Green Clean Schools Leadership Institute Recognizes Sustainable Leaders

Those responsible for the custodial and facility departments at schools and universities know that there is no such thing as a summer break. In fact, summer is often the busiest time of year for the professionals protecting the environments and health of our educational institutions. This summer some of the country’s leading facility managers took their busy-season efforts to new heights when they attended the Green Clean Schools Leadership Institute in Park City, which took place July 13 and 14, presented by Healthy Schools Campaign (HSC).

HSC is a national non-profit organization that advocates for policies and practices that allow all students, teachers and staff to learn and work in a healthy school environment. Green cleaning has been a core of HSC’s work since its inception. The organization supports green cleaning by providing schools with tools and resources, promoting supportive policies, recognizing outstanding programs, and cultivating a growing network of school facility professionals that will advance green cleaning through events like this one.

The Green Clean Schools Leadership Institute featured two full days of training focused on developing the leadership skills needed to build a truly extraordinary cleaning program, with emphasis on healthy and sustainable initiatives and staff engagement and morale. The Institute's programming took a hands-on, interactive approach to learning by featuring school tours, collaborative group activities, networking sessions, workshops and panel discussions.
(For those interested in learning more about any of these sessions, most of the slides from the event have been posted on the Green Clean Schools website at

On Thursday July 13, participants were treated to a guided tour of the green cleaning program at Salt Lake City School District (SLCSD), organized by Green Clean Schools Leadership Council member and SLCSD Assistant Custodial Supervisor Mervin Brewer. The 60-plus participants broke into small groups to visit stations throughout Hillside Middle School and Beacon Heights Elementary School. Stops included short presentations by members of the custodial staff at SLCSD that focused on elements of the district’s cleaning program including green approaches to floor care, integrated pest management practices for which the district is known, recycling initiatives and restroom care. After the tours, attendees gathered in the school’s cafeteria for a healthy lunch and a question-and-answer panel with members of the program’s custodial department.

One attendee asked, “What are you doing today that you never would have expected to be doing ten years ago?” Ricky Martinez, assistant custodial supervisor at SLCSD, answered: “That I’d be here on a panel, speaking to you today.” The tour and following question-and-answer session were fine examples of SLCSD’s culture of staff engagement that is truly elevating the role of the cleaning profession, the value of green cleaning, and its vital role in protecting the health of students and the community.

The first day of programming ended with two more presentations by leaders in the field of sustainability and green cleaning in Utah schools. Greg Libecci, SLCSD Energy and Resource Manager and Shawna Cragun, Director of Custodial Services, at neighboring Davis School District, presented on the forward-thinking sustainability initiatives they are employing at their schools, including energy reduction practices and plans for groundbreaking composting programs.

After a full day of touring and learning, participants enjoyed a few hours of free time to explore downtown Park City. Some even took that time to slide down the Park City Alpine Slide, one of the longest slides in the world. After a free afternoon, guests gathered at the resort for a dinner full of networking and conversation.

On Friday, the Leadership Institute packed in a series of presentations and interactive exercises designed to help attendees build their leadership skills, secure buy-in for green initiatives from the top, and implement strategies to evoke change. Attendees heard an impassioned call to action from the father of green cleaning himself, Steve Ashkin, president of The Ashkin Group, CEO of Sustainability Dashboard Tools, and co-author of Healthy Schools Campaign’s Five Steps to Green Cleaning in Schools. His presentation made the important case for the protection of human health through green cleaning practices, and provided attendees with a plethora of resources to support and advance their green cleaning programs.

The Green Clean Schools Leadership Council is comprised of on-the-ground green cleaning leaders from schools and universities across the country. On Friday, three Leadership Council members presented on the unique leadership practices they use in engaging their staff and communities, including topics like servant leadership, methods to engage the community, and how to work together with local organizations and peers to advance green cleaning. In between presentations from the Leadership Council, attendees broke into small groups to work through industry challenges, such as how to overcome misconceptions about green cleaning and methods for including infection control in a green cleaning program, together and report back to the larger group. Before adjourning, participants were treated to an inspirational session led by Tracy Enger, U.S. EPA Indoor Air Quality Tools for Schools project manager. Enger urged participants to write down near- and long-term objectives that they would bring home with them to put what they learned at SLCSD and from peer-led presentations into action.

The next Green Clean Schools event is fast approaching. There will be an education track event at ISSA/INTERCLEAN presented by Healthy Schools Campaign’s Green Clean Schools program that takes an in-depth look at the how-to’s and specifics of building a green cleaning program. This event will feature one full day of panel discussions and interactive programming, and one day on the trade show floor, with a guided tour planned especially for facility personnel from schools and universities. Learn more at