Southwest Technical Resource Center for IPM in Schools
Janet A. Hurley, Extension Assistant, District 4 Research and Extension Center
Michael E. Merchant, Ph.D., Professor and Extension Entomologist, District 4 Research and
Don L. Renchie, Ph.D., Program Leader, PSEP Coordinator, Assistant Professor and Extension
Specialist, TAMU Agricultural and Environmental Safety
James A. McAfee, Ph.D. Associate Professor and Extension Turfgrass Specialist, District 4
Research and Extension Center
Kevin Ong, Ph.D., Assistant Professor and Extension Plant Pathologist, District 4 Research and
This group is hereby given official commendation for: innovative statewide delivery to
Texas schools of educational programs and information about integrated pest
management, resulting in safer, more wholesome learning environments for the children
and youth of Texas.
Brief summary of nominee’s accomplishments:
A law passed by the 72nd Legislature in 1991 required all school districts in the state of
Texas to replace their largely insecticide-intensive pest control programs with integrated pest
management (IPM). With no additional state funding, this team has worked closely with state
regulatory officials to make this law a success and to help schools control pest problems more
effectively with less reliance on chemical pesticides. Other states are looking to the Texas model
as an example of what can be accomplished on a modest budget.
Since 2001 the team has provided training or direct assistance to over 340 of the 1,039
school districts in Texas. To date, 980 school employees have attended local or regional school
IPM training programs organized by the Center. Workshop evaluations show a consistent 35-
42% increase in understanding of basic IPM concepts among participants.
The team has assembled a database of 1,080 school IPM professionals helps facilitate
rapid and effective communication among school IPM coordinators and others. School Pest
News is the only such newsletter addressing the need to educate schools about pest management
issues. It is distributed bimonthly to over 850 email subscribers, including fully one-third of
Texas school IPM coordinators from the state’s 1039 school districts. The school IPM website
currently receives over 10,000 unique visitors annually, approximately 120 visits per day. Other
products developed by the team include workbooks, training videos and posters.
Since 2001 the SWTRC has generated $370,000 in competitive grant dollars for research
and extension programs offered by the Center. As a result of this grant writing effort, the Center
has been successful in leveraging grant dollars to extend salary for the Center coordinator for the
past two years and through 2006. The Center grosses approximately $15,000 annually in fees to
cover expenses for regional workshops and training.
Response from school facilities maintenance professionals to the Center has been
overwhelmingly positive. According to one head of maintenance for a large north Texas school
district, “I am a raving fan of our team at the Southwest Technical Resource Center. Though they
cannot run the IPM program for me, what they have set out to do for our district…they’ve done
with excellence. I would never dream of turning elsewhere for service.”
IPM Coordinator Training:
The Southwest Technical Resource Center (SWTRC) for IPM in Schools is an
educational outreach program sponsored by Texas Cooperative Extension. Its goal is to promote and facilitate adoption of integrated pest management (IPM) techniques in schools and other
environmentally sensitive settings. Integrated pest management uses multiple control tactics and
knowledge of pests to reduce indoor air contaminates, reduce economic and environments costs
associated with pesticides and improve pest control.
Many school districts in Texas still rely on pesticide-intensive pest control routines and
are reluctant to adopt integrated practices. Reasons include perceived complexity of IPM, cost of
needed facility improvements and increased labor. In 1995, all school districts in Texas were
required by law to adopt IPM as their pest management strategy. In 2001, the SWTRC was
formed to assist school districts in Texas through education and assistance for school
Members of the SWTRC team have been involved in school pest control issues since
1992. Mike Merchant chaired the citizen’s advisory board charged with developing school IPM
regulations currently followed by the Texas Structural Pest Control Board and helped develop
early training curricula for school IPM coordinators. He also produced an award-winning video
training program to educate and inform school stakeholders about the whys and how’s of IPM.1
Don Renchie has conducted IPM and pesticide safety training programs for school districts since
1994. Renchie pioneered a cooperative training relationship with the Texas Association of
School Boards, Texas Association of Schools Administrators, and several private companies.
Together Merchant and Renchie worked to secure grant funding for a more permanent training
center and full time program coordinator beginning in 2000.
Thanks to their efforts, in 2001 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency awarded
$100,000 to Texas Cooperative Extension to form one of only two technical resource centers for
school IPM in the U.S. Janet Hurley was hired as the first center coordinator in July, 2001. In
2002, Hurley expanded the previous training programs and instituted regional 2-day workshops
for school IPM coordinators. The two-day training combined the original six-hour mandatory
training with an additional day of advanced training. Advanced training programs change
annually and have successfully attracted facility maintenance professionals back for voluntary
annual retraining. Advanced training covers advanced IPM and legal compliance topics, new
IPM techniques for a variety of insect, weed and disease problems, and offers continuing
education credits for non-commercial applicators.
Each member of the SWTRC team brings unique gifts and contributions to the school
IPM program. Don Renchie brings his knowledge of pesticide safety along with his years of
service to pest control industry to infuse knowledge and entertainment into regional training
programs. Mike Merchant uses his broad knowledge and experience in IPM to give students a
better understanding about pest biology and practical control of insects. Janet Hurley brings her
administrative and people skills to organize the workshops and helps teach participants about
state pesticide laws and practical tips on how to manage paperwork and other legal requirements.
Jim McAfee brings unparalleled expertise on turfgrass and weed management to the advanced
trainings. Class participants; especially appreciate McAfee’s experience with athletic fields.
Kevin Ong provides ongoing technical assistance and newsletter contributions related to plant
disease management and tree hazard safety.
Since 2001, the SWTRC has provided training or direct assistance to over 340 of the
1,039 school districts in Texas. To date, 980 school employees have attended local or regional
school IPM training programs organized by the Center. Currently the Center offers four, 2-day
regional classes annually and additional one-day local training classes upon request. Workshop
evaluations show a consistent 35-42% increase in understanding of basic IPM concepts among
School Pest News and Other Educational Products
In an effort to keep school IPM coordinators continuously up to date the SWTRC
maintains a toll-free hotline, a school IPM website and produces an electronic newsletter, School
Pest News. A painstakingly assembled database of 1,080 school IPM professionals helps
facilitate rapid and effective communication among school IPM coordinators and others. School
Pest News is distributed bimonthly to over 850 subscribers, including fully one-third of Texas
school IPM coordinators from the state’s 1039 school districts. Merchant and Ms. Hurley serve
as co-editors of the newsletter and strive to provide timely, in-depth articles on a variety of
subjects. Both Ong and McAfee are regular contributors. This multi-disciplinary team approach
makes School IPM News an outstanding resource for both new and experienced IPM
professionals. The school IPM website and online bulletin board receives over 10,000 unique
visitors annually, approximately 120 visits per day.
In addition to the school IPM video series, the Center has developed a training manual for
use with its workshops. Pest Control in Texas Schools: Adopting Integrated Pest Management
was originally written in 1995 and was recently revised in 2003 with a grant from the Texas
Department of Agriculture. The new manual, An Introduction to IPM in Schools: A Manual for
Facilities Maintenance Professionals, is significantly improved and provides a unique resource
for IPM coordinators and workshop participants. It includes useful forms, model contracts and
policy statements, IPM plans and easy-to-read explanations of important IPM concepts.
Helping Schools One at a Time
Perhaps the most unique aspect of the SWTRC is the personal approach it takes to
providing assistance to school districts. Having a full-time program coordinator allows the
Center to develop excellent working relationships with school districts and their employees,
particularly IPM coordinators. Janet Hurley’s caring attitude and people skills have helped make
the Center successful and well-known among facility maintenance professionals.
Prior to the establishment of the SWTRC, school districts had limited access to
knowledgeable resources on pests, pesticides, and IPM issues. Schools now can request site
visits and immediate on-line or telephone assistance on a variety of pest-related issues. The
Center also provides audits of district IPM programs, offering guidance as to what needs to be
done to meet state requirements for IPM and pesticide use.
In 2004, for example, the SWTRC provided on-site assistance to Winona, Carroll,
Burton, DeSoto, Valley View, Little Cypress- Mauriceville, Bosqueville, Itasca, Lamar,
Westwood, Springtown, Florence, Richardson, Frisco, and Calallen Independent School Districts.
Visited schools report reduced pesticide use for major pests (insects, diseases, and weeds) after
these visits and better understanding of integrated pest management. School districts are
frequently referred to the SWTRC by the Texas Structural Pest Control Board when inspections
reveal that they are in non-compliance with state regulations. The Center recently saved one
school district $7,000 in state fines by helping them improve their recordkeeping and identifying
potential pest problems.
In other instances the SWTRC successfully helped school districts with healththreatening
pest problems. In 2004 the Center received requests for assistance from Garland and
Canton independent school districts. At Garland ISD a special needs student with a cockroachinfested
wheelchair posed an infestation risk to an elementary school campus. The SWTRC
helped devise a safe and effective treatment to solve the roach infestation of the wheelchair. A
site visit and control recommendations provided to Canton ISD succeeded in dramatically
reducing the incidence of brown recluse spiders on an infested middle school campus.
In 2003, the SWTRC began an IPM Pride Awards program to offer recognition andfinancial incentives to outstanding school IPM programs. So far, $4,500 from grants made
possible through RISE (Responsible Industry for a Sound Environment) has been awarded to six
school districts. Schools must complete an extensive award application to be considered and are
scored by an advisory committee of Center and outside volunteers. Winners of the award have
gone on to mentor other school districts who are struggling to implement or improve their IPM
program. Carrollton-Farmers Branch, who received second and first place in 2003 and 2004,
respectively, has helped several school districts with IPM related advice. This district received
national coverage from industry magazines such as Pest Control and Pest Control Technology in
One measure of the Center’s success is its ability to generate grant dollars for Texas
schools. Since 2001 the SWTRC has generated $370,000 in competitive grant dollars for
research and extension programs offered by the Center. As a result of this grant writing effort,
the Center has been successful in leveraging grant dollars to extend salary for the Center
coordinator through 2006. Funding sources have been diverse and include the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Texas Department of
Agriculture, the National Foundation for IPM Education, EPA Office of Children’s Health, and
RISE. One currently funded project is an IPM budget calculator for schools. The tool will be
made available via the Internet and will provide decision-makers with information about how to
make better budgetary decisions concerning pest control. In addition to schools, the Center is
expanding it’s expertise to other sensitive institutions. Two recent grant applications included
requests for funds for evaluation of new IPM record-keeping technology for hospitals (funded),
and evaluation of fire ant control methods around nursing care facilities (submitted in 2005). In
addition to grant monies, the center generates approximately $15,000 annually in training fees.
Other states are looking to the Texas model as an example of what can be accomplished
on a modest budget. Center personnel have been invited to tell others about our success in
Washington, DC, Iowa, California, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Hawaii, among others.
Since 1997, over 1,700 ABCs of IPM videos and workbooks have been sold or distributed nationwide,
generating over $60,000 in TCE bookstore sales revenue. The videos won an Agricultural Communicators
in Education Gold Award for Electronic Media, Video in 2001.