IPM Star Recipients
DALLAS – Two North Texas school districts, with help from Texas AgriLife Extension Service, have earned national recognition for controlling pests safely and efficiently from the IPM Institute of North America.
The Carrollton-Farmers Branch and Plano school districts earned Integrated Pest Management Star certification, according to the institute. The suburban-Dallas districts are the first in Texas and among only 33 others in the country with the distinction.
“The districts have been working long and hard since 2002 to meet the rigorous standards set by the institute,” said Janet Hurley, an AgriLife Extension program specialist in Dallas who works with the districts on pest management. “IPM Star certification is the highest praise a district can get for managing pests.”
Though the certification comes without a cash prize, it can be a badge of honor and proof to parents that the districts are doing their best to maintain healthy environments, said Victor Melton, environmental specialist for Carrollton-Farmers Branch.
“We take IPM very seriously,” Melton said. “It’s become a part of our culture.”
Carrollton-Farmers Branch officials will receive formal certification at a school board meeting on June 26, said Hurley, who will make the presentation. Plano officials will receive their certification at a meeting to be scheduled for August.
“The key to our success has been our employees’ willingness to take IPM training to heart and apply what they know at their facilities,” said David Lewis, who coordinates Plano’s pest management program.
Danny Roberts, the Carrollton-Farmers Branch coordinator, said the program runs counter to traditional approaches. He cited a problem with swarms of crickets at an athletic stadium last year.
“The traditional approach would have been to spray pesticides in the stadium and on the fields used by our students, but that would have been a temporary solution,” Roberts said.
“Instead, we inspected the area and nearby buildings and found that the crickets were nesting and feeding in elevator pits,” he said. “We got them out; and keeping the pits clean has made an enormous difference.”
The IPM Institute of North America, a non-profit organization based in Madison, WI, sets pest management standards and consults with companies and public agencies nationwide, said Dr. Thomas Green, president of the institute.
Practitioners of integrated pest management learn pest biology and use the knowledge to reduce pest-control costs and hazards, Green said. The program relies on regular inspections to detect and correct conditions that attract common pests, such as mice, rats, raccoons, ants and roaches. They use pesticides only when necessary, and use the least-hazardous chemicals possible.
The districts earned certification after passing a 48-point inspection of their policies, programs and facilities, Green said.
“Despite everyone’s best intentions, pest problems are bound to crop up even in the most well-managed facilities,” he said. “The difference is that good managers know when and where pest trouble is likely to come from, and can fend off pests with smart solutions.”
During training, district employees learned a wide variety of pest-control measures to deprive the unwanted creatures of the food, water and shelter they need to thrive in a building, Hurley said.
Some measures include: screening attic vents; sealing utility conduits; repairing cracks in pipes, walls and foundations; trimming tree branches away from roofs; and diligently cleaning food remains throughout buildings.
Formal policies and consistent, thorough recordkeeping help districts stay on task, she said.
Hurley coordinates the Southwest Technical Resource Center for IPM in Schools, which is housed at AgriLife Extension in Dallas. The center was established in 2001, with help from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, to promote awareness of integrated pest management and provide technical support to schools and childcare facilities in Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico.