Client Spotlight: Pleasanton Unified

Client Spotlight: Pleasanton Unified

The Pleasanton Unified School District (PUSD) serves more than 14,000 K-12 students across 16 campuses. And, since 2019, VPCS has proudly served PUSD. The relationship we’ve built over the years with this client exemplifies the close connection we typically make with every district where we work. In Pleasanton, we’ve been given a fantastic opportunity to do what we’re famous for: bringing our A game; doing whatever it takes; doing more than what’s expected; delivering quality and integrity. Below are just a few of the elements of the fruitful connection between VPCS and PUSD.

Solid beginnings. Our relationship with PUSD began four years ago when the board approved our contract to serve as program manager (PM) and construction manager (CM) for the work associated with Measure I1, a $270 million general obligation bond passed by voters in November 2016. Our co-founder, Michael Van Pelt, remembers making the same foundational commitment to PUSD that we make with every client. “We stood in front of the PUSD board and assured them that we’d do everything they need and essentially become an extension of their family, which is exactly what we did,” says Mike, who serves as partner in charge for the PUSD assignment. “By keeping those projects under budget and on time, we were able to meet the needs of that bond and exceed the client’s expectations, which is a way to build trust not just with a district but also with a community,” he adds.

An expansion. The scope of our work with PUSD expanded this year when the district granted us the PM/CM contract for its most recent bond, Measure I, which will bring an additional $395 million worth of improvements to district campuses. According to VPCS Vice President Eric Van Pelt, who manages the PUSD engagement, this latest bond will fund marquee projects. “While Measure I1 mostly covered important infrastructure improvements, Measure I calls for significant deliverables – new theaters, athletic complexes, classroom buildings, transitional kindergarten centers and more – that will help bring the district’s facilities up to the same high level as its academic and athletic reputations,” says Eric. The work associated with Measure I, he notes, will serve the individual school communities as well as the community of Pleasanton as a whole, since the new performing arts and sports facilities will become local assets that everyone can enjoy.

A strong and consistent team. PUSD has come to rely on the VPCS employees who are dedicated to the needs of their district. Eric Van Pelt is at the helm and is very well supported by Senior Project Manager Mary Fitzpatrick, Senior Project Manager Minh Dao, Project Manager Jenny Choi, Project Manager Ben Kerr, Project Assistant Thida On and Administrative Assistant Merry Te. (Project Manager Edward Lee also worked on Measure I1.) It’s noteworthy that we have had zero VPCS team turnover since initiating our PUSD contract in 2019, which is extremely unusual in our industry – though not that unusual for Van Pelt teams. In the coming months, we will likely add to this roster to accommodate the increasing demands of the work brought on by Measure I. “I can’t say enough good things about the team we have in place in Pleasanton,” says Mike. “Every single one of them just does a fantastic job.”

A client commitment to collaboration. At the heart of our relationship with PUSD is a stellar team of professionals on the client side. We work very closely with every level of district leadership, integrating fully with their strategic and administrative operations. “PUSD is just a fabulous client with a very clear vision, which creates a solid platform for us to do what we need to do,” reports Eric. “It’s also a bonus that several people we report to are very knowledgeable about construction, which allows them to be even further engaged and adds to the collaborative spirit.”

An involved community. The citizens of Pleasanton are at the heart of what we do in their district. When they said yes to Measure I1 in 2016, it was the first time in 20 years that a local school bond had passed. Then they said yes once more to Measure I in 2022. The fact that VPCS is overseeing both of these bond programs is a responsibility we take very seriously because we understand the kind of impact facilities improvements can have on an entire city. Plus, we know the people of Pleasanton are counting on us to be good financial stewards of their bond funds.

Our legendary practice of going above and beyond. Every day with every client, we lean on our tried-and-true “whatever it takes” philosophy. One example of how we’ve applied that philosophy in Pleasanton occurred during the early months of COVID-19. We’d just begun our district-wide Measure I1 efforts when the pandemic forced school closures. “Since construction projects were allowed to continue, we took the closures as an opportunity not just to keep working but to accelerate our pace since we could work on totally closed campuses,” recalls Eric. “We really pushed the gas pedal and shortened the time frame on just about every one of our PUSD projects. That meant a budget surplus for the district, which allowed them to do a few more projects with the Measure I1 funds.” Eric is also fond of recounting the story of when data cables were inadvertently cut by a worker at one of PUSD’s schools two days before students were scheduled to return to campus in September of this year. “All of a sudden, there was no internet or phone connection; it would have been impossible to conduct school business,” Eric explains. “But our team rallied and we spent about 30 straight hours on Saturday and Sunday literally hooking up data cables and making sure they worked (which was not at all in our scope of business) – all so those students and staff could come to school Monday morning and find a functioning communication system.” All in a day’s work for the PUSD team. Eric sums it up best when he says, “It’s just about giving the kids what they deserve.”

October 30, 2023