Education as Service
By Chris Marschinke
Spring has sprung! Or we may have just gotten a foot of snow, both equally likely at the time you’re reading this. But I’ll defer to optimism and assume we’ve entered into the season of rebirth. With our New Year’s resolutions long in the rearview mirror it’s time to reflect on past goals and set some (attainable!) new ones. This past summer I wrote about engaging new members and encouraging those to join committees to provide some fresh perspectives. Since then we’ve had strong additions to our state section – including Joe Lapastora at the Northern Moraine WRD, Tom Romza with the Glenbard Wastewater Authority, and Stephanie Cioni with the Wheaton Sanitary District, among others. These volunteers have wasted no time jumping into the Collections, Operations, and Public Education committees.
One that I’m particularly excited about is the re-invigoration of our Public Education committee. While the Central States’ Public Education committee has remained strong over the years, our section’s initiative in this regard has waned a bit. New member Stephanie Cioni has taken the reins and agreed (with only a small amount of persuasion) to act as our new section Public Education Chair. With the support of venerated public-education pros Danette Stout and Sue Baert at the Wheaton Sanitary District, Stephanie is perfectly suited to succeed in this position. A whole two weeks into the role and Stephanie has already begun working to increase the organization’s presence in our communities. This will begin with hands-on demonstrations of the importance of water treatment in area classrooms. Stephanie has applied for ‘Classroom Kit’ grants through the EarthEcho Challenge (formerly the World Water Monitoring Challenge). Each of these kits include hardware and reagents to conduct 50 common water test – dissolved oxygen, pH, temperature, turbidity and more. This will allow our volunteers to educate students (and potential future YP’s!) about our water environment and how our operators and professionals help to protect it every day. The initiative already has a number of volunteers from our section as well as schools interested in inviting our groups in. I look forward to the new energy on the committee and seeing how we can continue to give back to our communities.
In addition to the new membership in our section, we’ve also reorganized several of the committee structures to reflect how we operate and provide the resources to plan and execute our events. The Laboratory and Industrial Pre-Treatment committees have been operating in parallel for several years, and coordinate seminars and events effectively. The section discussed alternating-year seminars for these committees, but ultimately elected to join the two and focus on reaching an audience that often shares many of the same issues and interests. Similarly, the Safety Committee and the Operations Committee were joined to ensure the important topics of both committees are discussed on a regular basis, and covered during annual seminars. Our Operations Chair, Jason Neighbors, has an excellent background in safety systems and procedures. He brings a wealth of ideas to the newly combined committee and I know we’ll see interesting discussions and programs from the well-supported Operations & Safety Committee.
While we’ve achieved many of the goals we set out over the past year, there is always room to grow. The CSWEA Certified Operator Training Program is a major initiative that will continue to take shape throughout the coming year. By the time you read this, the inaugural course at the Kishwaukee WRD will have been held. At the time of this writing the interest and registrations for the course have been outstanding. This program is an excellent opportunity to continue to develop your knowledge as an operator, engineer, manufacturer or anything in between. For operators, the CSWEA Certification that comes with completing the minimum of eight courses will also distinguish you from others in the industry and recognize your commitment to continual professional growth. This is a program that I know we’re all excited to see take off and has the full support of the section and association.
I hope everyone is just as optimistic about what spring will bring, both personally and for our organization. I’m proud of the work we’ve accomplished over the past year, and look forward to 2019. As I transition out of my role as Chair of the section, I’m happy to welcome James Kerrigan with the Fox River WRD into the position. James has been an excellent section Vice-Chair as well as YP Chair and Operations Committee member for a number of years. I know James will continue to bring new ideas and energy to our section this coming year!