Meet the Woman Helping to Create a World-Class Building Environment

Olivia Claus, Manager of Custodial Services for Howard County Public School System (HCPSS) in Maryland,  is one of seven members recently appointed to ourGreen Clean Schools Leadership Council. The Green Clean Schools Leadership Council brings together award-winning school facility managers to provide up-to-date guidance to us here at Healthy Schools Campaign on new developments in green cleaning in addition to directly advising other school facility leaders.

Cleaning for Health First
For Claus, green cleaning is about cleaning for health. There is a mandate from HCPSS’ superintendent to create a world-class school system, and Claus has made it her professional mission to also create a world-class building environment. That means providing the students, teachers and her own staff with a healthy place to work and learn. In 2012, her efforts were rewarded. That year, with Claus at the helm, HCPSS’ cleaning program won the Green Cleaning Award for Schools and Universities.

Over the past nine years, Claus’s team has made huge changes in the way it cleans it schools. For example, they have completely eliminated the use of bleach. There are air monitors to make sure air quality is pristine even during floor care and other tough custodial jobs. The district is Green Seal 42 certified, which means it adheres to strict sustainable and healthy third-party standards for proper product choices, equipment and procedures. Claus has implemented a rigorous grading system that monitors cleaning efficacy at every building in the district. And they are currently piloting a food scrap recycling program at one of the elementary schools, which they hope to implement gradually across the district in the coming years. These are all significant aspects of an exemplary green cleaning program. But one of the truly unique things about the HCPSS custodial services department is the care its employees receive.

A Team of Building Ambassadors
HCPSS takes care of employees by making sure to choose products and procedures that are good for their health, but it also fosters their professional development. Claus wants to make sure each team member is trained in the proper green cleaning techniques and procedures. And she also wants her custodians to understand how vital their role is and what a big difference they make in the lives of the children they clean up after. “I tell all of my new hires that they are ambassadors of the school,” Claus says. “I say, ‘You are more than just a custodian. You are the key to that building’s health and success.’”

Claus sends all supervisors to leadership development classes at a local community college, provides a master class over summer where team members come in for more training, and even offers a process for attracting high-potential employees. For Claus, green cleaning is intrinsically related to the training, education and care her employees receive. “People are the keys to success,” says Claus. “If they aren’t totally engaged and supported, then it will be a hard struggle to be world class.”

Connect With the Council
Claus is joining forces with Healthy Schools Campaign and six other leaders in the field to provide in-depth, focused and comprehensive green cleaning guidance to schools across the country as part of the Green Clean Schools Leadership Council. Fill out our program assessment to begin your relationship with the Council and to start learning from award-winning experts like Claus. The Council’s guidance is customized to your program’s needs and desires, plus it is completely free of charge. If you have any questions about the Council, contact Mark Bishop atMark@healthyschoolscampaign.org.