Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Mentoring of School IPM Coordinators

A group of school IPM Coordinators learn how to conduct
a kitchen inspection during a recent IPM training at Northside
ISD in San Antonio, TX.  IPM Coordinators come from diverse
job backgrounds in school districts.
One of the subjects discussed in last week's Structural Pest Control Advisory Committee, which I didn't report on in my last post, concerned how to better mentor Texas school IPM coordinators.

In Texas, every school district must appoint an IPM coordinator to oversee the pest management program, whether pest control in conducted in-house or by outside contractors. Over the years I've realized that school IPM coordinators are an interesting group of folks. Relatively few of them come into the position with a pest control background. Most of them hold multiple positions of responsibility in addition to their pest control role. Some are superintendents or principals, others are environmental managers or HVAC experts.  Some are experts on indoor air quality and asbestos. Some are in charge of school buses, others tend landscapes. Almost all come into the job with wide-eyes and wonder about what they've gotten themselves into.

School IPM rules are, shall we say, more than a little confusing to most new IPM coordinators.  For this reason, the last time the advisory committee met, the idea of a mentoring program was proposed. Certainly I and my colleagues who train IPM coordinators have seen that one of the best ways to help a struggling new person is to pair them with someone with more experience. No Extension employee can offer as good advice as a colleague who has sat in the same chair.

At last week's committee meeting, Maron Finley, TDA's IPM Specialist, proposed the following draft criteria for mentors.  These criteria are not regulations, but would serve as informal guidance for the mentoring program:

  • Serving as a mentor would be voluntary; 
  • Anyone interested in becoming a mentor would contact TDA/SPCS IPM Specialist (Finley) to initiate the vetting process to be approved as a mentor;
  • Mentors must have experience with at least two routine school IPM inspections which resulted in a "Compliant" or "Validate Next Routine" result;
  • Prospective mentors will comply with a facility inspection by a TDA inspector to demonstrate their ability to successfully implement an IPM program in a school district;
  • Once approved, the mentor may mentor another school district of equal or smaller size using the UIL Classification System.
If you're an IPM coordinator, what do you think?  Is it too tough?  Would you be willing to serve as an official mentor under these requirements?  If you have mentored another school informally, what do you think of the idea of having a TDA authorized mentoring program?

Granted, these criteria do not mention how mentors would be assigned to apprentice coordinators, or how long the relationship would last.  It does not say if proteges would voluntarily sign up, or if there would be mandatory assignment to a mentor.  There are still a lot of questions to be answered.

If you have any comments or suggestions for this first draft, please add your comment via the comment link below.  I will pass your thoughts on to Mr. Finley. Or you can contact him at the TDA directly.  Let's get the dialog going.

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