Chris Mills, 2009 Friends of IPM Award Winner
IPM Implementer

Union County School District Integrated Pest Management Specialist Chris Mills is known for “keeping the bugs out.” On Tuesday, he received a regional award for his work.

Mills received the Friends of IPM “Implementer” Award from the Southern Region Integrated Pest Management Center. The award recognizes excellence in IPM in several categories, including teaching, innovation, teamwork, leadership and implementation. The Friends of IPM Implementer Award rewards someone who is exceptional in “on-the-ground” implementation of IPM in the Union County School System.

According to Steve Kisiah, Assistant Director of Operations and Custodial Services , before Mills took on the role of IPM Specialist two years ago, the school system contracted pest control companies to do monthly sprays for pests. Mills changed the culture of pest control at the school system.

Researching information on integrated pest management on his own, he began recommending that school maintenance staff look for and seal cracks and openings to keep pests out of the building. He talked to principals and teachers about containing snacks in sealed plastic containers. And he visited the classrooms to teach children about putting trash in the trash can.

By the end of the year he saw significantly fewer work orders for pesticide sprays.

“I admit, I was skeptical at first,” said Kisiah. “But Chris was determined to pull it off. And he did.”

Mills began his role as IPM Specialist shortly after the passage of the Schoolchildren’s Health Act (H1502) in July 2006. The law required state school districts to designate an IPM Specialist and develop an IPM policy. Mills worked closely with the school board to develop an IPM policy and then began inspecting every school for pests and educating school personnel about individual pest problems and how to address them.

Union County is one of the fastest growing counties in the state, with 50 existing schools and over 50,000 students. Mills said the district IPM policy would not have been effective without everyone’s cooperation.

“I could not do this without all of you,” Mills said to an audience of parents, teachers and staff at a school board meeting on Tuesday night, where he received the award. “Your cooperation has meant the world to me and made this a really successful program.”

One year after the program was in effect, the school district saved between $50,000 and $60,000 from terminating contracts for indoor pest control and instituting an inspection and monitoring system. The schools have substituted reduced-risk baits for scheduled sprays, and Mills’ fire ant control program attracts attention from the neighboring school districts.

Mills began his job with the Union County Public Schools Maintenance Department in September 2003, after working there during the summers while he was a high school and college student. He was the ISS (what’s this?) teacher at Forest Hills High School before he took the job with the maintenance department.

Union County School Superintendent Dr. Ed Davis and school district administrators say they are proud of Mills’ accomplishments with the IPM program.

“Union County Schools keep growing,” said Don Hughes, Executive Director of Facilities. “But we’re keeping the bugs out.”