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March 2011 Newsletter

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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
  2. Your School Board district representative

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.

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


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.

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.

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