A just-released independent study of the Houston ISD's maintenance department came up with 23 key points that it says should change in the operation of the district's Construction, Facility Services Group -- not the least among them that it has too many layers, too little planning, poor response times and generates way too much overtime.
According to the assessment done by the Council of Great City Schools, CFS (as it is known) needs to develop a "comprehensive preventive maintenance program."
The physical working environment needs improvement: "Some of the regional offices are not in the areas they serve, resulting in excessive travel times to maintenance jobs."
Oh and there's a morale problem, too.
The report comes as little surprise since complaints have been fairly steady in recent years that if something goes wrong at an HISD school, it can take a very long time to get fixed.
Most of these points are things that Issa Dadoush, the new general manager of the department, picked up in his two months on the job, and some are already being changed, he says.
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When he first came to HISD's CFS department (after 22 years in the City of Houston, where he was director of the General Services Department), Dadoush said he was told it was understaffed. That was not the case, he believes, rather while some schools were understaffed others were overstaffed. By reallocating custodians and plant managers and by changing the hours of some to include working till 9 p.m. instead of everyone going home at 2:30 or 3 p.m., Dadoush said the department has already increased productivity and cut down on overtime which last year totaled $6.5 million.
Also missing from the HISD department, according to the assessment, are annual employee evaluations, effective internal communications, and job training.
Dadoush agrees with much of the report, especially that the facilities need a change -- the sound of water leaking into the building could be heard in his office today -- and promises that many changes are underway.
"More than 90 percent of the employees here are honest, decent and hardworking," he stressed. "We need to empower people. If you touch it, stay with it till it's done."