July 2011 Newsletter

Friends of sustainability and public schools, 

The Sustainable Schools Coalition has been working hard the last few months to get our voice heard on behalf of practices that will help our environment as well as save money for our Seattle Public Schools.

Quick actions you can take:
  • Check out our video that shows how the Seattle School District could practice some simple conservation steps to help our environment and save money.

Meeting with Resource Conservation Staff June 16

As part of the their efforts to get public input on ways to improve the Seattle School   District’s Resource Conservation Plan, two members of the District’s resource conservation staff met with members of our coalition on June 16. (Their plan is scheduled to be submitted for consideration to the School Board’s Operations Committee on August 16 ).  Much of our discussion focused on ways to strengthen the District’s existing  Energy Savings Award Program, which returns to individual schools a very small amount of money based on the resource  conservation efforts which they undertook during the previous year.

Staff members’ ideas on how to strengthen the program focused on

  • better ways to measure which schools are truly saving resource via conservation,
  • directing more of the rewards from the program to those schools that are actually saving energy and money rather than just giving token amounts to schools that are not doing much to conserve, and
  • allowing schools to use the money they generate by saving energy in a flexible way; for example, giving incentives for the staff who are taking charge of conservation efforts, paying for conservation improvements in the buildings or other ways the schools decide that would improve conservation.

We offered feedback that the ideas of the staff are excellent ones that would strengthen the efficient but very small Energy Savings Program. However, we argued that

  • it is critical that the program receive more financial resources to give schools incentives to conserve. Currently, most of the savings that schools garner as a result of conservation efforts go back into the general budget. This gives schools little incentive to save.
  • current plans to revamp the Energy Savings Program assume that the overall program maintains the same level of funding (about $85k). We argued that some of the savings accrued as a result of the suggested changes in the program should be plowed back into the program itself. School Board members have indicated to us that they support giving back at least some of the  savings gained through greater conservation to individual schools to provide incentives for greater conservation.
  • the program needs to have more visibility. School conservation efforts should be  included in how schools are evaluated and should be revealed in the school “report card” recently initiated by the District.
  • conservation efforts that schools undertake need to be acted on and measured more quickly to show teachers and students the results of their efforts.

More Public Testimony

Budget testimony on June 22 – Sustainable Schools Coalition testified before the Seattle School Board making the same points – that more incentives to save at the individual school level will mean more savings for schools and our environment. Many school Associated Student Body (ASB) programs that fund extra-curricular activities are starved for funds. We argued that the money that a school saves could be used for the ASB fund, which might encourage schools to do more to conserve and help our environment. We also encouraged Board members to watch this short video which demonstrates easy efforts to help our  environment and save money – efforts which are mostly not taking place due to the  lack of incentives and emphasis on conservation within our schools.

Operations Committee June 23 –The staff presented their ideas on how to strengthen the overall resource conservation efforts, including the Energy Savings Award Program. Our coalition is concerned that, though the plan as presented to the Operations Committee  included many great ideas for promoting conservation, it did not include an overall increase in funding for conservation at the individual school level. There were some helpful comments from Director Kay Smith-Blum that we hope will encourage the School District to provide more resources and incentives for individual school conservation, but we believe that grassroots action is needed to make sure this happens (see action step below).

Take Action: Help Save Our Environment and Save Money for Schools

The School Board has indicated general support for our ideas, including reinvesting dollars gained through conservation into local schools. The individual schools could in turn promote greater conservation via “Green Teams” and “conservation coaches.”  The Board needs to hear from you soon to put these ideas into practice.

 Send  an  email to your School Board representative (See District information) and to Peter Maier, Chair of the Operations Committee  as well.  Here here are some key talking points:

  • Over the last four years the district has documented a $2 million savings from conserving energy. We could save much more but there is little incentive to do so and there is no one in charge of conservation at the individual school level.
  • If we provide incentives to individual schools, there are lots of dollars and environmental benefits to be gained.
  • Please make sure the Resource Conservation staff know that the Board strongly supports strengthening the District’s existing Energy Savings Award Program.  Have the staff  reinvest more of the savings obtained from conservation efforts into the program, so that incentives can be given to individual schools to save more. Ask the staff, in the plan they submit to the Operations Committee in August, to specifically include a revolving fund that uses conservation savings to expand the resources of  the Energy Savings Award Program.
  • We appreciate the effort the Board has made so far to voice support for conservation in our schools. Now is the time for action. Please do all you can to help save money and save our environment by providing greater incentives for conservation in our schools.

March 2011 Newsletter

Quick Links
Friends of sustainability and public schools, Seattle’s schools are in a financial fix. We’re $40 million in debt, closing schools, cutting teachers and precious programs. The budget situation in Olympia makes the picture bleaker still. There are deep cuts on the horizon, including education. 

Seattle Schools Should Save Green by Going Green

How can we plug the financial leaks that siphon dollars from our schools, our communities and kids? A start is to plug the literal leaks in our school buildings and save green by going green. Our schools’ energy practices don’t make sense; gym and auditorium lights left on late, power strips left on over holiday breaks, huge gaps in doors and windows. This waste costs us millions each year and hurts our environment by creating unnecessary emissions and power demand. At a time of budgetary and ecological crisis this goes against common sense.

We Have a Common-Sense Plan to Save Dollars for Our Kids by Plugging Our Schools’ Building Leaks.

It was devised with the Sustainable Schools Coalition, a grassroots citizens’ alliance made up of neighborhood, business and conservation groups, the Green Party of Seattle, as well as teachers and students. Our plan builds on small, successful conservation efforts the district has already undertaken. The school district has only three conservation staff, but they’ve provided over $2 million in net savings the last four years by coordinating volunteer efforts. Yet, since no one at the local school level is charged with conservation, there is little incentive to expand these largely volunteer efforts. So we continue to waste money and energy.Our coalition’s proposals would solve this problem by reinvesting under 2 percent of the net savings already achieved through conservation efforts. We are asking the School Board for just $30,000 to start a new program to save even more dollars and energy. The program would achieve these savings by calling on individual schools to choose a “conservation coach” who would receive a small stipend to develop and implement a plan to save dollars and reduce carbon emissions at their own school.Each coach (a custodian, teacher or other staff) would work with knowledgeable conservation groups and a staff/student Green Team at their local school to develop the plan. This could include simple steps such as turning off power strips and lights, installing motion sensors, insulating and weather stripping, starting a composting program or other resource saving efforts, depending on the school. The plan and stipends would provide what’s been sorely lacking at the local school level — accountability and incentives.We have good reason to believe the plan would achieve significant dollar and energy savings. Nova High School, where Joe Szwaja teaches, has ranked first among Seattle Schools in terms of conservation over the last three years. Nova’s efforts, purely voluntary by a few teachers and students, have reduced electricity usage by 25 percent, saving the district thousands of dollars each year. If they can do this with a few volunteer hours per month, imagine what more can be achieved by building in a few incentives. 

Your Help is Needed

Our citizens’ plan is supported by the few district staff charged with energy conservation and much of the Seattle School Board. But the district’s chief financial officer is reluctant to spend any money on conservation in a tight budget year. Let’s remind him and the school board that we’ve already saved millions through very modest, mostly voluntary conservation efforts. Indeed, the Environmental Services Division is the rare department that has actually saved money for our schools. Putting no one in charge of such a basic thing as resource conservation in individual schools is the kind of short-sighted thinking that got us into our budget and environmental crises to begin with.
The remedy: the School Board needs a push from tax payers to reinvest a little now in order to generate big savings for our schools and our earth in the years to come.

One Step on Your Part Will Help Make all the Difference!

We have one message that we want to deliver to school board members and the superintendent in the next few weeks:
“Please support the budget proposal for conservation coaches to save money for our schools while conserving energy and saving the planet. Providing small incentives to our custodians and teachers to save green by acting green is a good start.”
Express yourself by sending a short email to:
  1. Superintendant Maria Goodloe Johnson atsuperintendent@seattleschools.org
  2. Your School Board district representative atSchoolBoard@seattleschools.org

If you prefer to call the Board you can leave a message at (206) 252-0040.
Click here to find out how to find your district representative.

Keep up with the Sustainable Schools Coalition on Facebook and Twitter!

FacebookClick the Facebook icon and “like” Sustainable Schools Coalition.
Twitter

Together, we can build on our initial success. You can help save money for schools, reduce carbon emissions and help to save our planet. For more information, please call (206) 523-3656 or 523-3278 or email tojoeszwaja@earthlink.net

Article in Real Change News

Community & Editorial – February 9, 20100

Seattle Schools Should Save Green by Going Green

By Joe Szwaja

Seattle’s schools are in a financial fix. We’re $40 million in debt, closing schools, cutting teachers and precious programs. The budget situation in Olympia makes the picture bleaker still. There are deep cuts on the horizon, including education.

How can we plug the financial leaks that siphon dollars from our schools, our communities and kids? A start is to plug the literal leaks in our school buildings and save green by going green. Our schools’ energy practices don’t make sense; gym and auditorium lights left on late, power strips left on over holiday breaks, huge gaps in doors and windows. This waste costs us millions each year and hurts our environment by creating unnecessary emissions and power demand. At a time of budgetary and ecological crisis this goes against common sense.

Fortunately, there’s a common sense plan to start saving much-needed dollars for our kids by plugging our schools’ building leaks. It was devised by the Sustainable Schools Coalition, a grassroots citizens’ alliance made up of neighborhood, business and conservation groups, the Green Party of Seattle, as well as teachers and students. Our plan builds on small, successful conservation efforts the district has already undertaken. The school district has only three conservation staff, but they’ve provided over $2 million in net savings the last four years by coordinating volunteer efforts. Yet since no one at the local school level is charged with conservation, there is little incentive to expand these largely volunteer efforts. So we continue to waste money and energy.

Our coalition’s proposals would solve this problem by reinvesting under 2 percent of the net savings already achieved through conservation efforts. We are asking for just $30,000 to start a new program to save even more dollars and energy. Our proposal would achieve these savings by calling on individual schools to choose a “conservation coach” who would receive a small stipend to develop and implement a plan to save dollars and emissions at their own school building site.

Each coach (a custodian, teacher or other staff) would work with knowledgeable conservation groups and a staff/student Green Team at their local school to develop the plan. This could include simple steps such as turning off power strips and lights, installing motion sensors, insulating and weather stripping, starting a composting program or other resource saving efforts, depending on the school. The plan and stipends would provide what’s been sorely lacking at the local school level — accountability and incentives.

We have good reason to believe the plan would achieve significant dollar and energy savings. At Nova High School, where I teach, we have ranked first among Seattle Schools in terms of conservation over the last three years. Our efforts, purely voluntary by a few teachers and students, have reduced electricity usage by 25 percent, saving the district thousands of dollars each year. If we can do this with a few volunteer hours per month, imagine what more can be achieved by building in a few incentives.

Our citizens’ plan is supported by the few district staff charged with energy conservation and much of the Seattle School Board. Yet there’s a stall: the district’s chief financial officer is reluctant to spend any money on conservation in a tight budget time. Let’s remind him and the school board that we’ve already saved millions through very modest, mostly voluntary conservation efforts. Indeed, the Environmental Services Division is the rare department that has actually saved money for our schools. Putting no one in charge of such a basic thing as resource conservation in individual schools is the kind of short-sighted thinking that got us into our budget and environmental crises to begin with. The remedy: the School Board needs a push from tax payers to reinvest a little now in order to generate big savings for our schools and our earth in the years to come.

So take a minute to speak up for saving our schools and our environment. Call your Seattle School Director at 252-0040 or email them at pjoakes@seattleschools.org. Tell them that they should reinvest a small amount of our conservation dividends to save even more money and energy, and help save our planet via conservation coaches in our local schools. In order to solve our school budget and environmental crises we need to build in incentives and accountability. Providing small incentives to our custodians and teachers to save green by acting green is a good start.

December 2010 Newsletter

This is to update you on what we are doing with the Sustainable Schools Coalition. We also want to ask you to take a simple action in the weeks. This will help us continue with the significant progress we are making on pushing the Seattle Schools to save energy, save money and help save the planet.

Coalition Efforts Pay Off with Results:

Seattle School Board (SSB) Meeting October 20

The Sustainable Schools Coalition mobilized six people from different organizations to speak at this Seattle School Board meeting. We testified for our proposals to save money and save energy with conservation coaches, who will teach students and staff how to reduce carbon emissions and save money in every Seattle Public school . We also voiced opposition to the “reorganization plan” which would place all current Environmental Services staff under Custodial Services.  The Board heard testimony from coalition member groups Sustainable Northeast Seattle, the UW College Greens and the Green Party of Seattle. To watch and listen to the testimony go to the Seattle Channel and select  School Board Mtg 10/20/2010, from time starting 7.45 to time 22.30.

Positive Results at SSB Operations Committee Meeting November 16

At this committee meeting, a discussion ensued about our idea for school conservation coaches. The funding would come from documented savings achieved by voluntary conservation efforts during the last four years. Clearly, the pressure you have all brought to bear via emails and calls has made a huge difference, as all three board members present at the meeting were very supportive of our idea.  The details have not been worked out, but it appears that the committee will make a positive recommendation to the full board in favor of providing funding for conservation coaches at their next meeting on Tuesday, December 14.

Misguided Reorganization of Environmental Services Division May Be Thwarted

We can’t be one hundred percent sure, but all indications are that the plan to reorganize the District’s Environmental Services staff into Custodial Services has been abandoned. If the reorganization plan went forward, it would reverse the important work done by Environmental Services over the past four years. O ur message that there is a school budget crisis, there is an environmental crisis, and that custodians do hard and important work but there is no “custodial crisis” appears to have resonated with the Board. Thanks to all who spoke up to oppose this faulty plan with testimony at School Board full and constituent meetings and by emails and calls.

Opportunities to Strengthen Conservation and Give Money Back to Schools This Year:

Conservation Coaches

On a short term level we’re also making progress towards strengthening conservation practices as part of the yearly school district budget process which will be continuing over the next two months. We’re pushing for the school district to return a significant portion of the money which has been clearly saved in the last several years through modest district conservation efforts  – conservatively $2 million –  to individual schools in order to invest in conservation measures which can save much more.  Our plan is to provide small stipends to staff (“conservation coaches”) at interested schools who can take charge of the energy saving efforts at their school. In addition, we’re proposing to link each interested school with experienced groups from the community who can help schools figure out how be st to use the dollars to save further reduce carbon emissions. We think we have a chance to get it acted on in this year’s budget as it has the support of energy conservation staff and, at least tentatively, a majority of the 7 board members.

Superintendent’s “Reorganization” Plan Threatens Progress

There is significant momentum in the direction of stronger school sustainability practices. However, there are some obstacles which we must overcome to get anything truly meaningful to take place. The Superintendent has initiated a reorganization plan which threatens to undermine the hard work of energy conservation staff in the district. This plan calls for eliminating the Environmental Services Division and placing its staff under Custodial Services. This would greatly weaken the effects of both short term and long term sustainability plans, since the knowledgeable and dedicated conservation personnel would be shifted to other priorities.

One Step on Your Part Will Help Make all the Difference!

We are on the verge of winning two significant victories:
  • convincing the Seattle School Board to save money for our schools and reduce carbon emissions by providing incentives at the individual school level, and
  • ensuring that the Environmental Services staff that has helped to coordinate and inspire schools to save $2 million in the last four years are kept intact. This will allow them to to continue their ongoing work as well as coordinate new projects – such as conservation coaches.

We have two simple messages that we want to deliver to school board members and the superintendent in the next weeks:

1. Support budget action to save more money and energy by strengthening the existing energy savings program – giving money recently saved through conservation back to schools to invest in greater energy savings with the help of staff stipends and assistance from community groups
2. Oppose the “reorganization” which abolishes Environmental Services and places the staff (who have saved the district 2 million dollars and greatly reduced emissions) under custodial service.

Here is an easy way for you to express these points:
•If you live in the districts of Directors Blum, Maier or Patu (who make up the Operations Committee), send them a “thank you” email based on the following sample:                    (how do I find my district?)

Dear Director ____________,

I would like to thank you for your support of the idea of conservation coaches to promote energy conservation and cost savings at the recent Operations Committee meeting. I urge you to continue to support a strong recommendation in favor of conservation coaches at the December Operations Committee meeting. This will encourage the full board to support this common sense idea to save money for our schools while also helping the environment.
Sincerely,

Your constituent
(Your name)

•Attend the next Operations Committee Meeting December 16. No public input is accepted during the meeting, but just a presence there sends a message. There will also be opportunities to speak with the committee members before and after the meeting. 4:00pm-6:00pm at the School District building, 2445 – 3rd Avenue South, Seattle WA 98124.

•You can also send a short email or make a phone call to your Seattle School Board representative. A sample letter:

Dear Director___________ ( fill in the name of your School Board Member),

I would like to strongly encourage you to support the proposal of the Sustainable Schools Coalition to include “Conservation Coaches” in this year’s school budget.
Giving just a little bit of the money saved via conservation the last few years  back to local schools seems like a great way to save money for our schools, save energy and help save the planet. Voluntary efforts have saved $2 million in the last 4 years. Imagine how much more can be saved by providing small incentives for staff at local schools to develop and implement plans to save energy! The money saved could be spent to help preserve other essential programs.
I also hope you are opposing the reorganization of the staff within Environmental Services into the Custodial Services Division.  Please allow the dedicated staff who have done so much to promote money-saving conservation activities to continue to do their job.
Thank you for your service and all the time and effort you put into our students and our schools!
Please let me know your views on these two items.

Sincerely,
Your constituent
(Your name)

——————————————————————————–
Together, we can build on our initial success. You can help save money for schools, reduce carbon emissions and help to save our planet.  For more information, please call (206) 523-3656 or 523-3278 or email to joeszwaja@earthlink.net

Coalition Meeting

Sustainable Schools coalition will meet Thursday, October 14th, 2010 at 7pm at 2021 NE 75th St, in Seattle. Please knock on front door of house. House of Joe Szwaja.

About

The Sustainable Schools Coalition is a coalition of groups that specifically promote energy conservation, green technology, and green jobs in the Seattle area. The campaign is currently working to promote energy conservation and green jobs in Seattle School District facilities.

Coalition Members

Wallingford Community Council, Sustainable West Seattle, Sustainable Wallingford, Green Party of Seattle, Earth day Puget Sound, Cool Moms, Sustainable Ballard, Earth Day Puget Sound, College Greens-UW, Sustainable NE Seattle, Wallingford Chamber of Commerce, Coal Free Washington, Rainier Chamber of Commerce, Sustainable Ballard.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.