Southern Region School IPM Working Group, 2009 Friends of IPM Winner
Bright Idea

A working group of Extension specialists in school integrated pest management received a regional award during the meeting of the Southeastern Branch of the Entomological Society of America.

The Southern Region School IPM Working Group received the Friends of IPM “Bright Idea” Award from the Southern Region IPM Center. The award recognizes an innovative idea or breakthrough that makes IPM implementation easier or more effective. The group received the award for forming the first formal regional working group in the southern region.

Southern Region IPM Center Associate Director Steve Toth presented the award during the Southeastern Branch meeting of the ESA.

“This award is for the ‘unsung heroes’ of integrated pest management,” Toth said. “The Southern Region School IPM Working Group is receiving the Friends of IPM Bright Idea Award for creating and maintaining a coordinated working group.”

The group includes School IPM specialists at each of the southern region land grant universities. Members of the group met for the first time in May 2007, after the Southern Region IPM Center invited specialists to Atlanta to share resources and discuss challenges in each state. Before that meeting, most school IPM specialists worked with the resources in their own states and were unaware of whom to contact in other states.

Each state’s resources varied, from thorough manuals and innovative workshops to a few handouts and occasional visits. While some school IPM specialists dedicated their time to the schools, others balanced those responsibilities with visits to farms and grower workshops. While some had built strong school IPM programs, others struggled to keep theirs afloat.

The challenge facing all of them was the goal of a newly-developed national school IPM pest management strategic plan. The plan was created to reduce pest and pesticide-related hazards to children in the U.S. public schools by 2015.

By the end of the two-day meeting, not only had everyone shared resources, but they had created a mission statement and priorities, elected a chair and secretary and begun planning a logo. The group had two main goals: to enhance the existing programs in each state and to assist programs that were struggling to change school pest management practices in their states.

“There’s no way we’re going to meet the national PMSP goal of school IPM implementation by 2015 if we don’t all work together,” said Janet Hurley, School IPM specialist from Texas A&M University.

The initial group included Lawrence “Fudd” Graham and Vicky Bertagnolli (now at Clemson University), Auburn University; Faith Oi and Rebecca Baldwin, University of Florida; Jim Criswell and Tom Royer, Oklahoma State University; Leslie Godfrey, Clemson University; John Hopkins, University of Arkansas; Janet Hurley and Mike Merchant, Texas AgriLife Extension; Dale Pollet and Dennis Ring, LSU AgCenter; Godfrey Nalyanya, North Carolina State University; Karen Vail, Tennessee State University; Bill Witt, University of Kentucky; Tom Green, IPM Institute; Herb Bolton, USDA; and Mike Page, Florida Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services. The group has since expanded to include representatives from all of the southern Land Grant universities, industry representatives, Environmental Protection Agency and US Department of Agriculture specialists, the Association of School Business Officials, the National School Plant Management Association, the National Pest Management Association, some non-profits, and representatives from school IPM working groups in the other regions.

Since the 2007 meeting, the working group has applied for and received several grants. Graham, Oi and Baldwin received a grant from eXtension to host a national School IPM website. A National Extension Integrated Pest Management Special Projects grant funded a two-day green building workshop in Dallas, Texas, and presentations at several national and regional meetings of school business officials and school plant managers. An Environmental Protection Agency Pesticide Registration Improvement Renewal Act (PRIA) grant is funding workshops in Louisiana and North Carolina. Participants of the workshops will learn how to scout their schools for pests and how to address pest problems.

The group is also adapting training materials from several states for regional use and translating them into Spanish.