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Big Mission, Bold Plans

In Houston, being the in-plant for the nation’s seventh-largest school system means thinking inside and outside a very large box.

September 2009 By Patrick Henry
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PROVIDING SERVICES of any kind to the Houston Independent School District (HISD) means thinking big—there's simply no other way to approach the task.

Educating more than 220,000 students in a 301-square-mile network of elementary, middle and high schools, HISD is the seventh-largest public school system in the nation and the largest in Texas. With an annual budget in excess of $1.6 billion and a work force of more than 28,000 full- and part-time employees, HISD is a producer and a consumer of services on a truly Texas-sized scale.

For the in-plant that caters to HISD's prodigious printing requirements, thinking big comes naturally. So does thinking boldly.

The HISD Printing Services department offers its primary customer an array of offset and digital output services—but it defines its mission much more ambitiously than that:

• The in-plant prints for customers other than HISD in a competitive insourcing program that now accounts for about one-quarter of its budget.

• By marketing itself as a provider of facilities management (FM) services for other organizations (like the City of Houston), HISD Printing Services competes directly with the brand-name behemoths of the FM niche (see sidebar).

• The in-plant has a track record of achieving six-figure savings in copier fleet management, and is even handling fleet management for other school districts.

• By building capability in digital document management and other ancillary services, the in-plant is preparing itself for the day when even a customer with an appetite for print as hearty as HISD's will come to depend less on hard copy and more on electronic alternatives.

Much of this out-of-the-box thinking has arisen during the tenure of Charlotte "Charlie" Holden, HISD's director of Administrative Services. Holden, who joined HISD 17 years ago as a production manager, has been in her present position for one year, following the retirement of the previous director, Steve Blakely. She was promoted to the post after serving as supervisor of business services, a role in which she oversaw and marketed the department's FM and copier fleet activities.

Hub and Spokes

The multi-location Printing Services department, a branch of Administrative Services, consists of the main printing plant at 228 McCarty Drive; a copy center at the HISD administration building; and a copy center at the affiliated Spring Branch ISD, also in Houston. Together, the facilities are staffed by 36 people working in a total of 15,500 square feet of production space. Most of the volume is produced at the McCarty plant, a 13,000-square-foot facility that operates two shifts a day. It runs six days a week during the preparatory summer months and five when class is in session.

 

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