Articles in the School Buildings category

Go green to save some green

recycle-greenWe all know that embracing energy efficiency is better for the planet, but did you know it could also be better for your school’s budget?

Last week, two 17 year-old environmental activists from California traveled clear across the country to speak at the Power Shift conference in D.C. and meet with Aneesh Chopra, the Chief Technology Officer in the White House.

Shreya Indukuri and Daniela Lapidous, both members of the Alliance for Climate Education’s youth advisor board,  emphasized the importance of energy efficiency in schools, explaining that burning fossil fuels and using excess energy emits additional carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, which helps to trap heat on Earth. Such human activities are some of the main causes of global warming.  

After The Harker Upper School in San Jose, Ca., was awarded an ACE grant in 2009, the students initiated the installation of a Smart Submeter system on their campus. The resource measures energy usage in each building throughout the day and creates a corresponding visual map, so administrators can see where and when activities are highest.   

As a result, the school has seen a 250 percent return on investment, and a 13 percent decrease in energy over the course of the past two years, Lapidous said.

Naomi Dillon|April 25th, 2011|Categories: American School Board Journal, Curriculum, Governance, School Buildings, School Climate|Tags: , |

The week in blogs

Many years ago, when I was a college senior in Southern California, I took a child development class connected with a wonderful campus preschool that was all the things you would expect a ‘70s-era preschool to be – discovery oriented, child centered, creative, and fun.  It guess you could call it “open classroom” as well,  seeing as the kids had the run of a multi-room former home; of course it helped, in terms of classroom control, that – in addition to having a wonderful director – there was a ratio of roughly one college student helper for every two children.

Flip ahead two years, and I was one of the teachers in a Head Start program for minority students in Boston’s South End. This was also “open classroom,” but by necessity: There was some structural problem in one classroom that forced us to combined two classrooms of 20-some students each into a mega-class of four teachers and more than 40-something children.

Yes, it was bedlam. There were just too many students – and too much noise – for much real learning to occur.

I thought about those two schools this week after reading about an experimental elementary school in Brooklyn founded by a former principal and Harvard graduate student who was trying to replicate the small discussion groups at Phillips Exeter Academy. This is analogous to my California school. But, according to a New York Times story on the project and Joanne Jacobs’ subsequent blog, instead of organizing several small groups (which may not have been possible) the founder put 60 first graders in a class with four teachers, and the results were …. yes, as the Times strongly implies, bedlam. The same thing I experienced in Boston.

Lawrence Hardy|January 15th, 2011|Categories: American School Board Journal, Assessment, Curriculum, Diversity, Educational Research, Educational Technology, Governance, Policy Formation, School Buildings, School Climate, Student Achievement, Teachers, Urban Schools|

Annual conference shows green movement steadily building in schools

A Gold Certified LEED elementary school in South Florida

A Gold Certified LEED elementary school in South Florida

Some 20,000 people, including representatives from NSBA, attended the 2010 annual meeting of the U.S. Green Building Council’s Greenbuild Expo in Chicago last week. The conference showed how far the movement has come in just the past decade and the potential the industry has in the future of this country’s economy.

In the past 10 years, green buildings have moved from being a novelty to being the norm. And not every school has to have its own windmill or geothermal heating and cooling system to qualify as a green building—there are simple ways to include mechanisms to make new schools more environmentally friendly and sustainable. More school districts are finding ways to incorporate sustainable design into their renovations and existing buildings—after all, reusing and recycling is a the heart of the environmental movement.

In its March 2009 issue, ASBJ showed some examples of how school districts can harness the movement, from small changes like setting up a recycling program to earn extra cash to rebuilding a new LEED-certified high school, and reusing discarded materials from the demolished building as the foundation for the new building’s road and parking lot.

The USGBC has also launched a Center for Green Schools to give school board members and administrators the most up-to-date information and guidelines for going green. Its goal is to ensure every student has access to a green facility during their academic careers.

Naomi Dillon|November 23rd, 2010|Categories: American School Board Journal, School Buildings|Tags: , |

Designing change

Here’s one of the latest TED talks, this one featuring designer Emily Pilloton, who was invited by the superintendent of a rural district in North Carolina to take a design approach to transforming the failing school system. Watch how that turned out:

Naomi Dillon|November 22nd, 2010|Categories: American School Board Journal, School Buildings, School Climate|Tags: , , , |

Evidence mounting K-8 model works best, but space and funds remain flat

untitled1Does your community have middle or junior high schools? A new Columbia University study suggests your students might do better academically if you switched to K-8 schools.

That assumes, of course, your school board can afford to make policy decisions based on research rather than available classroom space.

Even before this recent study, some school districts were big fans of K-8 schools. It’s increasingly accepted that the elementary school model works well for young adolescents, who are not always developmentally ready for the more regimented and anonymous structure of middle or junior high school.

What’s more, studies have shown that some students show a drop in test scores after their transition to a new school. A K-8 set-up eliminates one of those transitions.

The Columbia University study certainly backs that up. How and Why Middle Schools Harm Student Achievement found that students entering New York middle schools suffered a drop in math and English test scores in their first year, compared to students who attended a K-8 school. Absenteeism also was higher in middle schools.

Naomi Dillon|September 2nd, 2010|Categories: American School Board Journal, Educational Research, School Buildings, School Climate, Student Achievement|Tags: , |

Emerging trends in education becoming more entrenched workplace imagesIn less than a week, the September edition of ASBJ will appear online, bringing with it a dynamic cover package on the phenomenon, promise and peril of the school turnaround from my esteemed colleagues, Del Stover and Larry Hardy. While equally intriguing, my assignment was a little more nebulous: look into the future and forecast  the issues that will become increasingly critical and impactful for educators, districts and schools.

You’ll have to wait until next week to get the full scoop (though if you’re a print subscriber, you’ve already read, re-read, and highlighted sections of our latest installment). But I can’t resist gleefully showcasing how accurate one of my predictions was.

Ok, ok. I admit, I’m not some super seer, with visions of the future, so please don’t call me to ask whether your upcoming bond referendum will pass. I am, however, a keen observer. And after following months and months of news articles and speaking to various individuals, I determined … our economy isn’t doing so well. Ok, bad joke but the recession-out-of-recession-back-into-recession economy is and will continue to be a predictor of future decisions.

Take for example, the burgeoning practice of partnerships and consolidation. In my article I listed several examples of districts and states joining forces to get better deals, more efficiency, and more leverage. Yet even I hadn’t imagined all the ways and manner in which educators can come together to get a big job done on a restricted budget.

Naomi Dillon|August 18th, 2010|Categories: American School Board Journal, Budgeting, Governance, School Buildings|Tags: , , , , |

Historic site preservation in L.A.

Los Angeles Unified, known for racking up some of the largest bills for school construction projects in history, has a new project at the top of its chart.

The project to build schools on the site of the former Ambassador Hotel—a historic icon where Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated—is now estimated to cost more than $578 million, according to the Los Angeles Times. The K-12 campus was more recently redesigned after construction began to include a handful of small schools.

Part of the gigantic price tag went for preservation of a handful of the most prized features of the once-luminous hotel, but other factors were the cost of the site’s premier location on Wilshire Boulevard. and years of legal wrangling with developers (including Donald Trump, who wanted the land to build the world’s tallest building).


Kathleen Vail|August 2nd, 2010|Categories: American School Board Journal, Budgeting, NSBA Publications, School Buildings|

New on

Every school district will take a different path to green. While some will take a districtwide commitment, utilizing environmentally-friendly practices from the ground up in building construction, others will tackle specific areas like energy management, indoor air quality or cleaning practices. No matter your approach, the gains and savings yielded by becoming more planet conscious can still add up in significant ways, says Rachel Gutter, director of the Center for Green Schools at the U.S. Green Building Council. Read Gutter’s advice and examples of district’s that started small, big and in between on the path to green. But hurry, it’s free here only for a limited time.

Naomi Dillon|June 8th, 2010|Categories: American School Board Journal, NSBA Publications, School Buildings|

Climate, not cameras, a remedy for student violence

Stock Vault

Stock Vault

I hate security cameras. So it really irritated me to read this week that Philadelphia schools chief Arlene Ackerman decided to install 126 security cameras inside troubled South Philadelphia High School.

It made me sad to learn that several other Philly high schools already have 100+ cameras looking over students’ shoulders.

Two things irk me about security cameras in schools. First, it’s a sign that the dangers of Big Brother did not diminish with the end of the Cold War.

Second—and a more practical argument—security cameras don’t discourage hotheaded kids from turning to violence. It just makes video of any incident available for broadcast on the evening news.

 I can understand why Ackerman thinks she had to act. In December, racial unrest led to several incidents—the most notable when African-American and Asian students clashed, with some groups of students allegedly going from room to room to target students for attack.


Kathleen Vail|May 13th, 2010|Categories: American School Board Journal, Discipline, School Buildings, School Climate, School Security|

New on

Congratulations! Your district has made a committment to green its schools. But before you dive headfirst into the new recycling bins, you need a clear plan on how you are going to go from status quo to environmental hero.  In an ASBJ exclusive, Rachel Gutter, director of the U.S. Green Building Council’s education sector, explains why mapping out your district’s green vision and sharing it with the community is an important step in promoting sustainability — for the plan and the planet. Read Gutter’s advice now online for a limited time.

Naomi Dillon|December 10th, 2009|Categories: American School Board Journal, NSBA Publications, School Buildings|Tags: |
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