Green Clean Schools Leadership Institute Recognizes and Connects Leaders

  • August 5, 2016
GCS Institute Recap Blog

Our Green Clean Schools program is having its busiest year yet! With support and guidance from our Leadership Council, made of up some of the top facility operators running award-winning green cleaning programs at schools and universities across the country, we’ve planned two unique green cleaning events in 2016: the Green Clean Schools Leadership Institute, which we just wrapped up, and the Green Clean Schools Forum, which will happen in October.

The Leadership Institute in a Nutshell

Last week, we hosted more than 80 green cleaning leaders at a two-day event in Ellicott City, Md. School facility operators from more than 20 schools across the country—from as far away as Washington state and across many neighboring counties in Maryland—spent those two days networking with each other, members of the industry, representatives from the U.S. EPA and NGOs and Healthy Schools Campaign staff, listening to panel discussions on leadership as a key element in the green cleaning movement as well as participating in the first-ever Systems Thinking Systems Change simulation geared toward school facility operators.

We left Maryland feeling more than ever before the need for the recognition of the people who work tirelessly every day to keep schools healthy and clean, those in school facility roles.

Kim Thomas, Leadership Council member and executive director of the Plant Services & Custodial Operations at Clarke County School District, plans to take the leadership skills and training ideas she learned at the Institute back to her team in Athens, Ga. “This leadership information can now be shared with entry-level custodians and building maintenance technicians to help reinforce soft skills and potential career growth,” she said.

Enacting Change and Engaging Leaders

On the first day of the event, we broke into smaller groups to participate in a facilitated simulation, working as a team to navigate a school system to push a specific change through to completion. Competition ran high, teams got excited and we were moving around the room in a way that’s rarely seen in a conference setting. In other words, we had fun! We took away some lessons that are vital to the success of green cleaning programs, too. Like the importance of getting buy-in from top leadership, stakeholders and the community—and how to do so.

What We Saw on the Tour

The tour of two well-maintained buildings within the Howard County Public Schools school district helped show practical application of some of these key leadership skills. Custodial staff was placed in stations throughout the buildings, explaining sustainability, green cleaning practices, equipment, zone and team cleaning and integrated pest management. Tour guests saw firsthand how Maryland’s state laws on integrated pest management, green cleaning and environmental literacy have shaped the programs and procedures at a school level. This tour was also an important way for the green cleaning team at Howard County Schools to get recognized for all of the wonderful work they are doing to protect the health of their schools, staff and students.

According to Scott Spencer, associate director of the Building Services Department at the University of Washington, the buildings were remarkably clean and the custodial staff was interested, knowledgeable and enthusiastic. “They all deserve accolades for their dedication and execution of green principles,” he said.

And There Was More…

Members from the Green Clean Schools Leadership Council spoke about leadership throughout the event, reminding attendees over and over that there is no green cleaning without strong leadership.

During a session on making the case for green cleaning led by Leadership Council member Mark Bishop, attendees were asked to condense their green cleaning messages into powerful sound bytes that would convey their message to those who needed convincing most. Some of the messages attendees came up with included:

“What we do affects health, environment and student performance.”

“Healthy schools are a tax value for your community.”

“Kids are our future. Greener products protect them.”

“How can we improve shared responsibility in our schools?”

Steve Ashkin led a discussion full of sports analogies that inspired attendees to lead and ignited a conversation among attendees that asked how facility operators could lead the green cleaning movement to new heights. Ideas included finding more associations to become a part of to learn and share more about green cleaning, writing white papers, participating in webinars, inviting the local EPA to your school, getting students and parents involved and communicating your message with your community in every way possible.

At Healthy Schools Campaign, we recognize the importance of providing students and staff with the opportunity to learn and work in a place that is healthy and safe. We recognize that how schools are built and maintained contribute to a positive setting for learning and working. We recognize that an institution’s approach to cleaning says a lot about how they value students and staff, the communities they are located in, the planet and their sense of connectedness to the broader good and future generations. And, we know that it takes leaders, on the ground, in schools and  universities across the country to help steward these institutions down the right path. The Leadership Institute acknowledged and helped inspire many of those leaders.

Here’s Why You Don’t Want to Miss the Forum

On the tails of the Leadership Institute, we’re preparing for the Green Clean Schools Forum, which will be held Oct. 25-26 in Chicago, Ill. This two-day event within ISSA/INTERCLEAN is designed just for you! Workshops and panel discussions, led by members of Healthy Schools Campaign’s Leadership Council and industry and health experts, will explore practical applications of Healthy Schools Campaign’s 5 Steps to Green Cleaning in Schools. From making data-driven decisions to selecting green products and equipment to hands-on demos of the latest technology in the cleaning industry, the Green Clean Schools Forum will change how you clean your school.

There will also be a small-group tour through the ISSA/INTERCLEAN experience, with specific stops at booths and with manufacturers that are pertinent to green cleaning in schools and universities. Register today!