Superintendent Pons hosted the First Annual LCS Green Report at Godby high School. The following are the prepared remarks:
Green press conference script for 4.19.12 at Godby
Thank you all for coming to Amos P. Godby High School this morning. This morning’s press conference is the first of what will be an annual “Report to the Community” from Leon County Schools on the district’s progress on various conservation-related initiatives.
Before I do that, though, I want to thank Principal Gillian Gregory and her staff and students at Godby for hosting this morning’s event. We have something special to share with you at the end of the press conference, when we officially release a recycling video featuring several Godby students.
Another reason we wanted to come here today is because Godby is a great example of a school that is meeting its challenges head-on, even with regards to conservation. Despite its age – this school opened in 1966, when schools weren’t built with energy efficiency in mind – Godby is doing a great job at reducing its consumption of electricity. In the past year, Godby has reduced its consumption of electricity by almost 20 percent and has saved taxpayers nearly $63,000 in the process.
Godby is the rule, not the exception. Virtually all of our schools are aggressively conserving energy. Most of you know that we plan to ask voters in November to extend the current half-penny sales tax for capital improvements in our public schools. These include remodeling, HVAC upgrades and other efficiencies that conserve energy and save taxpayers’ money.
But our main reason for being here today is to take the opportunity in the days before EARTH DAY 2012 to deliver the first annual report on conservation efforts by the school district. My staff and I think this is important because conserving energy and saving money isn’t just the job of a few; it’s the responsibility of everyone – students, parents, teachers, principals, every one of us in the school system and throughout this community.
This report is one way we can establish goals and then be held accountable. It’s fine to talk about going green, but unless you walk the walk, nothing really changes for the better. So I’ve tried, in six years as your superintendent of schools, to walk the walk.
These are a few of the highlights of our conservation efforts:
We’ve made a conscious effort to focus on the three R’s – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.
Our most significant initiative with regards to “Reduce” has been a dramatic reduction in the consumption of electricity. Several years ago I told our energy director, Manny Joanos – who, by the way, is a proud graduate of Godby High School – that his most important job was get our costs under control. And boy has he!
In the past year alone, Leon County Schools has cut kilowatt hour consumption by an average of 19 percent, and has saved taxpayers more than $1.2 million as a result. Those dollars can be spent for general purposes instead, including classroom-related needs. Since 2007, we have saved more than $3.5 million by implementing various energy efficiencies and conservation measures.
In addition to our effort to reduce the use of electricity, we are also about to kick off a voluntary program in elementary and middle schools called Waste Free Lunch Day. This event is scheduled for Friday, May 11th, and will be a friendly competition among participating schools to see who can reduce their lunch-related waste by the greatest percentage. We’re really excited about the learning opportunities this presents for students.
Not long after I was first elected in 2006, our friends in Leon County government and a representative of Sustainable Tallahassee came to the district office and suggested that we partner on opening a reusable resource center to distribute new and used materials to teachers in our schools. It took us awhile, especially in light of the difficult financial times we’ve faced starting in 2007, but in August of 2010 we opened The Sharing Tree on the campus of Lively Technical Center.
The Sharing Tree – our signature “reuse” project and a great collaborative partnership – has been such a tremendous success that it now has moved from Lively to Railroad Square. Just two weeks ago at a press conference to announce its “Grand Reopening,” I said that The Sharing Tree had more than 3,400 teacher visits since opening, and had provided teachers with classroom materials worth more than $215,000!
That would not have been possible without our partners, including Goodwill as well as the county and Sustainable Tallahassee, and it definitely could not have happened without support from the Leon County School Board.
Recycling is the third leg of the stool. With the establishment of the iRecycle program in 2007, the district-wide recycling rate has increased steadily. The rate has gone up by 40 percent! We are continuing to encourage recycling, but also, whenever possible, to reduce the use of paper throughout our schools.
Our compressed natural gas project has received a lot of attention – we think deservedly so. So rather than recount all the particulars about CNG, I just want to give you a couple of updates on our progress:
1. By the start of the 2012-2013 school year, Leon County Schools will have 44 CNG buses in operation. Those 44 buses will mean an estimated annual savings in fuel costs alone of more than $300,000, and a reduction in particulate matter emitted from each bus of up to 89 percent.
2. The new Nopetro public-private fueling facility at Capital Circle Northwest and Highway 20 is on schedule to open in August. This fueling station will be open to ANY CNG vehicle, be it a large dump truck or a small-size passenger vehicle. The fuel costs associated with CNG vehicles are about half of what it costs to operate a diesel-powered vehicle.
3. We are in the midst of planning a statewide CNG summit, probably in August, because of all the attention that our unique partnership with Nopetro has drawn.
I’m proud that we have improved our operational efficiencies with regard to conservation. But if that’s all we had done, it wouldn’t be enough.
A school district’s primary responsibility is teaching and learning. As part of a federal conservation grant that we applied for and received in 2011, we committed an important piece of it to development of a K-12 conservation curriculum.
Guided by our K through 8 science developer and energy grant manager Anicia Robinson, elementary, middle and high school teachers worked in three separate teams last summer to create conservation lessons throughout the curricula:
The focus in elementary schools is on developing the students’ understanding of energy conservation and building a foundation for recognizing and understanding energy consumption.
The focus in middle schools is on alternative forms of energy and renewable energy.
In high schools, we’re focusing on energy in engineering, with an additional emphasis on green careers.
We also have created monthly challenges to increase energy awareness to the schools. Posters were created and now adorn the schools, highlighting the importance of the three R’s: reduce, reuse and recycle.
These conservation initiatives are exciting, and should be especially of interest to any taxpayer who cares about environmental and financial stewardship. It hasn’t always been easy, but we still manage to have fun at Leon County Schools.
Because we think learning and doing should be fun. Here’s a great example – a three-minute recycling video produced by Leon County Schools and featuring several Godby students, including a rap group called the Millionaire Boys Club whose members are Stefon Gavin, Jacarrio McGriff, Devin Hudson and Raheem Allen. The purpose of the video is to raise awareness among people of all ages about the importance of recycling, so let’s watch it! …