Conroe Independent School District
IPM STAR Certified 2017-2020
October 20, 2017
Conroe Independent School District (ISD) has achieved IPM STAR certification for its less-hazardous pest control practices for the first time. Ms. Janet Hurley, Extension Program Specialist from Texas A&M University, inspected Conroe’s pest management program using IPM STAR’s publicly available standards scorecard. IPM STAR is a certification program for school systems and childcare facilities that use Integrated Pest Management, or IPM, a low-risk, common sense approach to solving pest problems with a minimum of pesticide use. To achieve the certification, Conroe ISD went through a rigorous 37-point inspection of its pest management program.
IPM is a decision-making process aimed at minimizing pesticide hazards while effectively preventing or eliminating pests. School District staff practicing IPM first assess pest levels, building conditions and factors influencing pest introduction before acting. They rely on improving sanitation, exclusion, and staff teamwork to combat pests rather than routine application of pesticides. If a pesticide is used in an IPM program, a low-risk option is chosen and applied only when non-chemical methods do not provide adequate control.
For Conroe ISD, the IPM STAR Certification is a way to honor the district IPM Coordinator Ray Brown, who has been with the school district before school IPM was a law in Texas. In 1989, Conroe ISD like several other school districts in the state were being asked to change how they sprayed for pests. At that time, Jack Ferby was the facilities director for the district and Ray Brown was a maintenance employee. Rebecca Perilla was a parent who got involved to “force” IPM upon the district, as her daughter was chemically sensitive. She worked with Mr. Ferby to pilot an IPM program starting with six campuses to see how well it worked. Mrs. Perilla just wanted to make the school environment a “cleaner” place for her child. By the end of the first school year this went from a pilot to a district wide practice.
In the late 1990’s Consumer’s Union along with Texas Center for Policy Studies and Texas Clean Water Fund published the Pesticide Report Card: Texas Schools Score from A to F in the Integrated Pest Management Program of which Conroe ISD was one of the seven school districts examined. Conroe ISD was given a score of D because they were using herbicides for cosmetic use and they were still using Red Category pesticides. When this report came out and Mrs. Perilla found out, she went back to the school board to see about the district’s IPM program. In 2001, when Janet Hurley was hired by Texas A&M, Conroe started working with the Texas school IPM team to help further improve the school IPM program. Over time, Conroe promoted Ray Brown to oversee the IPM program and work closely with the Environmental Compliance Department, as well as hire district employed pesticide applicators (Gilbert Pacheco and Keith Murphy) to oversee the day-to-day monitoring, responding to work order requests, plus facility inspections that is needed to maintain an IPM program that now covers 54 school campuses, 14 additional facilities, plus 55 athletic fields.
Overall, Conroe ISD does a lot to maintain their schools, so they are pest and pesticide free. Conroe is in an area of the state of Texas where they are exposed to a variety of new pests. When they first experience the Tawney Crazy Ant, because of the work with AgriLife Extension they were able to reach out to Dr. Paul Nester, retired Extension Program Specialist, to help develop an IPM program to manage these nuisance ants.
IPM STAR Certification is presented by the IPM Institute of North America in partnership with the US Environmental Protection Agency Pesticide Environmental Stewardship Program. The program has been introduced to selected schools with the support and assistance of the University of Arizona, Arizona Pest Management Center and Texas A&M University, Texas AgriLife Extension.