Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Certification Year One winds down for school IPM coordinators

One of the big changes to school IPM rules during the last legislative session was to expand education requirements for IPM Coordinators (the individual in each Texas school district responsible for overseeing pest control and ensuring the district complies with state regs).  Beginning last January, every IPMC is responsible to obtain six hours of CEUs every three years (See the Administrative Code Rule 7.150 (b)(2)).

The problem is that after a year of the rule we still don't know precisely what qualifies for continuing education units.  Let's review what we do know:
  • Anyone who began duties as an IPM Coordinator for a public school district on or before January 1, 2011 will have until December 31, 2013 to obtain six (6) hours of CEUs.
What we don't know for sure is what exactly qualifies as those appropriate CEUs.  The Structural Pest Control Advisory Committee argued quite strenuously about this topic about a year ago, and some general guidance from that discussion will be used as the basis of whatever rules are drafted in the next few months.  The committee suggestions were: 
  • One of the six CEUs must be in laws and regulations specific to IPM Programs in Schools.  The remaining five credits can be obtained by doing one of the following:
    • Attending one of the TDA-approved training courses for IPM Coordinators (this would be the same 6-hour course taken within the first six months of appointment)
    • Attending any five hours of TDA-approved pesticide CEU training in areas relevant to a school IPM coordinator's duties (e.g., Pest, L&O, Weed control, or General IPM). These CEU classes are pretty commonly available around the state.
    • Attend classes not approved by TDA as long as you send information into the agency and get the class approved within 30 days (see Section 7.135(g) of the Administrative Code for details)
The committee wanted the CEU requirement to be as easy to obtain as possible, but I'm not convinced that we didn't make it too easy.  Specifically, I think coordinators need more than one hour of school IPM rules-specific training every three years. Of course training in herbicide selection, or termite identification or  cockroach biology is valuable for someone in charge of a school pest control program; but ultimately a coordinator's job is administrative, and much or most of it has to do with knowing the laws and regulations inside and out. For schools who contract out pest control, the coordinator may be the only person in the district keeping outside applicators square with the law. 

And these laws and regulations are not especially simple to learn. I find myself learning new things every year when I teach the class; so I'm skeptical that one hour every three years is going to do much to keep coordinators at the top of their game.

I know many of you know this. My proof is the number of repeat attenders we see in the introductory school IPM coordinator training classes I teach each year with Janet Hurley. And my sole consolation is that I know many of you will go the extra mile and get those extra school IPM dedicated classes, regardless of whether you have to.  I'm more worried about the folks who haven't had a refresher course in 5-10 years, and don't see a reason to do so.  

The trouble is that the clock is ticking on these CEU requirements.  One year is passed and we still don't absolutely know what criteria will be used to fulfill the six CEU requirement.  So if you're a Texas IPM coordinator, keep alert for the proposed new regulations. If you have an opinion about the CEU requirements, please let them be known at that time.  And if you think I'm crazy to want tougher requirements, that's OK. But let's think these things through and have a good debate.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The power of appreciation

What do you look for when you hire a new person for a pest control technician's position?  Experience with pest control?  Dependability?  Good driving record?  How about the ability to value other people?

I’m just an entomologist, not a psychologist; but even an entomologist can recognize the power of an appreciative word.  And as an integrated pest management (IPM) specialist, I’ve come to value people who can build a loyal IPM team. 

In its most basic form IPM is about people. This is true on all levels, but especially for IPM programs within large institutions that require the cooperation of many departments and individuals. If you look at dysfunctional IPM programs (yes, they exist) one of the first things you notice is a lack of appreciation for the jobs and accomplishments of others in the organization.  The best programs, on the other hand, have leaders who are able to value and recognize the contributions of others.

I was reminded of this yesterday sitting in on a simple ceremony in the staff kitchen of Memorial Elementary School in Plano, TX. David Lewis and Leo Largaespada, IPM Coordinator and IPM technician, respectively, for the Plano Independent School District (PISD), invited me to attend an appreciation lunch for one of their top kitchen teams in the district. The lunch was a simple affair, but illustrated powerfully a principle that often gets overlooked in our fancy ideas about what IPM is all about.

The most powerful words in IPM tool box may well be, “we appreciate you”. Take a look at the video below and see if you don't agree.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Crazy ant update

Rasberry or Caribbean crazy ants have been confirmed in
Travis County near the Burnet and Travis county
boundary. (Texas AgriLife Extension Service photo)
According to a story published yesterday in  AgriLife Today, College Station and Austin have recently been added to the list of county locations with confirmed identifications of the exotic, new crazy ant species, Nylanderia sp. near pubens.  As reported in an earlier post, this means that PMPs should be able to use the expanded Termidor label for perimeter applications of fipronil as ant barriers around homes in Travis and Brazos counties.  The Texas Department of Agriculture automatically extends the Section 18 amendment of the Termidor label when a new county is added to the list of infested counties.

Under the expanded label, Termidor applications may be made three feet up the side of a structure and 10 feet out (the standard label restricts applications to one foot up and one foot out), and may be made two times a year, no less than 60 days apart.  To be legal, however, you must have a copy of the label AND these Section 18 use directions.

This new exotic crazy ant has several common names including the Rasberry crazy ant (in Texas), the Caribbean crazy ant (Florida) and the hairy crazy ant (Louisiana and Mississippi).  A definitive study to confirm whether these ants are in fact the same species has yet to be published, but I suspect that when the dust clears they will all be the same.  A fresh cycle of news stories came out earlier this fall under the name "hairy crazy ant" confusing some people to think that there was yet another invasive ant.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Salute to Don Stroope

I'm sad to report that Don Stroope, 86, passed away last week at his home.  Anyone who's been around pest control for any length of time in Texas has probably met Don, founder of Stroope Pest Control in Waxahachie, TX and one of the oldest active PMPs in the state. Don was a 1950 graduate in entomology from Texas A&M, and was one of the founders of the Texas Pest Control Association. I always enjoyed talking with Don and hearing his many stories about the business and his observations about people. He was one of the memorable characters in pest control in Texas.

As a sign of Don's love for the industry, his family has asked that any memorial contributions be made to the Texas A&M Foundation; in the memo of your check include Don E. Stroope Memorial Endowed Scholarship. Mail your contribution in Don’s name to Dr. Roger Gold, Urban Entomology 2143 TAMU, College Station, Texas 77843.  Funeral services are being held tomorrow, December 13, in Waxahachie.  For an obituary, click here.