Mesa Public Schools’ in-plant uplifts students and district employees through eco-friendly, education-driven operations.April 2011 By Dawn Greenlaw-Scully
OUR CORE business isn't necessarily printing, it's educating students," declares Bill King, Supervisor of Printing and Publishing at Mesa Public Schools. "We ask ourselves, 'How can we shape our operation to mirror the core values of the school district?' "
Yet the in-plant of the largest school district in Arizona is all business when it comes to printing. The shop generates approximately 32 million impressions annually to fulfill the needs of more than 10,000 employees and 65,000 students. It also insources work from non-profit organizations and other school districts.
Ten employees (nine full-time and one part-time) work out of an 8,000-square-foot plant located in a school administration building near downtown Mesa. The in-plant does not have the right of first refusal, but still produces about 90 percent of the district's printing in-house, King says. It outsources only the services that aren't available on site, counting on valued vendor partners.
"We don't do coiling in-house," he explains. "We also send out letterpress work and die-cutting."
In the in-plant, about two-thirds of the work is produced digitally, versus one-third offset. Jobs include NCR forms, business and stationery products, newsletters and budget reports. The department counts on variable data capabilities to generate report cards and progress reports, as well as registration forms.
Using its Ryobi 3200 PCX perfector with a Duplo System 5000, the in-plant also produces saddle-stitched workbooks and other books of up to 19 signatures, typically in runs of 5,000 to 9,000.
"For books, we print on 60-lb. bond, which we feel adds a sense of legitimacy to the product," King notes. "It feels nice and solid coming out of a backpack. Printing should be more than just a throwaway."
The department is passionate about product quality, in regard to both aesthetics and content. A school district's in-plant has to reflect its administration's and educators' high standards, King stresses.
It is unusual for the shop to fail to make the grade, but King recalls one situation that left the department in need of a make-up test.
"When I first joined Printing and Publishing 10 years ago, I found out that a booklet [that had already been printed] contained errors," he relates. "Someone sent me a note that said, 'This isn't rocket science. Why can't you get this right?' "
"That person was absolutely right," King acknowledges. "It was important that we recycle all those misprinted materials, fix the problems and reprint the job." The in-plant wanted to send students the right message.