Here, There and Everywhere

Posts tagged ‘schools’

Renewables Rescuing Schools

From Nation of Change and Yes! Magazine
by Erin L. McCoy
News Report. 6 November 2012

Net Zero’s Net Worth: How Renewable Energy Is Rescuing Schools from Budget Cuts

As the new Richardsville Elementary School rose from its foundations on a rural road north of Bowling Green, Ky., fourth-grader Colton Hendrick was watching closely.

He would climb to the top of the playground equipment across the street and watch construction crews hauling in bamboo flooring and solar panels.

“He wants to be an architect some day,” recalled Manesha Ford, elementary curriculum coordinator and leader of the school’s energy team. “He would sit and draw, draw all the different aspects.”

But Richardsville Elementary would not only capture Hendrick’s imagination—it would come to inspire his classmates and school districts around the world. When Richardsville opened its doors in fall 2010, it was the first “net zero” school in the nation, meaning that the school produces more energy on-site than it uses in a year.

Solar tubes piping sunlight directly into classrooms eliminate much of the school’s demand for electric light, while a combination of geothermal and solar power cut down on the rest of the energy bill. Concrete floors treated with a soy-based stain don’t need buffing. The kitchen, which in most schools contributes to 20 percent of the energy bill, houses a combi-oven that cooks healthier meals and eliminates frying. This means an exhaust fan doesn’t pipe the school’s temperature-controlled air to the outdoors all day long. Meanwhile, “green screens” in the front hall track the school’s energy usage so kids can see the impact of turning off a light in real time.

These and other innovations make Richardsville better than net zero. It actually earns about $2,000 a month selling excess energy to the Tennessee Valley Authority.

But building a green school isn’t enough, according to architect Philip C. Gayhart, principal in the architecture firm Sherman Carter Barnhart, which built Richardsville and has helped the Warren County School District achieve Energy Star ratings for 17 of its 24 schools.

Three factors are essential to making a green school work: First, you need the participation of the community and the local power company; second, you can’t forget that a school is a dynamic learning environment; and third, you need to speak the language of money.

Green by necessity

Since the economic recession began in 2008, school districts have suffered. Local tax bases were shaken as property values plummeted, and states have cut back on funding to districts, which were pushed to cut funds wherever they were able. Addressing energy use made a lot of financial sense.

Few states have been harder hit than Arizona, where the 21.8 percent decrease in per-pupil spending was the highest in the nation.

Sue Pierce, director of facility planning and energy with the Washington Elementary School District in Phoenix, watched as teacher positions were cut, furlough days were scheduled, and $6 million in annual facilities funding disappeared.

“We saw that energy was really an area where we could perhaps save money by simply changing behavior,” Pierce said. “I approached the superintendent and asked permission to develop a program.”

The district’s new energy policy aimed to cut energy consumption district-wide by 10 percent in the first year and 40 percent over the next five years. As part of the program, Pierce began to distribute monthly reports on energy usage, which included every school in the district.

Some schools took to the program more quickly than others.

“Just by changing behaviors, they were showing 10 and 15 percent reduction the first or second month,” she said. The reports then fueled a competition between schools, and by the end of the first year, energy use had been cut 15 percent district-wide.

Since that time, the district has hosted a pilot program that, for the first time, demonstrated the feasibility of geothermal power in Arizona. Another pilot used smart water sensors to cut outdoor water use, and was so successful that the cost of the sensors was recouped in less than three months. The district even won funding to build two “green schoolhouses.”

Including grants the district has won, Pierce concludes the district has saved more than $15 million.

And while the district’s commitment to environmental consciousness has never been stronger, Pierce thinks that broaching the issue as a financial concern, rather than an environmental one, was the smartest approach.

The school district initially adopted the changes “as a way to save money, to save jobs for teachers,” she said. “What started out as a way to save money for the district—and it has—has evolved into a commitment to sustainability.”

A foundation without a footprint

While Washington Elementary School District and many others like it were just kicking off their energy programs in 2008, Richardsville Elementary and the rest of the Warren County School District were already five years ahead of the game.

The district had kicked off its district-wide energy campaign in 2003 under the direction of a forward-thinking superintendent, according to district Public Relations Coordinator Joanie Hendricks. The district was growing by about 400 students per year, and construction projects seemed to be always on the agenda.

So Warren County became one of the first districts in Kentucky to hire an energy manager and was able to save $560,499 in the first year by making small changes.

That first year of savings inspired the ambitious plans that came next, Hendrick said. “When you save half a million dollars in just changing your mindset, it just becomes a simple idea.”

Since 2003, the district has offset more than $7 million in energy costs. That equates to 45 teaching positions. It’s a number that really speaks to people.

“It makes you think twice when you’re going out the door to turn around and turn the light switch off,” Hendrick said, “when you know that could save somebody’s job.”

By the time Warren County decided to focus on greener schools, the architects at Sherman Carter Barnhart had been incorporating newer and greener materials in their plans for years.

“The perception is—and it’s not all wrong—is that it’s more costly, and we think if it’s done correctly it’s not really more costly,” Gayhart said. “I think the real ‘green’ is the dollars you can save the client in the life of the building. That’s the legacy you want.”

Learning gets greener

In 2005, Alvaton Elementary in Warren County opened using 36 kBtus of energy per square foot annually. That’s less than half the national average for schools, which is 73 kBtus. A few years later, Plano Elementary was using 28 kBtus, and today, Richardsville and two net zero-ready schools in the district use only 18 kBtus per square foot.

Net zero-ready schools have everything a net zero school has, minus the solar panels, which Richardsville was able to afford with the help of federal stimulus grants that have since run dry. Bardstown City Schools Finance Director Pat Hagan said although his district is implementing energy-saving measures, the up-front cost of solar doesn’t make financial sense right now.

Bardstown, situated in north central Kentucky, has two schools with geothermal systems.

“They’re a little more expensive to put in but you get your money back pretty quickly,” Hagan said.

Still, all options are on the table for a new school in the planning stages for Bardstown, which expects to see a bid from Sherman Carter Barnhart.

“When they built [Bardstown] High School in ’59 I don’t think anybody thought about energy at all,” Hagan said. “Nobody thought about it even from a cost or environmental view. Now, that’s the first two things you ask.”

For the next generation, this outlook may become a way of life. The schools described in this article have all integrated environmental and sustainability components into their curriculums, and students have adopted these issues passionately.

Read entire article at Nation of Change or Yes! Magazine.

Make Malala’s Dream Reality

Dear Friends,

Malala has dedicated her childhood to championing education for girls like her in Pakistan. As she lies in a hospital bed, a tragic victim of Taliban gunmen, let’s help make her dream come true.

One part of Pakistan has already started a successful programme of paying families which send their girls to school regularly. But in Malala’s province the government is dragging its feet. Senior politicians have offered Malala help, and if we act now we can get them to commit to rolling this out nationwide.

Before the media spotlight moves on, let’s raise our voices to demand that the government announces funding for all Pakistani girls who attend school. In days the UN Education Envoy will meet Pakistan’s President Zardari and he says hand delivering 1 million signatures will strengthen his case. Sign and forward this email, and let’s help make Malala’s dream come true:

http://www.avaaz.org/en/malalahopenew/?bMPbqab&v=18774

North-west Pakistan has been in the grip of the Taliban since 2007 when they systematically started burning and destroying girls’ schools. The Taliban destroyed 401 schools in Swat between 2001 and 2009 — 70% of them were girls’ schools. Malala drew the world’s attention to the Taliban’s reign of terror, when she started writing a blog in Urdu for the BBC. Her writing is a crucial record of the devastating consequences of extremism on the lives of ordinary Pakistanis.

Pakistan’s constitution says girls should be educated alongside boys, and the government has the resources to make it happen. But politicians have ignored that for years, influenced by extremist religious groups, and now, only 29% of girls attend secondary school. Study after study has shown the positive impact on personal and national income when girls are educated.

Let’s turn this shock and horror at the Taliban’s attack on a young girl into a wave of international pressure that forces Pakistan to address girls’ education. Click below to stand with Malala and support a massive girls’ education campaign in Pakistan, backed by resources, security, and most importantly, the will to fight the extremists who tear down Pakistan:

http://www.avaaz.org/en/malalahopenew/?bMPbqab&v=18774

Let’s come together and stand in solidarity with a brave, young activist, who is showing the world how one little schoolgirl can stand up to armed and dangerous extremists.

With hope and determination,

Emma, Alaphia, Alex, Ricken, Ari, Michelle, Wissam, Rewan and the rest of the Avaaz team

Stop State Killings

Dear friend,

We have a historic opportunity in California. We can shut down the nation’s biggest and most expensive death penalty system, with 720 death row inmates and a $4 billion price tag. But to be successful, we need to gather 750,000 voter signatures by February 15 (today).

We’re well on our way to gathering the signatures we need to put the measure on the ballot, but with only a few weeks left, we still need a lot of help. And we can only end the madness through another vote.

The SAFE California Act will replace California’s death penalty with a sentence of life in prison with no chance of parole as the maximum punishment for murder. This means convicted killers will remain behind bars forever, but with no risk of executing an innocent person.

California taxpayers will save well over $100 million every year without releasing a single prisoner.

Please sign up now to volunteer and help us collect the remaining signatures we need to qualify the initiative and shut down death row in California.

Click here to sign up:

http://www.moveon.org/r?r=271062&id=35593-1274818-jp4nDGx&t=1

Why replace the death penalty with life without parole?

1. With the death penalty we will always risk executing an innocent person. Since reinstatement of the death penalty in the U.S., 140 innocent men and women have been freed from death row.1 Franky Carrillo from Los Angeles was released from prison last March after 20 years behind bars for a crime he didn’t commit.2

2. Many people think that the death penalty costs less than life in prison with no chance of parole, but that’s just not true. California taxpayers would save well over $100 million every year, as well as hundreds of millions in one-time savings.3

3. Dangerous criminals must be caught and brought to justice, yet a shocking 46% of murders and 56% of rapes go unsolved every year in California, on average.4 We need to use our very limited public funds to get more criminals off our streets to protect our families. SAFE California would dedicate $100 million in budget savings to the investigation of open rape and murder cases.

4. While we cut our state budget for schools, violence prevention, and law enforcement, California spends millions of dollars on death row. We need more teachers in the classroom, not more lawyers in the courtroom.

Please join the SAFE California campaign. Volunteer to replace California’s death penalty.

Click here to sign up:

http://www.moveon.org/r?r=271062&id=35593-1274818-jp4nDGx&t=2

Thank you,

–Natasha Minsker, SAFE California

Help Deliver Soccer Supplies to Youth Around the World.

If you are traveling out of the country this summer (live in the Santa Cruz County area) and are willing to take a suitcase or two of donated soccer supplies (uniforms, balls, jersey’s, cleats, shorts, shin guards, shirts, socks, ball pump, etc.), please give us a call. 429-9511. Gabriel or Audrey.

Young people at orphanages, youth centers, schools and other non-profit organizations have little, if any, such items and LOVE soccer (futbol). People from all over the county donate their children’s used uniforms to us and we hand deliver them to various places. We’ve delivered supplies to 3 different groups in Rwanda, a center for street children in Guatemala, a school in Mexico and a school in Kenya.

Right now, we have a lot ready to go, but aren’t personally traveling anywhere this summer. We’ll bring suitcases full of uniforms to your home, if you can take them on a trip, deliver them to a youth center and take a picture when you deliver the items.

Thank you for taking the time to consider supporting this. It’s a small, easy way of giving back from the game we love to others around the world. Call Gabriel or Audrey at 429-9511.

Child of the Holocaust – Part 1

Excerpt from Don’t Just Sit There, Do Something! Grief’s Wake Up Call by Gabriel Constans.

Child of the Holocaust – Gitta Ryle – Part 1

Auschwitz. The word is synonymous with death, loss, murder and extermination, the worst barbarism that can be inflicted by one human upon another. For many it symbolizes evil incarnate. Most of us know it only as that: a symbol, a word, a dreadful image from the past. Yet for others, such as Gitta Ryle, Auschwitz is a living, cold reality that consumed her beloved father and grandparents who were starved, beaten, gassed and incinerated in its Nazi machinery of hatred and racism.

Mrs. Ryle survived the holocaust by being hidden in French schools with her sister and was reunited with her mother at the war’s end. While pregnant with her third child her mother died of a heart attack. Gitta’s years of family separation and loss were compounded and reawakened with the death of her husband from cancer.

Over the years, Mrs. Ryle has spoken of her life during the war with increasing frequency to elementary, high school and college students. Her living, breathing, realistic account of her experiences has brought history and its relevancy to the present, before the hearts and minds of many generations. On a more personal and less publicly noticed form of engagement, she has provided support and comfort for young people who, like herself, have had to cope with the death of a family member or friend.

GITTA: I was born in Vienna in 1932. In thirty-nine Hitler invaded Austria. Since my family was Jewish we had to flee from the Nazis. My father was in the most danger. To avoid capture, he and some other men left almost immediately. My mother, older sister and I stayed on for a while. Mother eventually heard of a children’s organization called the OSE that took Jewish children out of the country to try to save them. After a few preliminaries, my mother decided to have us go and put us on a train with other children to France, where my sister and I stayed throughout the remainder of the war. My mother answered a job announcement and got a job as a cook/dietitian in England. They sent her a ticket and she stayed there until the war ended.

In the meantime we learned that father had escaped to Belgium. Through the Red Cross in Switzerland, we were all able to keep in touch with occasional letters. When father discovered where we were he came to France and worked close by the school we attended, so he could visit. We saw him a few times before some French citizens denounced him. He was captured, put into a camp and shipped to Auschwitz. That is where my father died in 1942. I was seven when I left Vienna, so I must have been about nine and my sister twelve. My grandparents, on my mother’s side, also died there. They were not able to leave the country because of health reasons. There was also my father’s brother Moses and his wife and son, Martin, who were captured and listed among the dead in Auschwitz. My father’s parents died before I was born. Luckily, my mother’s younger brother and sister had left before the war and lived in America.

Other friends and some of our teachers were also killed. Each time the Germans infiltrated our school they’d rush us out. I was always in the younger group and my sister in the middle. We went from one children’s home to another until they hid us in a Catholic convent. When the convent also came under suspicion, they put us on individual farms.

I grieved especially hard for some of the teachers that were taken away. One was Boris and his wife. Another was Moses and his wife. As a child I didn’t know what was happening to me. After awhile you start to become numb when somebody dies. There was no place for grieving. You think that this is the way life is. It was a protective mechanism. I guess I established a personality which was just, I don’t know . . . not trusting . . . never knowing what was going to happen.

At one point when we were hidden in a farm cellar, and fighting was going on all around us, I just said, “OK, this is it. They’re going to bomb us anyway.” We said good-bye to each other and it was kind of peaceful to think it was going to end. I think that is partially how I lived my life. When I have done some work or process of trying to get rid of some of the deeper feelings, I’ve thought of how peaceful it would be to just follow them to the gas chamber. That is what I have been working on from this loss, this last loss. I thought I was doing pretty good, but I guess I’m not there yet because it comes up again and again, as now. All of the past deaths, all of the losses, come up each time. It’s harder and harder.

My father was gone, then my mother. I reunited with her when we came to America and she died when I was pregnant with my third child in August of 1965. She died of a heart attack in her sleep. It was her third such attack. She’d had two mild ones before. I believe she died from a broken heart, when she’d had to give us up during the war. I don’t know if I could have done that. She was a very courageous lady. After the war she always worked and kept busy. I don’t think she ever went too deep into herself because that was scary. Part of me wishes I were the same way. Instead, I delve into it and work with it because that is the only way I know how to live.

It makes a difference how you lose someone. When I lost my mother I was quite pregnant. There was a different type of grieving because of bringing someone to life just when another is leaving. I took it very hard. The initial reaction was, “Oh God no!” Her death triggered a lot of stuff, but I didn’t have the time to deal with it like I did when my husband died. I had three small children to take care of. I guess that is what they mean when they say being busy is good, though I don’t believe it. Maybe it helps other people but for me it just pushes things down and puts it away.

When my husband became ill, he was sick for eight months, I started grieving upon hearing the prognosis and kept hoping he was going to make it; hoping for some miracle even though the death sentence was three to six months. Up front I did not accept that he was going to die, even though in the back of my mind there was that stuff going on that realized it was indeed going to happen. This made his death the most traumatic. It brought up all the others I had not had time to deal with. For the first year and a half after his death I was numb. I had Hospice and saw Norma (a bereavement counselor) once a week and there was a wonderful social worker named Betty. She talked with my children. I told her when it was all over that then I could see her. She was very good. She came a month or so after his death and it was very helpful.

A month before Bob (husband) died, his ninety-one-year-old father died. So while I was taking care of Bob I also took care of his father. He was a very difficult man but through me being with him I learned a lot of compassion and he always said he loved me and appreciated that I was there for him. When he died Bob didn’t want to go see him but at the last minute said OK. I drove him to the funeral home, went up to his dad and touched him and gave him a kiss on the forehead. I cried. I think in some ways I was saying good-bye to my own dad. After the war we searched in vain for my father, until we found a listing that said he was shipped to Auschwitz. Taking care of my father-in-law and Bob gave me a way to do what I couldn’t do for my dad.

For the first few months after Bob died I didn’t accept the reality and being alone. It was the first time I’d ever slept alone in my entire life. There was always somebody around . . . children, parents, husband.

I always felt Bob was around though. I wasn’t afraid. I closed the door, went to bed and that was it. It’s been like that ever since. That is why the house is good for me. There are all kinds of beliefs about this. We each have to pick what fits for us. I put a bench out by the ocean, just a half block from this house, in his honor and I put some of his ashes close by so I can go there anytime. He used to love the sunlight, so he faces the lighthouse (South).

Growing up I knew a little about Judaism, but not that much. We didn’t have schooling or anything during the war and being in the Catholic Church for only six months, in a convent, I learned the rosary in French and listened to the chanting and stuff. I liked it. It made me feel safe, so as a child it was OK. I did a lot of work on myself but not too much on religion. I couldn’t give up my Jewishness, but I did survive for a reason, whatever that is, so I needed to keep it.

When my children got to the same age that I had been when we were separated from our parents, I started getting ulcers. I was physically sick and there was a lot of fear in me. Bob said, “You need to get some help.” My kids were six and seven-years-old. I went and talked to a counselor. At first I talked about things that bothered me everyday and then we got deeper and deeper, to the point where the guilt and not understanding why someone would want to kill me when I didn’t do anything wrong . . . all that stuff came out. That is when I say I started the work. When anniversaries of the war occurred, forty then fifty years, people started asking me more questions and I told them my story.

Before that I hadn’t talked to my children, only when they asked because of something at school. They just knew I was from Europe. I think each one of them was affected a little differently about it.

When the schools began to discuss the holocaust they became interested in what a live person who’d lived though it would say. It’s had a big impact on those I speak with. I’m OK about doing it when I’m asked, partially because we don’t want to forget about it. When I talk to kids I give them a little lecture and try to put across, “Yes, what happened was terrible.” and “Yes, I went through it and survived. I am who I am because I survived. It’s the yin and the yang, nothing is all bad. I could have gone another way. I could have become a killer, but for some reason I choose not to. I chose to be an OK individual, to be healthy and honest.”

The reason I chose good over evil came from my beginnings. I had a very loving mother and father. It was my sister and I and mother and father. We lived in a small apartment in Vienna and I remember a lot of love and compassion. I was very special, especially to my dad. So I have some real positive food that was given to me very early and I think that is why I talk to young people who have children about how important it is, that beginning. If I hadn’t had that I don’t know which way I would have gone. When the family was separated I didn’t understand, but as I became an adult the nurturing and caring stayed with me and helped me go the right way.

I remember a lot of hugging. There was always greetings, comings, goings, holding and explanations of things. My dad was quite religious and he would explain what he was doing. I vaguely remember going to temple as a little girl and having happy memories. My mother was a fabulous cook. She gave us wonderful food and was always there for us. I was never left alone. When I went to kindergarten, right before Hitler came to Vienna, my sister always went with me on the trolley. She would drop me off when she went to her class. We were a unit. We were a very strong unit, then just like that . . . it was all cut off.

Part 2 (Conclusion) Tomorrow.

MORE FROM DON’T JUST THERE, DO SOMETHING!

Murakaza Neza (Welcome)

The two lane paved road kept climbing higher, past waterfalls, lush cultivated valleys and terraced hillsides. Kermit the Frog, from Sesame Street, would feel right at home with the abundance of green foliage that simmered before our eyes. The river that followed the road to Ruhengeri in the north of Rwanda provided a beautiful contrast with its brownish-red colored waters. Our family was traveling with a group we worked with at an orphanage in the capital Kigali. We were taking a break to visit the rare mountain gorillas that live in the Virunga National Park, which borders The Congo and Uganda in Eastern Africa. The scenery during our two hour ride along the Ruhengari Road (built by the Chinese) was spectacular, but even that lovely assault on the senses didn’t prepare us for what was to come.

When we arrived at The Gorilla Nest Lodge in Ruhengeri, just outside the Volcanoes National Park, we were stunned. Imagine a luxury hotel, superbly crafted from local stone, wood and bamboo, tucked into the jungle at the bottom of a blue-green volcanic range. Top that off with spacious rooms, fine dining and friendly service from people that speak English, French and Kinyarwanda (the national language) and you have a virtual Shangri-la in the middle of Africa.

After a peaceful night we were driven to the Virunga Park entrance and met our guide, Fidel, who has worked as a park ranger for thirteen years. He informed us that we would be walking for about three hours to find the family we would be observing. We set out, nine in all and made our way up the hillside past planted fields and traditional mud huts; over the stone wall, which was built by villagers (who were paid by the government) to keep out elephants and buffalo and to delineate the park boundary. We were well prepared for what is usually a wet misty experience (with our boots and raincoats), but were in luck with sunny weather and a clear trail.

As we walked Fidel told us that the dominant male in a family (the Silverback) is called “The President”. He said if there is no dominant male in the group than a female is the leader. “Blackbacks are males before they become adults,” Fidel said quietly. “From eight years on females are called adults because they can have babies. Gorillas can live up to forty years old. Gestation for pregnancy is about eight to nine months. Females usually live longer than males. Sound familiar? They are vegetarians. They sleep, play, socialize and eat just like us. Their DNA is ninety-seven percent the same as humans.” Fidel suddenly held up his hand and whispered, “straight ahead.” We heard the sound of twigs breaking and grunting noises before we could see anything. Fidel gently pushed aside some bamboo and my wife was staring face to face with a 500 pound silverback ten feet in front of her who was contently sitting down to lunch on some freshly stripped morsels of bamboo leaves. She froze, as we lined up alongside her; our mouths agape at the spectacle.

It wasn’t long until a number of females with toddlers and a newborn joined the silverback. We watched the children play, nurse and be pulled back to their moms when they got to far away or too close to the spectators. We were entranced. We were the ones with the camera equipment, but if the gorillas could take our picture, they would probably be laughing hysterically at images of our grinning stupefied faces.

As required, we left the gorilla family after an hour’s viewing and made our way back down the mountain. We were in such awe that there was little conversation. Everyone knew the $500.00 per person we had paid for permits to see the gorillas was the best money we had ever spent. The funds from the permits help the rangers protect the gorillas, continue research and provide funds for the surrounding communities to build schools, health clinics and crafts centers.

Rwanda is becoming increasingly noticed for its environmental policies, gender equality, stable government, family life and breathtaking beauty. Positive internal and international support for infrastructure, education, investment, security and eco-tourism have made it assessable, affordable and one of the safest destinations for adults and children in Africa.

When we returned to Kigali the next day and continued our work at the ROP Center for Street Children, my wife said, “Wouldn’t it be nice if these kids could some day afford to see the gorillas?”

“It would be fantastic,” I thought. Perhaps some day soon these children will be able to finish their education, make a living and visit the rare mountain gorillas themselves. Perhaps some of them will, like Fidel, grow up and work in one of Rwanda’s beautiful national parks and lead tourists like you and me to see their beloved and amazing national treasure, our cousins, the magnificent mountain gorillas of Virunga National Park.

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