Not many new associations get started with more than 200 people at their first meeting, but there was little doubt that last month's inaugural meeting was a success for TIPMAPS, the Texas Integrated Pest Management Affiliates for Public Schools. The group, the newest affiliate of the Texas Association of School Business Officials (TASBO), met for the first time on November 18 and 19 last month at the Embassy Suites in San Marcos.
The group, composed of pest management coordinators for public schools, came from all corners of Texas to talk about hogs and rats and bugs and bats and how to keep schools safe and pest-free using an integrated pest management (IPM) approach.
Pest control may seem an unlikely topic for school professionals, but don't try telling that to any of the representatives of 115 school districts present at the meeting. These folks are on a mission. "IPM is not just what we do," said TIPMAPS president Tom Ohm of Frisco Independent School District, "it is what we are." According to Ohm, IPM is important to maintain the health and safety of children as well as the structural integrity of the buildings which the public has entrusted [schools] with.
"What school IPM coordinators do for schools, while under-appreciated, is incredibly important and increases the quality of life for school children," said Gene Harrington, legislative liaison for the National Pest Management Association in Virginia. Harrington was a speaker and one of several out-of-state visitors who came to see what's happening in Texas. Harrington noted that Texas is a leader in the IPM movement and other states are watching carefully what is happening here.
At the closing business meeting, over 50 association members voted to adopt new bylaws and commit themselves to meeting annually in the cause of pest control with IPM. Officers of the new affiliate group include Ohm, vice president Paul Duerre of Killeen ISD, secretary Dixie Mathews of Arlington ISD, and treasurer C.G. Cezeaux of Spring ISD.
The closing of the business meeting was vindication of sorts for me and my colleague Janet Hurley, Entomology Program Specialist in charge of the school IPM program. We have worked for over two years to encourage and seek funding for this event. The conference is an extension of the work we have done for the past eight years to see more complete adoption of integrated pest management in public schools. As I told the meeting participants in the opening session, there was always some fear on our part that school IPM might be just another idealistic fad. But the meeting for us was concrete evidence that IPM has found a permanent place in the way we operate schools in our state.
Congratulations to the new officers and all the new TIPMAPS members. Texas will be a better place for your service to the cause.
Check out our short video with highlights of the meeting below.