Some House Classes Moving to Ford

Posted July 21, 2009 at 6:26pm

Part of the House Learning Center has moved out of the Longworth House Office Building to make room for the expanding Green the Capitol program.

More classes will now be offered a half-mile away in the Ford House Office Building, where the center has extra space for training.

The move provides the Green the Capitol staff with a “more accessible— location that also offers double the space of their current office, said Jeff Ventura, spokesman for Chief Administrative Officer Dan Beard.

“Training on the other hand can happen anywhere,— Ventura added in a statement, “and the Ford Building, which has always been a training site, offers the kind of space that supports large class sizes and the technology needed for effective learning.—

The move has been rumored for months, gaining criticism from some Members and staffers who say centralized classes are more important than a centralized greening staff.

But Ventura said the Green the Capitol initiative has evolved into a program that needs to be more visible to staffers. The office recently began working directly with Members’ offices to make them more environmentally friendly and, so far, 120 offices have signed up.

“Their role has expanded,— he said, later adding: “It’s about culture change now.—

But Rep. Dan Lungren (Calif.), the top Republican on the House Administration Committee, questioned whether the move would marginalize the learning center’s courses.

“The House Learning Center was appropriately placed in the basement of the Longworth House Office Building for the convenience of House staff attending the learning sessions,— he said in a statement. “Relocating classes to the Ford Office Building — several blocks away from the vast majority of Congressional offices — would be inconvenient and likely to deter staff from taking advantage of the valuable training.—

The moving of the Green the Capitol office will mean the loss of one of the learning center’s three Longworth classrooms and two of its offices. Seven Green the Capitol staffers will move into the space, which is directly across from the Longworth cafeteria, this week. One learning center employee will also occupy the space.

The office now occupied by the Green the Capitol staff — around the corner from the learning center in Longworth — will soon house at least a half-dozen other CAO employees, most of whom manage the House’s contracts.

The loss of a Longworth classroom will mean at least six courses will be moved to Ford, including: staff assistant and intern orientations, effective system administration orientation, Adobe Acrobat, document direct, money matters and CAPS accounting.

A few of those classes — including the staff assistant and intern orientations — are popular among Member offices. But Ventura said about 75 percent of classes will still be offered in Longworth; officials, he said, will also try to keep classes aimed at Member and committee staffers in Longworth.

Some staffers are also suspicious of the move because it comes in the wake of reports on Beard’s plan to re-evaluate whether the House should offer classes at all. In an interview last month, Beard said his office would do a six-month investigation into the need for the classes.

“Suddenly we’re in the education business, and I walk in the door and say, Why?’ and nobody can give me a good explanation,— he said at the time.

Ventura emphasized that the move is not related to that evaluation, which has not yet been completed.

The last study of the classes was in 2005, when Deloitte Development found that staffers “strongly affirmed— they were interested in attending more training courses, though the study also noted that many did not know what courses were being offered.

Some staffers are still vocally enthusiastic about the training. In March, Beard decided to cancel a contract with the Congressional Management Foundation for a few popular classes; staffer and Member criticism soon led him to reverse his decision.

One GOP chief of staff said he didn’t think the relocation would decrease participation in the classes but that it would definitely be inconvenient.

“The biggest thing for us is obviously the convenience,— he said. “We look for the accessibility in the buildings where we’re operating, and the Ford Building is farther away.—