February 28, 2012


Superintendent Harold Cowley of Yantis ISD is a 2012 Healthy Kids Healthy Schools Hero for his extraordinary leadership and dedication to the safety and well-being of the children and teachers in Yantis, TX. 

Superintendent Cowley is highly qualified to be chief administrator of a modern school system because of a special combination of his values as well as his technical knowledge and skills. 

Cowley’s background includes being a chemist and then a vocational agriculture teacher before moving into roles in the central office. He became an elementary principal, then an assistant superintendent of finance, then superintendent for two different districts before retiring after 35 years. After an extended retirement, he got called to provide leadership to Yantis ISD.

Before accepting the Superintendent position in 2005, he took two days to go through the schools and gave the school board two pages of necessary improvements.  Since then he has been a resource and mentor to the school community, maintaining high standards with ongoing inspections, surveillance and problem prevention.  

The benefit of his approach is the admiration and respect of his staff and community as well as an increase in attendance and reduction in staff turnover.  The current attendance rate is 97%. In the past the school had a 40% staff turnover rate.  He lost no teachers last year.

Cowley was nominated by Agriculture Teacher Alicia Moore.

“Talking about Healthy Schools seems like something that should be a ‘no brainer’ yet many schools are just not that safe.  Our ideas for a healthy school come straight from the top of our District.  

Our Superintendent, Harold Cowley, leads by example.  Since I came to the district 3 years ago, we lost one of our maintenance men and I became asbestos coordinator and Integrated Pest Management (IPM) coordinator.

Even though I had a broken foot, Mr. Cowley immediately arranged for me to go the appropriate training to make sure our campus stayed safe for our students.  We are a safer district due to the many steps he has taken.  

He makes sure staff in all key positions are trained. He oversees many of the checklists for building maintenance and code compliance. He personally checks on everything from the condition of the school bus tires to the fire extinguishers. Superintendent Cowley brings in people to check our campus on a regular basis.  Our school participates in a national tractor safety program.  Faculty receive monthly IPM newsletters. Yantis gets perfect scores in the health department’s pest management inspection report.

For these reasons and many more, I nominate Harold Cowley, Yantis ISD Superintendent as our 2012 Healthy Schools Hero.  Without a doubt, his sense of responsibility, inspirational leadership, and exemplary persistence and courage protects children from school hazards and unhealthy school conditions in Yantis, Texas.”  

What is special about Yantis?

According to Superintendent Cowley, Yantis ISD is an "outstanding community" because of the high quality of school personnel and the sense of pride people have in their community and their school system. 

Yantis is a small diverse community of 375 students. Although 62% of the students are economically disadvantaged, Yantis is a property-wealthy school district that sends local tax revenues back to the state to share with other districts. 

Yantis is a community where people care for each other, supporting each other when there is a death in a family even if they don’t know the person.  There is a coat fund and a fund that helps buy glasses for students. Someone donated money so every student could buy shoes. Last year every kid got a free breakfast and lunch not only to teach good nutrition but Cowley believes that “you can’t learn if your stomach hurts” and “if kids feel good they feel good about themselves.”  People who can’t afford a ticket to home games get a “golden pass.”

Cowley champions school quality, safety and security.

Cowley believes that “An once of prevention is worth a pound of cure” and “If something is worth doing, it is worth doing right.”  He knows, “if a community is proud of the school, you take care of your school.

His safety concerns included updating the alarm system and making sure all buildings meet the fire code.  He put the gas lines and meters outside.  Although the state requires a pressure check only every two years, he gets a certified plumber to come in to check the pressure regularly.  

"I wouldn't want my kid on an unsafe bus."

Cowley checks the bus tires frequently and inspects the school buses once a month. The district is always ready for the Department of Transportation’s rigid inspection. Twice a year buses get deep cleaned. They pop the cushions, wiping and disinfecting the buses from top to bottom.

Restrooms and classrooms are cleaned every night, especially, doors and desks, by a staggered day and night crew of four men.  Every filter in the HVAC system is changed every three months. The schools conduct monthly fire drills that include staging an "obstructed way" so students learn to take alternative way out.  They also do tornado disaster drills and locked down drills.  Cowley’s focus on continuous improvement includes seeking cost savings through updates in energy efficiency.

Cowley remembers how students in the 1950s were taught highly technical skills in seven separate vocations. They developed confidence and pride attending shows and contests.  
Today, he is proud that Yantis ISD has more technology than any school district in Texas, regardless of size.  Every room is equipped with smart boards and ceiling projectors. Students have access to a wide array of learning programs and virtual field trips. Juniors and Seniors can take college classes.  The district has three robotics teams.

Quality Science: Teaching Safely and Teaching Safety

Cowley is especially proud of the safe science classrooms. The chemistry classes in the junior and senior high have separate prep rooms and secure chemical storage rooms.  
I have had the privilege of working with Mr. Cowley for 7 years,” writes Michael Alphin, Yantis High School Principal and Science Teacher.  “Mr. Cowley has always supported the science department and teachers.  

He supports purchasing any safety equipment that we need to maintain a safe and effective laboratory.  When the new middle school was being designed, he collaborated with the science teachers to build a laboratory and classroom equipped with all the proper safety equipment such as eyewash and shower stations and emergency shutoff switches to the laboratory. All chemicals are kept in the chemical store room.  Flammables are in flammable cabinets and acids in the acid cabinets. The new middle school laboratory was built with a very spacious prep room and then an attached chemical closet.  Teaching proper safety techniques ensures that our science students in Yantis ISD have the best learning experience possible in the safest environment.”

- 0 -  
Disa Schulze, Director of Support Services, Danbury ISD, TX, is a 2012 Healthy Kids Healthy Schools Hero for more than twenty years of dedication to the safety and well-being of the children and teachers where she is responsible for Maintenance, Food Service, Transportation, and Safety.  

Disa was nominated by Lisa Menard, Secretary to the Danbury ISD Superintendent, Eric V. Grimmett.
My 2012 Healthy Schools Hero is Mrs. Disa Schulze.  I have worked with Disa for more than twelve years and she continues to be my inspiration daily.

NOBODY works as hard and tirelessly as Disa.  She is the most committed and dedicated individual I have ever worked with.  When I think about things like the New London school explosion, I always think about what good hands our students and staff are in here at Danbury…I can’t imagine that anybody would take care of our school district as well as she does…

Disa grew up in Danbury and graduated from Danbury High School.  She has raised three children in these schools and continues to show how much she cares for every aspect of our school district…

She is very safety conscious and genuinely caring for our students, our staff, our parents and whether they are in our buildings, in our vehicles, etc.  Disa devotes herself and is available to any and all 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Our cafeterias and facilities are models for other school districts in regards to cleanliness, safety, and compliance.  Our coaches have literally been spoiled by her knowledge and ability to take care of our sport venues and equipment.  Our Regional Education Center (Region 4) in Houston, Texas, has sought out Disa’s expertise in the area of food service reporting...
Eric V. Grimmett, Lisa Menard, Disa Schulze, Cynthia Wendel
Janet A. Hurley, MPA, Extension Program Specialist II - School IPM, Texas AgriLife Extension Service, Southwest Technical Resource Center writes, "Disa Schulze has been an advocate and educator for student health for many years.  In her role as Support Services Director, she has also overseen the district’s integrated pest management program (IPM).   Disa has taken this state mandated program and turned it into a student health program, making sure that all the buildings at Danbury ISD are free from pests and pesticides.  Disa is a true Healthy Schools Hero."  [Added March 13, 2012]
The Danbury Way  

Superintendent Grimmett says, “An advantage of being such a small district is that there are no layers.  There is a sense of coordination and efficiency.  Central office meets as a team, twice a month.  We identify needs and solve problems together.  There are a lot of things we can’t do because of our size, but a lot of things we can do.  Disa wears lots of hats.  And, we benefit from Disa’s institutional knowledge that goes back to her days being a student in Danbury. Her job touches everyone every day.”

According to Superintendent Grimmett, Danbury is the poster child for doing more with less.  It is a small poor town with 735 students (grades PreK-12) and can be proud of an attendance rate of 96.72%.

Safety is non-negotiable

“We live in a low tax, low service state so we need to be good stewards of taxpayers’ money.  Out of eight school districts in the county, Danbury has the lowest school tax rate.  82% of budget is personnel.  There is a cap on the maintenance and operations tax rate.

But safety is non-negotiable, it is a priority embedded in our school culture, in policies and in practice.  It is the price of doing business.  We have facilities from the 50’s, 60’s and 80’s and as new as twelve years old.  We make decisions based on health and safety.

In our part of the country, we can’t save money by closing up the buildings during the summer or we would have mold.  We can’t cut the fuel or supply budget.  We depend on people to do things differently.  We have a long time custodial staff.  If someone is out sick, others take over.  No one says it isn’t my job.  We do more with less.”

What is special about Danbury?

According to Disa, the key to her success is relationships and partnerships.  “It is a small town community.  We all work together.  I work with wonderful people, a wonderful crew.  It is a group effort dedicated to making sure everything is in good repair.  We have a work order system and high standards for maintenance.  We trust each other.  We all know what we need to do.”

Training, Communication, Coordination

Disa did not attend college but has taken advantage of professional development, technical training, webinars and self-study.  She started working in Danbury in 1991.  After five years in food service, Disa stepped in when the Director of Maintenance became ill.  When Disa took over maintenance, she rerouted gas lines when one of the schools did an electric upgrade.  “I don’t care how cautious you are, you are going to have leaks,” Disa says.  “Now is the time to make it safer.”

Today, Disa routinely provides staff workshops to ensure compliance with food service standards.  As Pest Management Coordinator, Disa sends our reminders about Integrated Pest Management strategies and shares safety information with all district employees.  

Safety is a work in progress

Disa has changed from hazardous cleaning chemicals to hydrogen peroxide-based cleaners.  The chemical storage area is well-maintained.  She obtains a list of chemicals from science teachers every year to give to the fire department.  

HVAC system coils are washed bimonthly.  When the roof needs attention, repairs are made while school is not is session.  Disa says, “In spite of a limited budget, the Superintendent, Director of Business Service, and the community are supportive of our efforts.  The PTO raised funds for the playground surround and the school district paid for the mulch.”

Superintendent Grimmett says, “Everyone knows that the district does not compromise when it comes to safety.  The district installed a school alert system three years ago to improve communication, especially for bad weather and emergencies.  There is a priority on keeping in touch and keeping folks informed.”

Through the efforts of Disa and others the school received a Clean Cities grant for two new school buses.  They applied and received a third for a special needs bus.

The District, with the help of Disa and her crew, including the Director of Business Services, received a maximum grant of $35,000.00 for replacement of three outdated HVAC units.  These units were installed with digital, programmable thermostats.

Disa is Mayor Pro Tem of the small town of Holiday Lakes, Texas.  She has applied for grants from HUD, through which the town has been able to do road improvements.  This past year the town was awarded $133,000.00.  Disa says that she is here to help her community.  She has helped four families apply for housing improvements.  These families have received new homes through HGAC and HUD.

Through contracts and approval from the District Attorney’s office, Disa was able to receive recycled road materials for the bus barn parking lot at Danbury ISD.

Many reasons to be proud

This year, Superintendent Grimmett will be watching 41 seniors graduate.  These students were the kindergarten class his first year in Danbury.  “At kindergarten graduation, we always tell parents that this is your first look at the graduating class of the future.

Our true claim to fame is our girls’ softball team.  The teams of 2004 and 2011 each brought home State Championships.  The boys’ baseball team of 2009 also brought home a State Championship.

Our football stadium is adjacent to the high school.  Our custodians make sure restrooms are clean.  People from other districts comment that we have the cleanest bathrooms we’ve ever seen.  Yes, we think that is important.  Even our old buildings are clean.”

-  0  - 

March 13, 2012  "Disa Schulze has been an advocate and educator for student health for many years.  In her role as Support Services Director, she has also overseen the district’s integrated pest management program (IPM).   Disa has taken this state mandated program and turned it into a student health program, making sure that all the buildings at Danbury ISD are free from pests and pesticides.  Disa is a true Healthy Schools Hero."-- Janet A. Hurley, MPA, Extension Program Specialist II - School IPM, Texas AgriLife Extension Service, Southwest Technical Resource Center

Bring the Science of Chemical Safety to Your School

Webcasts, podcasts, white papers, case studies, data sheets and more in the new SchoolDude Resource Library! 
  • Chemical Inventory Control and Storage Essentials for a Safe Educational Environment, 1/22/2012 Hosted by Roger Young, featuring Dave Waddell (North American Hazardous Materials Management Association) and Dr. Irene Cesa (Flinn Scientific Incorporated), this webcast examines best practices for chemical storage, inventory and disposal.
  • Identify and Control Chemical Safety Risks Roger Young, featuring Dave Waddell from the North American Hazardous Materials Management Association, Joanie Arrott from TASB and Dale Zabel from School District of Kettle Moraine, WI

February 19, 2012

Some families lost more than one child. Photo: Ellie Goldberg, 2005
'Gone at 3:17: The Untold Story of the Worst School Disaster in American History.' David Brown and Michael Wereschagin will talk about their book and answer questions in a free session Saturday February 25 at 3 p.m. at the Andrew Carnegie Free Library & Music Hall, 300 Beechwood Ave., Carnegie.

At 3:17 p.m. on March 18, 1937, a natural gas leak beneath the London Junior-Senior High School in the oil boom town of New London, Texas, created a lethal mixture of gas and oxygen in the school’s basement. The odorless, colorless gas went undetected until the flip of an electrical switch triggered a colossal blast. 

The two-story school, one of the nation’s most modern, disintegrated, burying everyone under a vast pile of rubble and debris. More than 300 students and teachers were killed, and hundreds more were injured. As the seventy-fifth anniversary of the catastrophe approaches, it remains the deadliest school disaster in U.S. history. 

Few, however, know of this historic tragedy, and no book, until now, has chronicled the explosion, its cause, its victims, and the aftermath. Join us as authors David M. Brown and Michael Wereschagin present a talk and question and answer session about their powerful, timely and timeless book...
The authors found the situation 75 years ago in East Texas very much like what is going on in Western Pennsylvania today. Both areas became havens for energy exploration, and the urgency to extract resources -- oil and natural gas in Texas, Marcellus shale gas drilling in Pennsylvania -- is fierce.
Brown insists there's no political element in "Gone ... " but it can be read as "a darn good cautionary tale, that shows you exactly what can happen when you refuse to, or can't, see the dangers that can lie all around you," he says.

February 17, 2012

THE SAFE HOMETOWNS GUIDE Using safer materials, reducing storage volumes, ... eliminates major community vulnerability ... (http://strategiccounsel.info/wp-content/uploads/safehometowns.pdf)

or this?

...a program beset with untrained and unqualified staff, cronyism, "an environment for fraud, waste and abuse," use of government travel cards for equipment and "unauthorized expenses" and talked of a "catastrophic failure" and a leadership that didn't want to hear bad news.

Chemical plants: still unsafe?
Source: The Washington Post, February 16, 2012
Author: Al Kamen

The Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) program, designed to enhance security against terrorist attack, began about five years ago. The goal was straightforward - figure out which facilities were the most vulnerable and dangerous and then monitor industry efforts to secure those sites.

Since then, CFATS (that's "Cee-FATS") has received some 4,200 site security plans from businesses - who've spent tons of their own money on plans and improvements - to obtain a government seal of approval for their efforts.

So far, some $480 million later, not one has been approved. Zero. And heads may roll.

A blistering internal investigation in November, recently released to a House Energy and Commerce oversight subcommittee, found a program beset with untrained and unqualified staff, cronyism, "an environment for fraud, waste and abuse," use of government travel cards for equipment and "unauthorized expenses" and talked of a "catastrophic failure" and a leadership that didn't want to hear bad news.

Read more

February 16, 2012

State Law Requires Pipes to be Tested Every Two Years
The Texas Legislature, through the School Piping Safety Act, requires that all customer-owned gas piping in schools (public, private and charter) be leak tested every two years.  Every school district (or school) is required to notify its natural gas supplier, CPS Energy, that satisfactory pressure tests have been performed.

As a natural gas supplier, the law requires CPS Energy to terminate service to facilities if the required information is not in our possession before the due date.  

The information supplied to CPS Energy under the law must be provided within Railroad Commission of Texas Forms PS-86A and PS-86B.  These forms must be filled out in their entirety.

February 13, 2012

A wall at the London Museum and Tea Room
Walter Cronkite writes..

The March 18, 1937 Texas School Explosion was one of reporter Walter Cronkite's first assignments.

Walter Cronkite later wrote:  "I did nothing in my studies nor in my life to prepare me for a story of the magnitude of that New London tragedy nor has any story since that awful day equaled it."

Excerpt from the book, "A Reporter's Life" by Walter Cronkite on Robert Hilliard's website: The New London School Disaster http://www.hilliard.ws/nlartic.htm (Scroll down to bottom of page.)

February 11, 2012

Green Curriculum Resources ... reduce risks, avoid costs, and maintain or enhance the educational experience.
-- From US EPA Building Successful Programs to Address Chemical Risks in Schools: A Workbook with Templates, Tips and Technique, EPA530-K-08, November 2008, www.epa.gov/sc3 




February 08, 2012

 Pride of Purpose 
from IAQTfSConnector@cadmusgroup.com
“It was astonishing to see how much prouder the IAQ team members became of the work they do each day once they understood the connections between IAQ and health and the role they can play in academic achievement.”  – Stacy Murphy, U.S. EPA Region 6

Dear School Leader,
Stacy Murphy
Stacy Murphy
I’m excited to share the story of a rural school district in Oklahoma that has taken steps to identify its challenges and strive for growth and success using the IAQ Tools for Schools guidance. Ponca City Public Schools’ journey to success is one I believe school districts across the country can emulate.
As a 2011 Design Challenge School District, Ponca City attended the 2011 IAQ Tools for Schools National Symposium in Washington, D.C., ready to soak up as much technical information, guidance and mentorship from other school districts as possible. Working with other Symposium participants, the district began to pinpoint improvements needed to create a comprehensive IAQ management program, and throughout this process, one specific challenge rose to the surface. It became clear to the Ponca City staff that a disconnect existed in the district’s ability to communicate IAQ issues throughout the school community.
Read full article by Stacy Murphy here: LINK

Pictured above: Ponca City
School District representatives working to identify and solve the district’s IAQ challenges.
Pictured above: Ponca City School District representatives working to identify and solve the district’s IAQ challenges.

February 07, 2012

IT'S TIME TO GET SMART about chemical management. Too many schools, old and new, harbor large quantities of explosives, flammables and other hazardous chemicals in labs, closets, classrooms and storerooms.

to improve your school's chemical security. 

START CONVERSATIONS* to raise awareness of resources that can save your school money and help your school prevent explosions and fires – from accidents and intentional acts.

before there is an accident and people get hurt.

REACH OUT to school officials, other parents, your local health department, fire department, and state agencies who are responsible for helping schools manage and dispose of chemical hazards.

Ask your principal these questions:

1. Does my school have a chemical inventory?
2. Does my school have a comprehensive chemical management plan?
3. Does my school have a chemical hygiene officer?
If the answer to any of these questions is "no," your school needs an immediate checkup and safety drill.

*Bring the Lessons of the 1937 Texas School Explosion to Your School

Send comments and questions to me at healthykids@rcn.com

How Safe Is Your School?

Schools fill budget holes with fracking revenues http://www.stateline.org/live/details/story?contentId=597091

Public Schools vs. Shale Gas Pipelines  http://keeptapwatersafe.org/2012/01/31/public-schools-vs-shale-gas-pipelines/

Child Health Groups Call for Robust Assessment of Hydrofracking Health Impacts, www.healthyschools.org
Map of public school facilities in Marcellus Shale: P-12 public school facilities relying on private well water on the Marcellus Shale. This includes classroom buildings, administrative offices and bus garages.
The No Fracking Campaign http://chej.org/nofracking/
 ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
(a) Safety: the condition of being protected against physical, social, spiritual, financial, political, emotional, occupational, psychological, educational consequences of failure, damage, error, accidents or harm.  (b) Safety can also be defined to be the control of recognized hazards to achieve an acceptable level of risk in the protection of people, possessions and environment. Quoted with permission.  --  Lynda K. Farrell, Executive Director, Pipeline Safety Coalition, www.pscoalition.org

"I have been in a lot of "events" in my 40 years, and the most dangerous of all safeties is the illusion of safety. ... We call this an operational setup for failure – very bad in risk management approaches." -- Richard B. Kuprewicz, President of Accufacts Inc.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Yes, it is painful to threaten the illusion of safety in a school or community and to talk about death and loss. The New London survivors did not talk about their pain for more than forty years.  They teach us that it is even more painful to live with a tragedy when opportunities to prevent loss were ignored or overlooked.

March 18, 2012 is the 75th anniversary of the 1937 Texas School Explosion.

February 02, 2012

Odor now added to natural gas

By MIKE ELSWICK  Monday, March 19, 2007

If a positive angle can be found in the tragic explosion of the London School on March 18, 1937, it could be that hundreds, if not thousands, of lives have probably been saved as a result, according to Archie McDonald.

"The major positive that came from the New London school explosion was legislation requiring gas companies to add an odor to their product so anyone can determine when natural gas is leaking or not properly utilized," said McDonald, a historian long associated with Stephen F. Austin State University who has researched the topic.

Naturally, natural gas has no odor. The smell today many associate with the release of natural gas comes from a malodorant agent added to the gas just for the purpose of allowing it to be smelled should a leak develop.

What some people describe as a rotting cabbage smell usually associated with natural gas comes not from natural gas itself but from mercaptans, which are added to natural gas during processing.

The London School can be credited with instigating, or at least speeding up and stimulating, laws resulting in requiring the odor agent to be added, McDonald said.

The April 1937 edition of the Quarterly of the National Fire Protection Association ran a 14-page summary of the London School disaster of the previous month. Among the conclusions in the report prepared by H. Oram Smith with the Texas Inspection Bureau, was that "the value of a distinctive malodorant in all gas supply systems by which leaking gas may be readily detected is clearly evident."

Smith wrote there was only one explosion associated with the disaster and no fire.

"Yet there is evidence of a most terrific force in the great extent of devastation and loss of life that came almost instantly; testimony of bodies tossed 75 feet in the air; an automobile 200 feet distant crushed like an eggshell under a two-ton slab of concrete that had been hurled from the building," Smith wrote. He said at the established point of origin of the blast the explosion had to "break through an 8-inch concrete floor slab before starting on its path of destruction."

In the Texas Railroad Commission archives covering a summary of the agency's activities in the 1930s was an item indicating enforcement of the new rules requiring odorants was enacted, said Ramona Nye, spokeswoman for the agency.

"As a result of this tragedy, the 45th Legislature enacted House Bill 1017 ... giving the Railroad Commission the authority to adopt rules and regulations pertaining to the odorization of natural gas or liquefied petroleum gases," the commission archives said. "On July 27, 1937, Gas Utilities Docket 122 was adopted and the commission began enforcement of odorization requirements for natural gas."

In May 1937, the Texas Railroad Commission, at the time referred to as the most powerful board of resource regulators in the world, had passed an order in memory of those killed in New London that continues to impact the lives of people worldwide.

Shortly after the disaster, the Texas Legislature met in emergency session and enacted the Engineering Registration Act, now rewritten as the Texas Engineering Practice Act. Public pressure was on the government to regulate the practice of engineering because of the faulty installation of the natural gas connection at the London School believed to have resulted in the natural gas leak.

Many other states soon enacted rules requiring an odorant be added to natural gas, and later in 1937 federal requirements were made law, Smith said.

According to the Texas Railroad Commission, the odorants are considered non-toxic in the extremely low concentrations occurring in natural gas delivered to the end user.