Meet Our Newest Green Clean Schools Steering Committee Members

  • June 15, 2018
Leadership Council

The Green Clean Schools Steering Committee (formerly known as the GCS Leadership Council) is comprised of 12 dedicated facility managers from schools and universities across the country who work with award-winning, pioneering green cleaning programs. These on-the-ground green cleaning leaders have not only helped create healthier and safer educational facilities for their communities, but also they demonstrate a commitment to leading their peers and galvanizing the green cleaning movement. Each member heads or headed a program that has won the Green Cleaning Award for Schools & Universities.

Members of the GCS Steering Committee volunteer their time to provide valuable input to help us keep our guidelines up to date, present case studies and workshops at our Green Clean Schools events and are available to mentor facilities managers and personnel who are interested in taking their own green cleaning programs further.

We recently had the chance to ask our newest committee members green for their advice and predictions, which we’ve published here. Without further ado, meet the newest members of our Green Clean Schools Steering Committee!

Shawna Cragun, Director of Custodial Services, Davis School District, Davis County, Utah

At Davis School District, Shawna oversees 665 employees who protect the health of 72,500 students and 8,000 staff members while managing 102 buildings with a combined 10.5 million square feet of floor space. She also serves as president of the Utah School Custodial Managers Association and Spotlight Spokesperson for the Indoor Air Quality Division of the EPA. Shawna received the “2018 Outstanding Administrator of the Year” from the Utah School Employees Association and the 2018 Silver Green Cleaning Award for Schools and Universities. When she’s not busy running her green cleaning program, Shawna can be found climbing on of Utah’s many amazing mountains.

What do you believe is the most important aspect of a successful green cleaning program?
I believe the most important aspect of a successful green cleaning program is buy-in from students, teachers, principals, support services personnel, the school board and the community. This is the only way to ensure that the program continues beyond you and receives the support it needs to be successful in the long term.

How do you keep your employees engaged?
I place a tremendous value on my employees and their ideas. We are a very inclusive department and openly share information so that we can operate as efficiently as possible. The best team is always a happy and well-informed one.

What are you most excited about for the future of green cleaning?
I am most excited about the implementation of organic/food waste recycling in Davis School District. We will be diverting organic/food waste from the landfill to a new local anaerobic digester. I think this change will have a large impact on our students, staff and community and change their perception of organic/food waste. I think it will also have a tremendous impact on the surrounding school districts and hopefully with their commitment to implement organic/food waste recycling an impact on the overall air-quality of our state.

Tony Almeida, Manager, Custodial Services, Elk Grove Unified School District, Elk Grove, California

Tony currently serves as Manager for the Custodial Services department at Elk Grove Unified School District, overseeing 75 buildings with over 6.2 million square feet and 270 staff members. Tony and the EGUSD Maintenance & Operations Department were the first district in California to use OSG (on-site generation) of electrochemically activated solution. His department won the Silver Green Cleaning Award for Schools and Universities in 2017. When he’s not leading his team, you can find Tony enjoying life in beautiful Northern California.

What do you believe is the most important aspect of a successful green cleaning program?
Green cleaning is a process that goes beyond just green products. The success of a green or sustainable program is dependent on many factors. A green cleaning program should incorporate chemicals, procedures/process and equipment. We have always adopted that we should clean for health not just appearance. A healthy building means healthy schools, which means healthy kids and staff.

How do you keep your staff engaged in the process?
One of keys to effective Leadership in this field is cultivating an environment of transparency. Employees are engaged when they feel comfortable. I try to do my best by blending work and play. It makes it fun to simply engage. When employees are happy, working and learning they feel more energized and engaged while still contributing our department.

What are you most excited about for the future of green cleaning?
I believe that we will see more and more on-site generation (OSG) and robotics as time goes on. Robotics isn’t used very much in K-12 schools yet, but as technologies improve, it will get less expensive and I predict we will see more automated equipment in the next five years.

Aaron Uresti, Assistant Director of Custodial & Housekeeping Services, Facilities Services, University of California, Riverside, California

At UC Riverside, Aaron is responsible for leading a department of over 150 employees that clean approximately 6 million square feet of building space daily using sustainable products and methods. Prior to his role at UC Riverside, Aaron was the Senior Superintendent of Custodial Services at the University of California, Irvine where his department won two Green Cleaning Awards: Best New Program in 2013 and Honorable Mention in 2015. When Aaron isn’t working, you can find him on the soccer field watching his two kids play the game he once played himself.

What do you believe is the most important aspect of a successful green cleaning program?
I believe that effective communication with your staff is the most important aspect of a successful green cleaning program. For example, when it comes to the use of specific products, your staff needs to know and understand the environmental impact and health benefits and be provided with the proper training on product use in order to maximize efficiencies.

How do you keep your employees engaged in the process?
I would define my management style as that of a coach who focuses on the professional development of the team. I am not afraid to get in the trenches with the team by showing them how to perform the work the first time in order to increase the level of future performance. I also feel that this helps build credibility within all levels of the team and it gives our employees the opportunity to grow and be proud of what they’ve learned.

What are you most excited about for the future of green cleaning?
One item that we are learning more about is the process of chemical-free floor stripping. Having the ability to reduce the use of floor finish remover would increase our overall sustainable purchasing percentage, which we are always interested in improving.

Christopher Raines, Custodial Receiving Supervisor, Folsom Lake Community College, Folsom, California

At Folsom Lake Community College, Chris oversees 16 buildings covering more than 500,000 square feet. In 2016, he launched a department-wide reorder of cleaning methods with green cleaning as the main focus of the department. Folsom Lake College received the Green Cleaning Award’s Honorable Mention for Best New Program in 2017. As most in the custodial services industry, Chris starts his days super early. So when he’s not working you can find him sleeping. “It is not a wasted day off sleeping if that was the plan from the start, it is a goal achieved,” he says.

What do you believe is the most important aspect of a successful green cleaning program?
To be successful with green cleaning, you have to have a willingness to push through the resistance of changing how the custodial department cleans. At the same time, it’s important to keep active listening skills working because the crew may have a good point.

How do you keep your employees engaged?
Feeling a part of the process makes for a better work environment and more engaged staff. With those in leadership positions I use a bit of a hands-off approach, mentoring them through dealing with a difficult job, employee or project so they can learn what works best for them.

What are you most excited about for the future of green cleaning?
Being on the front end of the changes in green cleaning is very thought-provoking and I am having a blast putting in positive changes in place. The self-generation of cleaning chemicals is just starting to really change how business is done in facilities maintenance and cleaning. Changing the liners we use for our paper recycling program are the next big challenge for our green cleaning program.