Culver City schools receive national environment award

CULVER CITY — The Culver City Unified School District was among nine districts in the country to be honored as green ribbon school districts by the U.S. Department of Education.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Education Director Louisa Koch, director of the Campaign for Environmental Literacy James L. Elder and Director of the Center for Green Schools at the U.S. Green Building Council Anisa Heming joined Assistant Secretary of Education Holly Ham in congratulating school district officials on the achievement at a ceremony July 19 in Washington, D.C.

The district was nominated by the California Department of Education for its extensive efforts in not only teaching environmental sustainability but also walking the walk to make the district itself more sustainable.

The recognition rewards schools and districts that demonstrate exemplary achievement in three pillars: reducing environmental impact and costs; improving the health and wellness of schools, students and staff; and providing effective environmental education that teaches many disciplines and is especially good at effectively incorporating science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education, civic skills and green career pathways.

“Our district is working hard to foster a culture of sustainability,” school board member Kelly Kent said. “When people come to our campuses and see our solar PV arrays, award-winning custom designed sorting stations, Green5 banners and posters, they know the district embraces the responsibility to create a more sustainable world.

At the event, 45 schools and nine districts were honored for their efforts to reduce environmental impact and costs, promote better health and ensure effective environmental education.

In addition, nine colleges and universities were honored with the Postsecondary Sustainability Award.

Representatives from honored schools, districts and postsecondary institutions received sustainably crafted plaques in recognition of their achievements. Board member Anne Allaire and district Sustainability Coordinator Shea Cunningham represented the district at the event.

Those honored were selected from a pool of nominations made by 28 state education authorities, including 27 states and Department of Defense Education Activity.

The list of selectees included 39 public schools and six private schools.

Forty-four percent of the 2017 honorees serve a majority disadvantaged student body, 14 percent are rural and a third of postsecondary honorees are community or career and technical colleges.

Supervisors vote to keep deputies on school campuses

LOS ANGELES — The county Board of Supervisors voted May 30 to renew contracts for deputies to police public schools, but asked Sheriff Jim McDonnell to better define their role on campus and provide more training.

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas recommended training on adolescent development, childhood trauma, conflict resolution and de-escalating campus incidents.

Ridley-Thomas and Supervisor Hilda Solis, who co-authored the motion, pointed to an increasing law enforcement presence in schools, prompted by high-profile campus shootings and “zero tolerance” policies on misbehavior. They urged a review of best practices.

“We want to see young people thriving, we don’t want to see unnecessary expulsions,” Solis said, adding that she would like more data on the effectiveness of the program.

Supervisor Sheila Kuehl went a step further and voted against renewing the contracts.

“I think it’s totally inappropriate to have any kind of armed, uniformed law enforcement officers on our campuses,” Kuehl said.

A study published in the Journal of Criminal Justice in 2009 found that students at schools with student resource officers were nearly three times as likely to be arrested.

California school officials are more apt to refer students of color to police, according to an analysis of U.S. Department of Education statistics by the American Civil Liberties Union.

The ACLU also found that most school districts give staffers absolute discretion to call police to handle issues ranging from bullying to vandalism and very few policies limit police contact for minor offenses.

Many school officials turned up to praise the school resource officer program, saying it prevented suicides, preempted fights and helped keep drugs off campus.

“This program represents what is best about community-based policing,” said Annette Ledesma, a parent and administrator at a school in the Whittier Union High School District, who called the deputy at her school “indispensable.”

He makes “house calls” to urge chronically absent kids to come to school, helps parents with social media issues and mentors students, Ledesma said. And when the school was recently faced with a dangerous threat, he was the reason the campus could be quickly locked down, she added.

Others agreed that deputies served a critical public safety function and had the trust of parents and students.

“I do feel safer knowing that there’s an officer on campus,” parent Mary O’Keefe told the board.

Supervisor Janice Hahn said she had heard that positive feedback from others and believed having deputies on hand could help build a record of “positive interactions with those in law enforcement.”

The discussion came as McDonnell sought to renew the school resource deputy program for the next five years.

Twenty school districts in the county participate in the program and have either an armed deputy on campus full-time or a deputy available on call.

Most of the schools that contract with the program are high schools, but the list includes a handful of middle schools and some elementary schools in the Lawndale Elementary School District, according to the supervisors’ motion.

The program is staffed by 40 deputies and a sergeant and brought in more than $585,000 in annual revenues for the 2015-16 fiscal year.

Supervisor Kathryn Barger said she was open to a review of the program but pushed for a five-year renewal.

“The SROs are important for my district,” Barger said.

Based on Ridley-Thomas’ motion, the contract was renewed for two years with three one-year options to re-up after that.

The board asked the Sheriff’s Department to report back in 90 days.

 

Culver City schools honored for green program

CULVER CITY — The U.S. Department of Education has announced that Culver City Unified School District is one of only nine districts across the country to be honored among the 2017 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools District Sustainability Awardees.

Culver City was nominated by the California Department of Education for its extensive efforts in not only teaching environmental sustainability, but also walking the walk to make the district itself more sustainable.

“This is an incredible achievement that speaks to our on-going commitment to make our campuses a national leader in the effort to create more sustainable schools and more environmentally aware students,” district Superintendent Josh Arnold said. “[The district] takes pride in the continual improvements that are being made to reduce the district’s environmental impacts; improve the health and well-being of students, staff and the community; and provide effective environmental and sustainability education.”

The recognition rewards schools and districts that demonstrate achievement in reducing environmental impact and costs; improving the health and wellness of schools, students and staff; and providing effective environmental education that teaches many disciplines and is especially good at effectively incorporating science, technology, engineering and mathematics education, civic skills and green career pathways.

“[The district] is working hard to foster a culture of sustainability,” said school board member Kelly Kent. “When people come to [our] campuses and see our solar PV arrays, award-winning custom designed sorting stations, Green5 banners and posters, they know the district embraces the responsibility to create a more sustainable world.”

In 2010, the school board created the Environmental Sustainability Committee to help the district become more environmentally and fiscally sustainable. The committee includes parent volunteers with experience in sustainability and a passion to help the district.

In 2011, the committee ordered a third-party baseline energy audit of school facilities, created a sustainability master plan for the school board and began working on bringing a 750-kilowatt solar photovoltaic system to the district’s main campus — where Culver City High, Culver City Middle School and an elementary school are all located

As of February 2014, the solar panels accounted for approximately 50 percent of the energy needs of the main campus and 25 percent of the entire district, delivering over $400,000 back into the district’s general fund each year over the life of the system and avoiding approximately 2,326 tons of greenhouse gas emissions annually.

The district also retrofitted all lights with light-emitting diodes lighting and all toilets and urinals with low-flow fixtures. The district achieved a 29 percent reduction in greenhouse gases and a 20 percent reduction in water use in just three years.

During the 2011–12 school year, the ESC launched the Green5 co-curricular sustainability education program to increase awareness among students and staff about recycling; reducing waste, energy use and water consumption; reusing 28 materials; engaging in active transportation; and rethinking local solutions to global problems.

The Green5, also known as the “Five Rs” (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Ride and Rethink), was piloted at Linwood E. Howe Elementary School and included recycling audits, surveys, a campus-wide recycling program, signage and other messaging and the establishment of a student leadership program.

The post-audit findings showed recycling rates increased by 500 percent and sustainability awareness among the students and staff also increased substantially.

Since 2014, the amount of materials being sent to landfills by the district has been reduced by more than 50 percent, for a district-wide diversion rate exceeding 80 percent. District-wide, an estimated 29 tons of mixed recycling is diverted from the landfill each year, which is the equivalent of 100 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions avoided, while 935 tons of compostable food waste is diverted from the landfill each school year, which is the equivalent of 823.5 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions avoided.