The Votes Are In. Now What?

The Votes Are In. Now What?

The 2022 election cycle has come to a close. In many California communities, voters were asked to support local K-12 school bonds. For districts whose bond measures passed, this is roll-up-the-sleeves time. As experienced program managers (PMs), VPCS has seen many school districts through this process, providing guidance and support to ensure a smooth process within our clients’ communities.

At VPCS, we follow best practices in everything we do. When it comes time to help school districts implement strategies after local bond measures pass, here are some of the keys to our advice:

Form your citizens’ bond oversight committee (CBOC).

If your district passed a Proposition 39 bond, which requires 55% of the vote to pass, California law requires that you form a CBOC. If yours was a Proposition 47 bond, which can pass with only 67% percent of the vote, CBOCs are not legally stipulated – but are still highly recommended. Work closely with your PM team and your legal counsel to ensure that you are meeting your statutory obligations as well as your community’s needs by forming this committee and drafting its formal bylaws.

Consider your CBOC roster.

CBOCs are made up of local community members, school board representatives, district administrators and other stakeholders. Together, these individuals are responsible for ensuring that taxpayer dollars are properly allocated through the life of the bond. If your district recently passed its bond, you should immediately begin recruiting CBOC volunteer members, each of whom will need to be formally appointed by your school board. Work closely with your legal counsel to ensure your CBOC formation efforts comply with the Proposition 39 bond statute and the Ralph M. Brown Act.

Create a CBOC website.

Build a dedicated online home for your CBOC. This will be the single source of details, resources and status updates for everything related to your bond. Since there is specific language that must be used (and avoided) on CBOC sites, this is another task that should be done with the help of experienced PMs and reviewed by legal counsel.

Develop a preliminary implementation plan.

Now that you know the amount of bond funds that passed, it’s time to lay out a tiered plan that maps out how and when to put those dollars to work in your district. Of course, this means prioritizing projects based on your district’s established goals. Unfortunately, there is almost always more need than funding, so not everything can likely get accomplished. An experienced PM team can help determine how to allocate those taxpayer dollars most effectively, particularly when voters are expecting specific results based on campaign promises. Implementation plans are living documents that can and should be updated at least annually to ensure that they still align with board priorities, community expectations, legislative requirements, etc.

Start some projects.

Depending on the size of your bond, your larger projects may take some time to get off the ground. However, you can always dive right in with smaller elements of your plan to show your community that you’re hitting the ground running. Improve a stretch of frontage, repaint a building or make a small enhancement to a campus. Do things that are needed and covered by your overall budget, but won’t get in the way of bigger projects to come. While you’re at it, post a sign that reminds your constituents that their tax dollars are already hard at work.

Establish a bond program schedule.

Create a bond program schedule that overlaps with other funding opportunities, including potential future state bonds. The Coalition for Adequate Student Housing (CASH) and the California Building Industry Association (CBIA) are both predicting that a statewide bond will hit ballots in 2024, so districts should begin tracking that potential cash flow now. This is especially critical when local bond funds fall short of a district’s total demonstrated need.

Work with experts.

Passing a bond is cause for celebration, but nothing to take lightly. With seasoned, trustworthy partners on your district’s team, you are in a stronger position to deliver what voters have asked for and students deserve. Please contact VPCS if we can be of service.

 

November 28, 2022

Document Prep for the New Year: Four Tips for School Districts

Document Prep for the New Year: Four Tips for School Districts

The end of the calendar year is when school districts begin to think about the tasks – particularly related to paperwork and documentation – that need to be done to ensure that everything is in order prior to kicking off a new year. With 2023 right around the corner, VPCS is here to help. Perhaps your district has a new bond measure on the November ballot. If not, you might be part-way through a bond program. Or maybe your district is gearing up for capital improvements. Whatever your district’s current situation, this is the time to do some important housekeeping so you’re ready for the coming year.

We work closely with our client districts to help them prepare their annual documents for any and all upcoming capital improvement projects. Because when the paperwork is in proper order, it smooths the way for everything that follows.

Members of the VPCS team just returned from the Coalition for Adequate School Housing (CASH) 2022 Fall Conference, where this was one of the topics on the agenda. Here are four key takeaways from those discussions – actions that school districts can take now to hit the ground running in 2023:

1. Update your prequalification and CUPCCAA lists.

Make sure that your lists of prequalified and California Uniform Public Construction Cost Accounting Act (CUPCCAA) contractors are up to date. (And if you’re not already using CUPCCAA, we highly recommend it, as it greatly streamlines the procurement process.) Keeping these lists current allows existing contractors to verify the accuracy of their information, while also opening up your list to potential new vendors.

2. Review your PM/CM and architect pools for RFQs.

If it’s been a few years since you last distributed an RFQ – or if a pandemic has occurred in the meantime – it might be time to take a fresh look at the vendor lists from which you typically draw. The state requires that pools for key consultants, including architecture and program/construction management firms, be updated every five years, so keeping those pools current is critical to securing state funding for projects. Of course, if your district has a new bond program coming out, you’ll want your RFQs to align with the anticipated projects so you’re in the best position to line up the right consultants for the work. And the sooner you update your RFQs, the more quickly you can begin effectively planning upcoming projects.

3. Button up your bid packages’ content.

Every year, the state codes change. So, too, does the language that needs to be used in bid documents. It’s critical to work closely with your legal counsel and program managers to stay up to date on how to craft and communicate your district’s needs and ensure adherence to proper procurement processes. This is a clear best practice priority that can dramatically improve the likelihood of your district’s success.

4. Time your bids properly.

The best time to bid your district’s projects is early in the calendar year, which means preparing them now. This will allow you to line up your teams well in advance of the end of the school year so construction work can go at full steam during the summer months. It also clears the path for you to begin the process again as 2023 winds down and you begin the cycle all over again to gear up for 2024.

At VPCS, our top priority is supporting our districts with best practices – whether we’re overseeing facilities improvements or facilitating the process of preparing for new bond cycles. We are firmly committed to doing what is best for our clients, including helping them identify the most qualified vendors. We’re not happy unless our districts feel confident that they’re in good hands.

October 25, 2022

Why Local Bond Initiatives Are Good for California

Why Local Bond Initiatives Are Good for California

November is just around the corner, which means it’s almost time for Californians to go to the polls. Election season is especially important to those of us in school construction because it’s when voters cast their ballots for school bond measures for K-12 and community college districts.

In the upcoming November 8, 2022 elections, there will be 100 separate general obligation (GO) bond measures for K-12 school and community college districts on the ballots throughout the state, according to data from the Coalition for Adequate School Housing (CASH).

In California, the Local Control Funding Formula (which has been in effect since 2013) allocates dollars for general operational costs at the state’s public schools. However, very little, if any, of those funds end up being available for facilities construction. That’s why GO bonds are so important, as they are earmarked specifically for facilities construction projects within individual districts.

Among our current district clients whose communities have GO bond measures on the upcoming ballot are:

  • Napa Valley Unified School District: Measures A1 and A2
  • Pleasanton Unified School District: Measure I
  • Calistoga Joint Unified School District: Measure B
  • East Side Union High School District: Measures G, E, I, Technology I and Z

If passed, these initiatives – and other comparable bond measures from elsewhere in the state – would provide funding for critical pre-planning, master planning and construction efforts for new and modernized school facilities. Additionally, these types of bond-funded projects would contribute to job growth throughout California.

At VPCS, we do whatever we can to support California’s GO school bond measures, whether or not they target our client districts. That’s one of the many reasons we’re so active in organizations such as CASH (including its Legislative Advisory Committee and its School Facilities Leadership Academy), the California Association of School Business Officials (CASBO) and the Community College Facility Coalition.

We understand that our public educational agencies are under-funded at both the state and the federal levels and that the only way to raise the funds necessary to build and improve facilities is to garner local support.

Supporting school bond measures helps strengthen communities. It’s a way for local taxpayers to show K-12 and community college districts that they are willing to invest in their own communities, bolster local economies by creating construction jobs and solidify California’s public education mission. Most importantly, it demonstrates a commitment to achievement for students of all ages.

For all these reasons and more, VPCS believes in the promise of local bond initiatives. We hope to see you at the polls.

October 5, 2022

How We Spent Our Summer Break

How We Spent Our Summer Break

Late August is always an exciting time on K-12 campuses as teachers, staff, students and families prepare for the start of a new school year. But for those of us in school construction, it’s the end of a very busy season. We work hard all year round, but summertime is when we really kick things into high gear. We pride ourselves on not disrupting activities on occupied campuses, so once schools begin to empty out in June, we really get going.

The summer of 2022 was certainly no exception. Our fantastic K-12 teams have spent the past couple of months helping to transform schools throughout Northern California. In little more than 60 days, we’ve completed more than $72 million worth of projects in 11 different districts. That means new and improved classrooms, upgraded equipment, safer learning environments, and more – all to benefit the districts we serve and the kids we’re here to support.

To get a sense of what all that effort looks like, we asked team leaders to tell us how they spent the past couple of months.

Pleasanton Unified School District. We were quite busy completing nearly $30 million worth of work in Pleasanton, where we touched 16,320 square feet, including finishing one brand new school. A big piece of our work was completing a $19 million heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) and roofing project and improving fire alarm systems at six sites. (The accompanying image shows a rooftop at Fairlands Elementary part-way through the replacement process.) VPCS Vice President Eric Van Pelt praises Project Manager (PM) Jenny Choi, who did a great job overseeing the HVAC and roofing effort.

Napa Valley Unified School District. We completed modernizations at two sites in this district (American Canyon Middle School and the Napa Valley Language Academy), completing approximately $16.3 million worth of work across 280,000 square feet. We demoed existing buildings, performed dry rot repairs, painted, installed new HVAC systems, reroofed, made accessibility upgrades, and more. PM Jennifer Kerr worked closely with Arntz Builders and PBK Architects, who helped introduce the district to its first design-build project at American Canyon Middle School and have been great partners throughout the process.

Windsor Unified School District. We kicked off the summer by moving out more than 50 classrooms at two sites, relocating them into 12 temporary portables and 17 brand new classrooms in the new school building that will open in the fall of 2023 (complete with 1200 yards of new concrete poured into its foundation!). We also re-arranged some of the district’s campuses to accommodate Windsor’s new transitional kindergarten program. PM Brian Cameron says there’s been great team coordination among the district, contractors and architects, all of whom have helped deliver this $14 million effort.

Atwater Elementary School District. Twenty-five classrooms were built or modernized across 15,000 square feet, and 15 new HVAC units were installed. Total budget: $4,400,000. Senior PM Mary Ann Duggan says there’s a lot of excitement in the local community about these improvements and she wants to say a special thank you to the general contractor, CT Brayton & Sons, who kept things going while managing multiple projects simultaneously.

San Jose Unified School District. VPCS PM Mohammed Mhanna reports that all $4,125,000 worth of 2022 summertime projects in San Jose were completed on time and within budget, in spite of ongoing supply chain hiccups that were out of our control. We worked on a total of approximately 56,000 square feet over the summer season throughout the district and Mohammed says Stronger Building Services really stepped up to the plate.

Berkeley Unified School District. With students away for the summer, our team was able to complete the top-to-bottom $1,040,000 renovation of this district’s 1687 square foot culinary classroom. Here, too, supply chain delays have been an issue, but we finally received delivery on all the equipment required to replace the classroom’s large appliances. VPCS PM Eduardo Rivera-Garcia praises the team, particularly the superintendent at W.A. Thomas, Inc., whose careful scheduling of subs helped deliver the project on time.

Calistoga Joint Unified School District. In Calistoga, we’ve been busy with a variety of small projects at numerous sites, for a combined total of $1,000,000 worth of work spread out across 4500 square feet. We tackled plumbing, insulation, flooring, paint, parking lots, classroom conversions, lunch shelters, and more. We even began an upgrade to the district-wide IT system. Project Assistant Melanie Griffiths is extremely proud of the VPCS team and its partners, all of whom pitched into the collaborative effort, doing whatever it took to come through on this multi-faceted assignment.

Cloverdale Unified School District. Our Cloverdale summer season was faster paced than most, as the $300,000 worth of work did not officially get approved until the June school board meeting, so we needed to go into hyperdrive as soon as we got the assignment. Still, that’s what we do so we got right to it. We were able to make improvements across 3000 square feet of classroom and campus spaces in time for the return of students and staff. VPCS PM Kevin Little appreciates Wright Contracting’s commitment to quality and efficiency, which made this success possible.

Old Adobe Union School District. Here, we were asked to construct two new parking areas for parents and staff and have them ready in time for the August start of the new school year. Things got a little tight when certain required elements came in later than expected, but the team jumped on it as soon as everything was available. VPCS PM Kevin Little thanks JL Construction for going above and beyond the call of duty and helping deliver both parking areas – a combined 5000 square feet – by the deadline.

Piner-Olivet Union School District. We’ve had a busy summer in western Santa Rosa, where we’ve been working on a variety of projects. From landscaping to marquee work and adding fresh coats of paint to structures throughout the district, we completed all $650,000 worth of work well in time to welcome back students and staff. Melanie Griffiths, who oversaw this effort in addition to the Calistoga work, wants to thank Jennifer Gibb, our new director of business development, who jumped in to help with last-minute details on behalf of this district. At VPCS, it takes a village!

August 25, 2022

 

 

 

Introducing Jennifer Gibb, VPCS’s New Director of Business Development

Introducing Jennifer Gibb, VPCS’s New Director of Business Development

Big news from the VPCS home office: We’re excited to announce that Jennifer Gibb has joined our ranks as our inaugural director of business development. We talked with Jennifer and VPCS Vice President Kelli Van Pelt Jurgenson about this exciting new addition to the firm’s leadership team.

Q:  What’s the best way to describe this new role?

JENNIFER: Van Pelt has always valued its relationships in this industry, both with clients and partners. My job as director of business development will be to shine light on those strengths and weave them into the strategy for future growth. I’ll be contributing to the larger effort of being thoughtful about how we expand our reach to build the business, but also building our internal team to support that growth. Getting new clients is one thing, but it’s critical to have the right internal players who support the company’s core values.

Q:  What’s your professional background, Jennifer? 

JENNIFER: I’ve been on the client side of this business, having run a bond program for a large school district. So I know what owners want and need from CMs and PMs. I’ve also worked for a school planning consultancy, so I’ve seen this industry from just about every angle. I’m a graduate of the CASH [Coalition for Adequate School Housing] School Facilities Leadership Academy and am certified by CASBO [the California Association of School Business Officials] as a Chief Business Official. Plus, I have a degree in business with a concentration in finance, and you can’t do construction without understanding how projects get funded.

Q:  What are your professional superpowers?

JENNIFER: Well, first, I’m a connector; a professional relationship builder. I naturally know how to find ways to bring the right people to the table. I might not know all the answers to every question that comes up, but I know who to ask so everyone gets the information they need. I’m able to make things happen for clients and partners because I’ve worked hard to cultivate relationships throughout the industry. The other thing I bring is a deep background in finance. I understand the complexities of how public works projects are funded at every stage – from planning to close-out to occupancy.

Q:  What is it about VPCS that made you want to join this team?

JENNIFER:  We share all the same values. They care more about their clients and employees than anything else, and that’s how I’ve always operated. They’re willing to go above and beyond, which really speaks to me because that’s how I work too. I’m really solutions-oriented, and that’s exactly how everyone at VPCS approaches things. My job is to support this company’s growth in a way that allows existing clients to feel fully taken care of and internal teams to feel fully engaged. In other words, growth is okay if you have a strategic plan behind it. I’m excited to be a part of a growing company that is taking the steps to grow internally as well. That’s why I feel so at home here. VPCS cares deeply about its clients and employees.

Q:  How does Jennifer’s appointment and her job responsibilities reflect the company’s commitment to strategic growth, Kelli?

KELLI:  In the past, business development has been a group effort among our staff and core leadership. As our firm grows, we want the opportunity to deliver our services to as many districts as possible while also maintaining the strong relationships we already have with existing clients, colleagues and business partners. Building our clientele doesn’t just help VPCS; it provides a richer experience and set of services for our clients. When we develop a larger network, it’s something all of our clients can benefit from.

Q:  Why is Jennifer the best person for this role?

KELLI:  When we created the business development director position, we wanted someone with real world expertise. We wanted the person talking about our services to actually know how those services are provided and personally know the business partners we work with. Jennifer brings a wide network of business connections from her years of experience in the K-12 construction industry, both as an owner and a vendor. We feel very fortunate to have someone on our team who is so well respected in the industry. Jennifer’s deep connections with CASH and CASBO are also very consistent with VPCS’s values. She’ll help us to support further advocacy for school facilities at the state level.

Q:  What drives you in your work life, Jennifer?

JENNIFER:  The same things that drive everyone at VPCS: We’re here to help districts align their resources to the most pressing local needs, then implement plans to meet those needs in ways that benefit kids. When children have better facilities, cleaner air to breathe, more comfortable learning environments, infrastructure that supports nutritional programs – all of it helps improve student achievement. For me, it always comes back to the kids. We can all be thought partners and work together for the betterment of kids.

July 25, 2022

Project Spotlight: The CORE Building at CSUEB

Project Spotlight: The CORE Building at CSUEB

We always enjoy delivering spectacular projects to our clients, and the new CORE Building on the Hayward campus of California State University East Bay (CSUEB) is certainly no exception. Work is nearly complete on this state-of-the-art, $85 million, 100,000 square feet, LEED Gold structure, which will serve as the new heart of the campus.

The CORE Building will replace and expand upon the functions of CSUEB’s original library while adding new collaborative spaces that connect the upper and lower sections of campus. Here’s what can be found on the building’s three levels:

  • Ground floor: Collaboration zones and innovation labs, including the Hub for Entrepreneurship
  • Second floor: A modern new library that helps students research and navigate the information age economy; study spaces inside and on the exterior roof deck
  • Third floor: The peer-led Student Center for Academic Achievement (SCAA); an enclosed lounge space; study carrels; a meditation area

We’re proud to have helped bring the CORE to life, given the very special relationship between VPCS and the CSU system. Back when we were just getting started 25 years ago, they gave us a chance to show what we were capable of by hiring us for our first major contract. Since then, we’ve delivered more than 60 major capital projects for CSU, managing work at six of the system’s 23 campuses. On the Hayward campus alone, we’ve worked on numerous projects since 2006.

“The experience VPCS brings by having done so much work for the CSU system is really valuable, since CSU has its own processes and procedures when it comes to capital projects,” says Quan Lee, our senior project manager on the CORE Building site. “CSU keeps coming back to VPCS because of that experience. VPCS just has such a good understanding of the CSU process and how projects of any size should be managed on behalf of this client, which helps things go smoothly.”

We fully expected to construct the CORE Building while university activities were in full swing, adapting to the needs of students and faculty – and, most importantly, staying out of their way. In fact, we’re known for our ability to keep a low profile on an occupied campus. But the timing of this project lightened that load somewhat, as we broke ground in early 2020, just two months before the pandemic closed the campus. So construction continued on a mostly empty site until classes resumed in the fall of 2021, at which point we adjusted back to our routine of working on a busy campus. A dedication celebration was held last month, and we expect to wrap up our work on the project soon.

When it comes to the impact this project will have, Quan sums it up nicely: “Partly because of its size and also because it sits right in the center of campus, the CORE Building is going to be the new focal point of CSUEB. It’s going to help make this a very dynamic university campus.”

Check out a fly-through animation of the CORE Building here and a timelapse video of the project’s construction by clicking on the “Time-Lapses” button here.

 

June 27, 2022