It’s Not Easy Being Green
By The Jolly Green Giant
During the November 20, 2012 School Board meeting, Superintendent Walts praised PWCS for being named by the Virginia School Boards Association as a “Certified Green School Division” for having earned the minimum number of “green points” in the VSBA’s Green Public Schools Challenge. The challenge is supposed to be a friendly competition designed to encourage implementation of specific environmental policies and practical actions. It’s part of the broader “Go Green Virginia” initiative of the Virginia Municipal League designed to provide local governments with helpful information and practical strategies to promote environmental responsibility.
All of this sounds great, but is there anything to the certification, or is it simply another feel good initiative without real substance? “Going Green” ought to be something more than just collecting certificates of participation. When contacted early this month, the Virginia Municipal League’s Director of Environmental Policy had no idea if PWCS was even participating in the program.
So much for meaningful initiatives. And it begs the question, is PWCS serious about environmental responsibility, or are we simply collecting certificates of participation from high-minded outside organizations?
The overwhelming majority of PWCS High Schools have some form of school-based environmental, ecology, and/or conservation clubs or organizations. This makes it all the more perplexing to find that, in practice, we’re somehow not making the grade in being good stewards to the environment on our very own school grounds.
Take Forest Park High School, for example. For going on about 10 years now, PWCS’s Forest Park High School has been conducting it’s own “green” experiment, but perhaps not the sort that wins accolades at the state level. How, you might ask? Nearly 10 years ago the school cut down its baseball field electronic scoreboard and replaced it with a new one. And the old one? Well, FPHS decided to leave it where it fell on the athletic fields. And there it sits today slowly rusting away.
A year or so ago, when the school’s athletic department grew tired of using the giant tractor tires they’d procured for student athlete training, FPHS opted to just roll them down the hill into woods and hope the neighboring Montclair community homeowners just wouldn’t notice. Opined one official, “There was a some discussion regarding whether or not we should haul the tires off to the dump, but then we’d have had to pay a disposal fee at the landfill. Besides, it’s still technically on school property so we don’t really have to do anything about it.” (see FPHS-Dump for photos)
Is this the best we can do in PWCS? Why not actually take environmental awareness seriously and teach our children about it? Would it take that much thought and effort to simply clean up our own school grounds? Why not take a couple hours after school and organize a staff and/or student rally to clean up the school grounds at each and every PWCS facility? Oh right. Actually taking the initiative to clean up junk on our school grounds takes a bit more effort than say, signing pledges to stamp out global warming to collect “Green Certificates”.
Though we’re not trying to single out any one school in particular, FPHS helps prove the point. Over the last couple of years, the PWCS has allocated funding for major school grounds improvements across the county. FPHS alone has received tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars in sports renovations from new sports press boxes, to new turf grass ball fields and correctional facility-style fencing around it’s sports complex. We can spend money on new press boxes and turf fields, but not clean up our own garbage?
When it comes to being environmentally responsible, it seems that PWCS is more concerned about collecting certificates and putting on a pretty public face than it is on substance.
UPDATE: Chairman Johns reported that the tires and sign have been cleaned up, as for 1:30 today, Feb 27 2013. Here’s his full comment from our facebook page, “I read your post this morning about 6:30 am and I contacted the Superintendent. The Superintendent told me about 90 minutes ago that the scoreboard has been removed and the tires returned to the school. The reason why the scoreboard was taken down, and why it wasn’t picked back up, pre-dates the Principal, the Associate Superintendent, the Superintendent and the School Board for that matter. It was gone by 1:30. The tires weren’t discarded -apparently they are used by the football and/or wrestling teams and had rolled away (intentionally or unintentionally, but with the intent of being retrieved). The tires were recovered and will be chained to the building for future safekeeping. If anyone has a concern or complaint like this they are welcome simply to call me at the School Board office at 703-791-8709 or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org before the need to blog about it arises.”