MEDIA RELEASE: Vote NOW for Maine Custodian in the Running for National Custodian of Year

Portland Public Schools’ Ocean Avenue Elementary School (OAES) lead custodian Donna Colello has been chosen as one of the top 10 finalists nationally in Cintas’ 2021 Custodian of the Year contest.

Colello is the only finalist from the Northeast and one of only two women in the top 10. From now through April 16, anyone can vote for Colello at Each person can vote once per day.

In its eighth year, the annual Custodian of the Year contest honors custodians for their exemplary work in schools across the nation. The school custodian with the most votes will be named Custodian of the Year and will receive a $10,000 cash prize, along with products and services for their school, a comprehensive training and development package, and enrollment in the GBAC Fundamentals Online Course that teaches cleaning professionals to prepare for, respond to and recover from biohazards in the workplace, from the Global Biorisk Advisory Council (GBAC), a Division of ISSA.

In nominating Colello for the contest, OAES Principal Beverly Stevens described her as outstanding. “Miss Donna works tirelessly every day and always brings a smile to all students and staff,” Stevens wrote. “What started as a job 25 years ago to support herself and newborn child, then flourished into a dedicated and fulfilling career where she goes out of her way to help students build up their self-confidence and help those in need. She’s meticulous in her level of higher cleaning techniques and standards, and takes great pride and care in the work she and her team accomplishes. Donna is an integral part of the Ocean Avenue Elementary community and is the one that both staff and students rely on the most.”

Stevens praised Colello’s impressive work ethic. “Donna is always one-step ahead, knowing not only what to do next, but what is coming up over the next few months. For two years in a row, 100% of the teaching staff rated the building clean and orderly on the climate survey,” Stevens wrote. “She does side-by-side training on best practices for cleaning the school and keeping our equipment maintained. She is passionate about her team and keeping our building healthy, secure, and looking top-notch. Donna is thoughtful, kind, and puts students, staff, and safety at the core of her work. She is an ethical compass, and leads by example. Donna has created and maintained lasting connections to everyone in the Portland Public Schools and city community, including parents and neighborhood groups. Donna’s mantra is: ‘We’re doing it for the kids.’”

“Donna Colello is one of the most respected, hardworking custodians in the district. We are so grateful to Donna for her dedicated service to our students and staff,” said Superintendent Xavier Botana. “She goes above and beyond at Ocean Avenue School and she also is a leader in the district. This past summer, she volunteered to serve on the district’s custodial ‘Tiger Team,’ working to figure out how to best keep our school buildings safe during the pandemic. In our eyes, Donna already is a winner, but I encourage everyone to vote for her to come out on top in this national contest and receive the recognition of which she is so worthy.”

Cintas Marketing Manager Christiny Betsch said in a statement: “With over 2,000 deserving nominations, it was difficult choosing only 10 finalists. This contest shows us that custodians are much more than cleaners. They’re true role models who go above and beyond to have a positive impact on students, faculty, teachers and communities across the U.S.”

The nine other finalists are Christopher Bowman (Ohio); Bobbi Sue Burbey (Wisconsin); Robert Buster (Colorado); Francesco Catalano (Illinois); Charles Harris (Georgia); Mike Heiry (Pennsylvania); Edward Straub (South Carolina); Terry Tackett (Kentucky); and John Wheeler (Florida).


Diesel Emissions Reduction Act (DERA): 2021 Request for Grant Applications

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is excited to announce the availability of approximately $46 million in Diesel Emissions Reduction Act (DERA) grant funds to support projects aimed at reducing emissions from the nation’s existing fleet of older diesel engines. Under this competition, between 40 and 70 awards are anticipated.

Eligible applicants include regional, state, local or tribal agencies, or port authorities, with jurisdiction over transportation or air quality. Nonprofit organizations may apply if they provide pollution reduction or educational services to diesel fleet owners or have, as their principal purpose, the promotion of transportation or air quality.

Visit the DERA National Grants Web Page for Application and Eligibility Information

Informational Webinars: Request for Applications 2021 DERA National Grants

Tuesday, January 26, 2021; 1:00-2:00 p.m. (ET)
Join the Webinar
Dial-In: (202) 991-0477
Participant Code: 863 530 573#

Wednesday, February 3, 2021; 3:00-4:00 p.m. (ET)
Join the Webinar
Dial-In: (202) 991-0477
Participant Code: 609 539 899#

Thursday, February 11, 2021; 2:00-3:00 p.m. (ET)
Join the Webinar
Dial-In: (202) 991-0477
Participant Code: 451 189 144#

Webinar Highlights:

  • Program Details
  • Changes This Year
  • Eligible Entities, Projects, Vehicles, Engines & Equipment
  • Funding: Availability, Project Funding Percentage, Restrictions
  • Proposal Submission
  • Evaluation Criteria
  • Potential Pitfalls
  • Tools, Resources and Support
  • Question & Answer Period

Visit the DERA National Grants Web Page for Application and Eligibility Information

If you have questions, please contact

Information from Presentation on Controlling Indoor Air Quality to Reduce COVID-19 Transmission

Maine Center for Disease Control & Prevention Division of Environmental & Community Health hosted a virtual presentation on 12.22.20 called, Controlling Indoor Air Quality to Reduce COVID-19 Transmission – Guidance for Building Managers and Homeowners.

Below are the presentations materials and a recording of the session.

PowerPoint slide deck: Controlling Indoor Air Quality to Reduce COVID-19 Transmission


Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) and Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Strategies for Covid-19

This information has been provided by the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation, & Forestry.

IAQ and IPM strategies for Microbial Pests

October is bringing predictably cooler temperatures, which means we’ll all be spending more time indoors. Indoor air quality (IAQ) is well known to affect human health and academic performance, but the pandemic has brought renewed attention. Now is a good time to take a second look at both ventilation systems and cleaning/disinfecting protocols to make sure all processes are working optimally and that staff have completed the necessary training.

Ventilation and Filtration

Our understanding of coronavirus has evolved in the past ten months, and we now know that people can become infected merely by sharing air, especially in close quarters. While wearing masks, installing barriers, reducing occupancy, and holding classrooms outdoors are good strategies, schools are also implementing additional ventilation and air filtration processes to reduce risk of disease transmission while also improving overall indoor air quality. Ventilation and filtration of indoor air may be at least as important, if not more so, than surface disinfection for reducing the risk of COVID-19 transmission1,2. And, with increased use of cleaning and disinfectant products, it is especially important to ensure that indoor spaces are adequately ventilated.

The simplest way to increase ventilation is to open screened windows and doors for cross-ventilation of indoor spaces, if doing so does not compromise safety or interfere with normal operation of ventilation systems. This is less ideal as temperatures drop, but may offer a temporary way to improve IAQ (and reduce risk of coronavirus transmission) in buses and some classrooms.

Portable air cleaners can also help. Environmental engineers at the University of Colorado Boulder and Harvard have created a guide on selection and use of portable air cleaners for schools.

Environmental engineers also recommend increasing settings on mechanical ventilation systems to six to nine fresh air exchanges per hour, if possible. When more people are in a space, the air exchange rate should be at the higher settings. The American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) provides detailed checklists and comprehensive guidance on ventilation and filtration to help schools slow transmission of viruses and improve indoor air quality via HVAC systems in ‘Reopening of Schools and Universities’. Consult with your HVAC specialist before making any changes to operation of your HVAC system.

Image Credit: Yale School of Public Health ()

Additional Resources

References Cited

1Goldman, E. 2020. Exaggerated risk of transmission of COVID-19 by fomites. The Lancet 20 (8): 892-893

2Sy, S. and F. Carlson. How a Focus on Cleaning Can Distract from Actual Virus Spread. PBS NewsHour. Sept 22, 2020

Cleaning and Disinfection

Selecting the right cleaning and disinfecting products and using them correctly is critical to the health and safety of the people in your care—including your own staff. Some products may pose unnecessary health risks, may be ineffective against coronavirus, and/or are not permitted for use in Maine schools. Avoid learning after the purchase, that the sales rep was misinformed about Maine’s regulations or was making false claims.

Before purchasing any products, obtain and read both the product label and Safety Data Sheet (SDS) and verify that the products under consideration are permitted for use and will be appropriate for the intended purpose. For disinfectants and sanitizers, the product label has instructions on how and where to use the product, what PPE may be required, the required contact time, and more. You must read and follow the label! Disinfectant labels are legal documents that clearly state, “It is a violation of Federal law to use this product in a manner inconsistent with its labeling.” The SDS has additional chemical safety information but lacks the critical information found only on the product label. Obtain the product label from your distributor or contact the Maine Board of Pesticides Control.

Because many disinfecting and sanitizing products share similar trade names, refer to the product’s unique identifier—the EPA Registration Number (EPA Reg. No.) found on the label. Keep a copy of both the product’s label and the SDS in your school’s pest activity logbook, along with a written record of were, why, how and by whom, these sanitizing or disinfectant pesticides are used in your schools.

Using Electrostatic or Other Powered Sprayers? Governor Mills issued Executive Order 7 FY20/21, temporarily suspending some pesticide applicator licensing requirements, thus permitting the unlicensed use of powered sprayers for routine disinfection by qualified staff. To qualify for this temporary exemption personnel must complete School Disinfectant Applicator Training and the associated on-line exam to receive a certificate.

Non-school employees, including contracted cleaning services and bus drivers are not included in this license exemption and must have a full Commercial Pesticide Applicator’s license for powered disinfectant application. All other pesticide applications on school properties, powered or not, also require a Commercial Pesticide Applicators license. Contact the Maine Board of Pesticides Control for more information.

Additional Resources


alling new IPM Coordinators! 

All School IPM Coordinators must complete the Initial Training Module and the Comprehensive IPM Training one time.

  • The next Comprehensive IPM Training  will be offered via webinar Friday October 30, 8:00-11:00 AM. REGISTER NOW. Note: This webinar will be recorded and available for on-demand viewing later.


  • Initial IPM Training, provides an overview of Maine’s School IPM requirements (always available on-demand).

After completion of these two trainings, you must also earn one hour of IPM continuing education/year. Credit can be earned by viewing webinars, presentations and videos related to school IPM such as the webinars listed below.

Additional Training Opportunities

October 20, 2020, 1:00-2:30 PM ET. Cleaning up after Rodent Infestations. Register Now.

October 22, 2020, 1:00-2:30 PM ET. New Tools to Assess and Address IAQ Health and Safety. Register Now.

Questions/Comments? Contact us!
Phone: 207-287-7616

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Efficiency Maine Helps Brighten More than 50 Maine Public Schools with Incentives to Support Lighting Upgrades

More than 50 Maine public schools are upgrading the quality of their interior and exterior lighting through a special Efficiency Maine initiative.

The principal goal of Efficiency Maine’s School Lighting Retrofit initiative is to reduce electric energy consumption from Maine K-12 municipal schools and to accelerate the conversion to efficient LED lighting. The offer supported project work for electricians and encouraged schools to complete the lighting conversions over the 2020 summer while school buildings are unoccupied.

“We were very glad to see broad participation stretching from Kittery to Calais to the County,” said Michael Stoddard, executive director of the Efficiency Maine Trust.

Eligible electrical efficiency lighting retrofit projects include interior and exterior lighting upgrades in classrooms, hallways, lobbies, entryways, stairways, auditoriums, libraries, cafeterias, offices, gymnasiums, parking lots, and public restrooms.

“This grant program will help 50 schools across the state to have better lighting while conserving energy and reducing costs,” said Dan Burgess, director of the Governor’s Energy Office. “This initiative not only helps our state meet its energy goals, but it allows schools to use the savings to support students and teachers in other important ways.”

Limestone Community School in Limestone is among the schools that has benefited from the incentive program. The school received more than $38,000 in incentives to upgrade lighting in its classrooms, auditorium, library, offices, bathrooms and parking lot. The school will see an estimated annual savings of more than $19,000 (129,975 kWh) and will realize a return on investment in an estimated 2.3 years.

 According to Superintendent Bill Dobbins, they are elated with the results and already have received inquiries from other district schools interested in pursuing similar projects.

“We viewed this project as a way to create a better atmosphere for the educational growth of our children,” explained Dobbins. “Efficiency Maine’s School Lighting Retrofit program enabled us to combine and accelerate two projects that our budget alone couldn’t accommodate in the same year. We were able to complete it using less money from Limestone taxpayers and while the children weren’t in school. We’re hoping the new brighter, uniform lighting will make it easier for them to do their schoolwork. In the meantime, we’ve already heard from our local police department that it’s easier for them to patrol the school grounds because the exterior lighting is so improved.”

St. John Valley Technology Center in Frenchville is equally satisfied. The school contributed approximately $20,000 to the project and Efficiency Maine contributed $13,000 to upgrade lighting in its entryways, hallways, and gyms. The school will see an estimated annual savings of nearly $7,000 (46,163 kWh) and will realize a return on investment in an estimated 2.8 years.

“There’s no question, improving lighting enhances the ability of students to learn,” said Kevin Lavoie, director of St. John Valley Technology Center. “We’re reducing our carbon footprint because LED lighting is more energy efficient. This program also has reduced the tax burden on our community and has created jobs for Maine’s workforce. That’s a triple win as far as we’re concerned. In addition, we’re especially pleased we could complete the project this summer.”

Songo Locks Elementary School and the Educational Services building for the Lake Region Vocational Center in Naples have brighter futures, as well. Together, the schools received more than $10,000 in incentives to upgrade exterior lighting and will see an estimated annual savings of more than $5,000 (39,481 kWh).

 Andrew Madura, director of Transportation, Facilities and Food Services for Naples schools, is confident the projects will help the schools save money and energy. Two years ago, Madura managed an interior lighting project using incentives from Efficiency Maine, which resulted in a 20% to 25% reduction in energy consumption for those measures.

“We’re constantly looking for ways to be more efficient,” explained Madura. “With a limited budget, this program was very helpful. We were able to complete both projects without allocating additional capital funds. It has particularly benefited the Educational Services building, which houses our buses and equipment. The exterior lighting at the building is on constantly in the evenings for security purposes, making the energy consumption fairly high.

“The nighttime staff have noticed and appreciate the improved lighting,” said Madura. “Aesthetically, it’s much more attractive. It’s also more controlled lighting, ensuring that our residential neighbors don’t experience light spill. Overall, we now have better lighting that requires less maintenance and uses less energy. To me, that’s an efficiency trifecta.”

Louis DiFrederico, facilities manager for the Millinocket School Department, managed projects at Stearns Junior – Senior High School and Granite Street Elementary School. DiFrederico already is a firm believer in the savings he can derive from Efficiency Maine initiatives, having managed a similar lighting upgrade 10 years ago with incentive funds. This time around, the projects improved lighting in the gymnasiums and corridors at the high school and upgraded lighting in the elementary school classrooms, hallways, cafeteria, and lobby. By matching Efficiency Maine’s incentives, DiFrederico estimates the school department will save $7000 a year for the elementary school and $6000 a year for the high school.

“Given the nature of limited school budgets and funding, I had to look for creative ways to get the job done,” explained DiFrederico. “This was a relatively easy process that was readily available and translated into real dollar savings up front and long-range. Without Efficiency Maine’s incentives, I would not have been able to complete these projects.”

DiFrederico was especially keen after he did the math. He calculated that by upgrading the lighting in all the elementary school classrooms energy load dropped from 1100 watts per classroom to 400 watts. Together, both projects will save an estimated 87,000 kWh annually.

“It used to cost $1.33 a day to light each elementary school classroom and now it costs 48 cents,” he said. “The new LED fixtures not only provide better light, but they look better, and provide a modern update to the buildings. Teachers and staff have also thanked me for brightening their classrooms and the building. To me, those benefits are a win-win for the district.”

Efficiency Maine accepted applications for the School Lighting Retrofit Funding Opportunity Notice (FON) between February 10, 2020, and June 1, 2020. The funding opportunity is now closed. Funding was calculated based on the amount of electricity saved by each project in the first year and was subject to caps of 80% of the total project cost and $100,000 per school district.

Efficiency Maine’s Prescriptive Program, which funded the school initiative, offers fixed incentives to reduce the cost of projects and to improve energy efficiency for businesses, municipalities, schools and higher education facilities, manufacturing and other industrial facilities, other non-residential facilities, and multifamily and condominium buildings with five or more units.

To learn more about the Efficiency Maine Prescriptive Program and how to maximize its benefits visit

About Efficiency Maine Trust
Efficiency Maine Trust is the independent administrator for programs to improve the efficiency of energy use and reduce greenhouse gases in Maine. The Trust does this primarily by delivering financial incentives on the purchase of high-efficiency equipment or changes to operations that help customers save electricity, natural gas and other fuels throughout the Maine economy. The Trust is a quasi-state agency governed by a Board of Trustees with oversight from the Maine Public Utilities Commission. Visit for more information.