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Leading the Way: School District Plays It Smart When Building New Tech Center

Projects by Design® offers turnkey solution for furnishing new schools

As the new construction consultant for Jessamine County Schools in Nicholasville, Ky., Pete Royse spent most workdays managing thousands of details involving the building of the Jessamine Career & Technology Center (JCTC), which was scheduled to open in Aug. 2006.

During the several-year project, there were construction delays, budget challenges, coordination difficulties-all typical problems of building a new school. But one aspect he didn't need to worry about was furnishing the building.

Back in the old days, administrators worked with their staff to make sure each room in their new school would be equipped with exactly the right amount of furniture and equipment. It was a labor-intensive process that consumed hundreds of staff hours and demanded technical know-how that not many possessed.

That all changed roughly 10 years ago, when the district discovered a unique service called Projects by Design? (PbD) that was offered by School Specialty Education Essentials (SSEE), a division of School Specialty based in Greenville, Wis. PbD is a turnkey service that handles all aspects of furnishing every single classroom, meeting room, multipurpose room, office and lunchroom throughout a school. Since the district had so much success with PbD at a previous school, Royse says school officials decided once again to rely on PbD's professional expertise.

"I have not seen any other company entirely take care of your interior furnishings."

"Other companies have shown an interest in this but School Specialty is the only one I know of that offers the complete package," says Royse. "I have not seen any other company entirely take care of your interior furnishings."

The service involves a five-step process: In this situation, Jim Biles, the company's territory manager, teamed up with his local project coordinator, Paul Sanders. The pair met with administrators, teachers and techies to conduct a needs assessment for each of the school's 59 rooms. Since this wasn't a typical school, requests went beyond desks and chairs, including items like hospital beds and an eye wash station. Then they presented computer-aided drawings of each space and a master list of roughly 250 different pieces of furniture and equipment to Royse, the district's superintendent, Lu Young, and the new school's principal, Dexter Knight.

After the drawing and list were approved, Biles and Sanders met with district officials for step two--a budget analysis--where they reviewed options for each product that matched the school's design, purpose and desired quality and price. Once completed, then SSEE moved on to the next two steps: assisting in preparing a bid document, which the district sent to 15 different companies and, after all bids were submitted, assisting in developing a summary of the bids.

In this scenario, School Specialty Education Essentials won the entire job because its bid was the lowest, coming in at $9,000 under the school's budget of $345,000.

For the next six months, Royse was able to step back and let School Specialty Education Essentials handle the rest. During this last phase-project management-SSEE took care of everything from freight claims to special installations. Besides being a huge time-saver, Royse says the entire service was free. SSEE performs the first four steps at no charge, then completely manages whatever portion of the bid it receives.

What's more, the quality of the furniture and overall service was "most excellent", adds Principal Knight. He tells the tale of how construction delays required the company's installation crew to set up furniture the day before the school opened. Everything was in place by the time its 800 students arrived the following morning.

"School Specialty Education Essentials has always been receptive to our needs and exceeded everybody's expectations," says Knight. "I couldn't be happier."

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