HISD's Maintenance Department: Where's the Can Do?

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Houston ISD's maintenance department, officially known as the Construction and Facility Services Department suffers from low morale, a lack of any kind of plan, and hasn't had an appraisal review for more than two years.

Some "interim managers" have been in "interim" assignments for several years. When the maintenance group falls behind on projects, they use the bond program as a "parachute" to play catch-up.

In addition, according to a review of the department done in May at HISD Superintendent Terry Grier's request, by the national Council of Great City Schools, there is also:

"Lack of awareness of policies, procedures and practices. No staff meetings or sharing of best practices; proactive with communication with customers, reasonable response times; formal customer services feedback (No sense of urgency, no follow up & lack of specifications); and no sense of pride."

Hair Balls obtained a copy of the report through a Public Information request. The evaluators "commended" HISD for recognizing it had a problem and for appointing a new general manager, Issa Dadoush, who came to HISD from the City of Houston.

"He's making some changes, fast," HISD spokesman Norm Uhl said of Dadoush. Uhl said the position had been vacant for 18 months, although different people filled in to head up the department.

Elsewhere in the report: Evaluators called for an improved working environment, specifically mentioning the Facility Services headquarters at 228 McCarty which they described as "inadequate, inefficient, needs extensive renovations, and does not meet our needs."

The report calls for structural changes including reducing the number of regions from five to three and removing some of the layers of authority. It called for the department to use computers more, reducing the amount of paperwork.

Evaluators recommended re-installing GPS on all department vehicles; Construction and Facility Services vehicles had them but then had them discontinued.

Overtime policies should be clarified, and a custodial substitute pool should be created.

Tellingly, the report also calls for HISD to "reestablish a preventive maintenance program - routine basis, remove crisis management."

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