By. Tresine Logsdon, Sustainability Coordinator for Fayette County Public Schools (Kentucky)
At Fayette County Public Schools (FCPS) in Lexington, Kentucky, our students are inherently passionate about improving sustainability on their school campuses and in their homes and neighborhoods. Our job is to empower them to lead the way through access to data, strategic community partnerships, and national best practices—and we experience our greatest success when students’ ideas and zeal are unleashed. But FCPS, the 2nd largest school district in Kentucky, can encounter cultural, fiscal, legislative, and political challenges to sustainability. A heavy cultural and economic reliance on fossil fuel extraction; rapid suburban development in commercial areas; historically low energy costs; copious access to fresh water (we are home to the longest freshwater riparian zones in the continental U.S.); and a constituency increasingly disenfranchised from environmental protection regulations can create unintended hurdles to building multi-generational, diverse coalitions for improved sustainability. At FCPS, we must set our sights on national best practices and trends to guide our priorities, approaches, and strategies. Coalitions such as the District Collaborative, resources such as GreenPrint, and organizations like the U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) Center for Green Schools provide the critical support, idea-sharing, and advocacy that districts like FCPS need to maintain forward momentum and nurture practical, constructive, and equitable local and national partnerships. Districts like ours need these national barometers to help us identify our areas of strength and opportunities for improvement; they are invaluable in providing our schools a metric for how they compare to the rest of the nation.
Our team’s vision is that FCPS will be a global leader in the three pillars of sustainability: environmental literacy, environmental impact, and student wellness. Every day we tackle our mission of empowering students to create change through enduring improved sustainability by equipping school and community stakeholders with the tools and knowledge to protect our natural, human, and fiscal resources. Quite simply, without the steady, reliable support and collaboration with organizations such as Green Schools National Network (GSNN), Green Schools Alliance, and USGBC, school districts like FCPS would invest a significant portion of our student ambition and creative capital on recreating the wheel. Being recognized in 2016 as a Best of Green School provides legitimacy to our successes—large and small—and helps our Board of Education and community-at-large understand that even among formidable challenges intrinsic to a large, urban, diverse school district in a largely rural state, our students have the capacity to largely influence city and school leaders in their community. As high school junior Gabbie Epley of our Bluegrass Youth Sustainability Council reflected, “It feels encouraging and motivating to know that the changes we’re trying to make are being noticed; that on a national level GSNN agrees that Action is the Antidote to Despair.”
Over the last several years, our schools have asked, “How do our initiatives and achievements compare to the other 62 public schools in Lexington? How do we compare to schools nationally?” In response, FCPS’ It’s About Sustainability Program is launching a Sustainability Scorecard in spring 2017—based on the same three pillars of sustainability that we use as a lens for all our work—to provide our schools with an objective measurement tool by which to quantify their efforts and successes, and perhaps more importantly, recognize our staff and students’ triumphs. This paradigm also allows our schools to more organically identify the relationships between building efficiency, environmental literacy, and student wellness. The Sustainability Scorecard is jam-packed with local, state, and national partnership opportunities, including the following programs and activities broken out by pillar:
EUI (energy use intensity) improvement
Go Green + Earn Green earnings (incentive program that allows a school to earn 10% of their savings with a 5% usage reduction)
Seasonal break shutdown achievement
Plug load inventory
Student energy team patrols
STEM-infused daily energy monitoring
School-wide sustainability event
Farm to School
Kentucky Green & Healthy Schools
Student and Staff Wellness
Healthy snack and celebration policy
Physical activity curricular opportunities
Classroom movement breaks
Reduction of food as a reward
With the Sustainability Scorecard, FCPS aspires to understand where we currently stand and identify where we want to go, in 2017 and beyond.
The Best of Green Schools 2017 winners will be announced at the 2017 Green Schools Conference and Expo, March 21-22 in Atlanta, Georgia. Join us to hear the announcement and congratulate this year’s winners.
Tresine Logsdon serves as Sustainability Coordinator for Fayette County Public Schools and spearheads the E=USE2 program, supporting school-based, student-driven sustainability and energy efficiency projects by working closely with teachers, principals, and students. She has 17 years of classroom teaching experience, most recently at Henry Clay High School teaching AP Environmental Science and Biology. During her time at Henry Clay, she helped the school become the first Kentucky high school to complete the Kentucky Green & Healthy Schools (KGHS) program and become a Model KGHS school. Tresine is married to Matthew Logsdon, Language Arts teacher at Henry Clay High School, and they have two daughters.