Maricopa Unified School District (MUSD) has earned IPM STAR certification after undergoing a thorough, 37-point evaluation of its pest management program. 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.
IPM is essentially 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 taking action. 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.
Maricopa Unified School District began its IPM program in 2012 when IPM coordinator Mr. Daniel Vezie approached Dr. Dawn Gouge, Professor and IPM Specialist with the University of Arizona, Department of Entomology with questions about managing pests in his district. New to the world of IPM, Vezie was interested in techniques for combating pests that minimized risk to the health and safety of staff, students and visitors. The University of Arizona Community IPM Team led by Dr. Shaku Nair, worked with the MUSD facilities management team to inform district staff about IPM and how best to implement best practices in the district.
The University of Arizona Community IPM Team was extremely impressed with Mr. Vezie’s commitment and the ongoing dedication demonstrated by the MUSD facility management crew. IPM quickly became the go-to approach for managing pests at MUSD. With 11 facilities including a transportation building, district office, one high school, two middle schools and six grade schools, it was a challenge for the MUSD IPM team to implement new practices across the board, but with assistance Mr. Vezie worked to establish a pest-reporting system and reduced the number of pesticide applications in the district. For his efforts, Vezie has received a Certificate of Appreciation from the University of Arizona College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.
Dr. Gouge praises the efforts of MUSD’s facility management team. “MUSD are lucky to have Dan Vezie, Chad Whittle and Jim Shoaf on their management team, all are dedicated to establishing nothing short of the most excellent standards,” she says. “IPM coordinator Dan and grounds coordinator Chad Whittle have been the backbone of the effort, and the driving force behind ongoing improvements for the district. Maricopa Unified School District schools are now safer learning environments. Healthier schools lead to healthier students, and that leads to improved academic achievement.”
Dr. Shaku Nair coordinates the University of Arizona Community IPM Team. She commends MUSD on their achievement and dedication to excellence. “Dan and Chad are a pleasure to work with, and have worked tirelessly as IPM champions for their school district.” Dr. Shujuan Li is also a Community IPM Team member and an expert on Public Health Pests. “I live in the wonderful town of Maricopa and understand the unique challenges the rural desert environment can bring,” says Dr. Li. “MUSD puts student health and safety first, and I am very happy they will be recognized for their commitment.”
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.
The IPM Institute of North America is a rapidly growing independent 501(c)3 non-profit formed in 1998 to improve sustainability in agriculture and communities through market-based mechanisms based in Integrated Pest Management (IPM) and other sustainable practices.
Our mission is to improve sustainability in agriculture and communities by using the power of the marketplace: buyers want to support products and services that work to protect the environment and reduce health hazards. Marketplace demand is a powerful incentive for increasing the adoption of IPM and other best practices in agriculture, landscapes and public and private facilities!