The King of Prussia, Pennsylvania-based Upper Merion Area School District recently became the first K-12 school district in America to achieve ISSA''s coveted Cleaning Industry Management Standard (CIMS) certification with Honors.
With six schools and five auxiliary buildings totaling nearly 883,000 square feet, it was important for Upper Merion to streamline processes and ensure best practices were consistently employed.
In June 2009, Upper Merion began preparing for the certification process by documenting their practices.
Consistent with their mission to inspire excellence … in every student, every day, the Upper Merion custodial department left no stone unturned in their certification endeavor.
"We capitalized on the process by using the Standard''s five areas of management best practices to quantify many of the programs that we already had in place," states William Dillon, custodial coordinator for the Upper Merion Area School District.
The custodial department already had safety, recycling and employee recognition programs in place, along with detailed cleaning schedules, extensive training, equipment maintenance records and workloading management protocols, putting them ahead of the game — so to speak.
Because many of the custodial department''s practices were compliant with the five core principals of CIMS — Quality Systems, Service Delivery, Health, Safety and Environmental Stewardship, Management Commitment and Human Resources — they were able to spend more time fine-tuning existing programs to make them more efficient and cost effective.
Things such as hazardous communication plans, chemical hygiene/spill containment plans, environmental policies and customer surveys all received a CIMS-inspired facelift.
"The preparation process is a valuable part of CIMS," notes Dillon.
The Path To Greatness
Bill McGarvey, an ISSA Certification Expert (I.C.E.) and director of training and sustainability at Philip Rosenau Company Inc., visited randomly selected Upper Merion employees to ensure that the custodial department''s activities were consistent with its documented systems and processes.
"My role as I.C.E. was to coach the Upper Merion Area School District through the process and help clarify the expectation of the Standard prior to the assessor''s visit," proclaims McGarvey. "The process was aided by the fact that Upper Merion and the Philip Rosenau Company have been working together for a number of years and much of the required training and documentation was already well in hand. This is just another example of the benefit for an organization to partner with a well-established, value-adding distributor."
Another part of the certification process involved on-site reviews of Upper Merion''s systems, processes and documentation by Bill Garland, joint managing director of Daniels Associates Inc., to further ensure compliance as a third-party assessor.
During the CIMS preparation process, the greatest hurdle the custodial department had to clear was their self-imposed deadline: Become CIMS-certified before the October 6 start of the 2009 ISSA/INTERCLEAN® North America trade show.
According to Dillon, there was a sense of urgency because the custodial department felt it would be a great opportunity for the organization to receive recognition during the event.
Life After Certification
"CIMS is now the platform of our program," adds Dillon. "It not only defines our standard of excellence, but also allows us to
market our program on a regular basis to our customers: The community, students and staff."
As Dillon asserts, since receiving certification, he has definitely seen an increase in employee moral and employees are showing more pride in their work because they realize what a significant accomplishment they achieved.
In addition to the personal pride CIMS certification with Honors has instilled in the custodial department, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Melissa Jamula recently acknowledged their stellar accomplishment during a board meeting, something staff greatly appreciated.
"They even asked me if we would provide t-shirts recognizing the accomplishment," remarks Dillon. "And, as a result, we are looking at procuring the shirts."