Dan Lisenko, 2013 Friends of IPM Award Winner
Although Florida has no school IPM regulations, School IPM Coordinator and Grounds Manager Dan Lisenko has made his personal mission to make the Manatee County schools a place where children aren’t needlessly exposed to pests or pesticides.
During his 13-year service with Manatee County Schools, Dan has educated school staff and administrators about IPM and has worked closely with staff to change attitudes about pest management. Now when the occasional teacher calls with a pest complaint, they let him know WHAT pest they need controlled.
Dan has a supportive team that has made his program strong. His supervisor Danielle Dimon and Todd Henson, Director of Maintenance and Operations, have fully supported Dan for spearheading and overseeing school IPM in every school in the district. Dan has implemented school IPM programs at 60 facilities, along with their athletic facilities and grounds.
(Photo: from left: Joe LaForest, Dan Lisenko, Faith Oi, Danielle Dimon and Todd Henson)
Dan’s program is centered on one key best management practice: all of the facilities staff must have or obtain a pest control license. In fact, the Manatee County district was one of the first to require the policy, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has included it in their Best Management Practices for School IPM. The policy also allows only licensed facilities staff to handle and apply pesticides. Dan says he has removed many a RAID can from a teacher’s desk drawer.
A quick look at the IPM storage area puts most well-organized storage areas and big-box store retail shelves to shame. Each chemical is labeled and dated, items are neatly lined up in a way that would make a Marine sergeant proud and the floor and shelves are free of dust and debris.
Because of Dan’s programs, the district has reduced pesticide use by 80 percent and saved 50 to 60 percent in product costs over the long run. Dan tests each type of control, whether it is chemical or non-chemical, for effectiveness and safety. For instance, mole crickets in lawns and athletic fields are controlled year-round with nematodes, which eat the mole crickets in just days. In fact, Dan says that the nematodes usually starve to death by the end of the summer because the mole crickets are gone.
Through Dan’s educational presentations to classes, students and teachers have changed their habits to make their classrooms less hospitable for insects like ants and roaches. Teachers now store food in plastic resealable containers instead of in the cabinets and reduced the amount of food in the classroom. In addition, schools have invested in recycling programs, which reduces the amount of waste in general.
Dan attributes much of his success to the assistance and support he has received from Drs. Faith Oi and Rebecca Baldwin at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS).
(Photo: Dan Lisenko and Superintendent Rick Mills)
One of the highlights of Dan’s IPM program is his fire ant control program. Dan has spent copious amounts of time testing different materials to find one that is effective. His staff treats fire ant mounds during the summer, when the children are not in school. Before the program, about 1% (400-500) students would need medical treatment for fire ant stings. Treating the fire ant mounds at the appropriate time has significantly reduced the risk of life threatening stings for the student population.
“You have to be proactive about pest management,” says Dan. “I have to answer to people outside of the district about what I’m doing, so I make sure I follow the pesticide label and keep records of what we’ve done. We now have a process that can be adopted at any school.”