately paying for only those items we purchased.”

The paperwork can be staggering for just one school. The costs, while discounted, can run in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. FF&E secretary Maria Cruz handles the requisitions for the furniture and equipment that is ordered for each campus.

“We used to process only construction requisitions, but now we also do facility services,” Cruz said.  “Just one requisition can be as high as $300,000.”

The team has been known to physically help out with the deliveries of furniture items to schools in order to meet tight deadlines. They often face changing weather and complicated coordination of schedules between school openings and vendor delivery timelines.

Over the summer, the team dealt with the theft of equipment destined for Lewis Elementary during a rush to supply 11 schools over the course of four weeks.

“Our vendors really came through for us then, and we were able to put all the necessary items in the school within a few extra days,” Hughes said.

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