Nobody knows better than Phyllis Silverstein the staggering amount of documentation that’s tied to a school bond program. Since she joined us in 2018, she’s been one of our key team members whose job it is to keep things running smoothly in the San Rafael City Schools (SRCS), where we serve as the program manager (PM) for the $269 million district-wide improvements made possible by Measures A and B, passed in 2016.

Managing a mountain of digital and physical paperwork isn’t easy. But Phyllis makes it look that way. We asked her a few questions about this very important part of her job.

Q: What are the types of documents that are typically associated with a school bond program?

PS: Oh gosh. There are so many. To start with, there are documents related to the specific projects being completed in the district as part of the bond program – so that could be the general contractor files and any documents associated with those, as well as legal documents specific to individual projects. There’s paperwork associated with bids, requests for qualifications and proposals (RFQPs), and materials that advertise the RFQPs, There’s correspondence; meeting notes; drawings and specs we get from the architect, along with the version officially approved by the DSA (the Division of the State Architect); there are close-out documents, including the “as-built” drawings as well as warranties and guarantees; there are mailers and the mailing lists and labels we use to send information to neighborhoods; there are monthly reports that go out to different audiences; and of course there are lots of schedules and plans associated with each project.

Then there are the program-level documents. We place those in our “general” files even if they relate to specific projects. That category includes things like the key logs (such as the Department of Industrial Relations – or “DIR” – project ID number, the project tracking numbers, etc.), school board items, all program-level communications, and documents related to when we’re trying to find vendors.

We need to know exactly where all of those documents are at any time, whether they’re project- or program-related, partly because they’re all part of the public record. Also, since we sometimes apply for grants or state funds, there’s correspondence associated with that. Then, of course, we catalog the final documents for each project completed within the bond.

On top of all that, there are agendas, minutes, and reports associated with each of the Citizens’ Bond Oversight Committee (CBOC) meetings. And a variety of photos that have to be documented whether or not they go into our monthly or annual reports.

I could go on, but you get the idea. In a nutshell, there are many, many documents.

Q: How do you keep track of it all?

PS: Most of it is digital, so it all gets housed on a secure Google Drive, which everyone on the team can access and add to if needed. That includes our client (SRCS’s senior director of capital facilities), the projects’ construction managers, the maintenance department, and others. Patti Llamas and I are the VPCS employees who oversee the drive and she does all of the invoicing, accounting, budgets, etc. So she and I are jointly responsible for making sure all the paperwork in the files gets organized properly.

There’s definitely a trend toward electronic records, but we do also keep hard copies of many of the documents. We find that clients sometimes like to have access to those physical files, so we’re happy to provide those whenever they’re needed.

Q: What happens to all these documents when your work is done?

PS: Eventually, when the program is complete and VPCS has wrapped up our duties as PM, we turn everything over to the district.

Q: Is there any roadmap for how to organize all of this, or did you come up with your own system?

PS: There’s definitely no manual that tells you how to do this, although VPCS has a solid baseline system that we all rely on and adapt to suit each program. Plus, Patti was a huge help when I first arrived on this program; she showed me the ropes. Since then, I’ve developed a few additional tricks that help me stay organized. I’ve created some templates so I don’t have to reinvent every wheel when it comes to core documents related to projects. And I maintain a lot of logs.

Mostly, I try to prepare as much as I can in advance. For example, I can get emails written or paperwork ready ahead of time then fill in the pertinent details at the last minute so we can get things out the door immediately, which is often what’s required in this business. For me, doing that prep is the key to being organized.

I’m a naturally organized person, but even I had to step up my game to keep track of all the documents associated with this bond. It’s challenging, which is part of why I like it. And I know that maintaining orderly files is just one more way to deliver on the VPCS promise of quality and transparency.

March 21, 2022