At the Center for Green Schools at USGBC, we believe that all students deserve to attend sustainable schools that enhance their health and prepare them for 21st century careers. We know that to accomplish this vision together, we need to provide the tools for school districts to transform the way facilities are built and operated.
Through the Green Schools Fellowship program, USGBC selects, trains and places three-year sustainability directors with school districts to work toward whole-school sustainability. When new sustainability staff are embedded with a school system, change is accelerated in the areas of resource efficiency, improved student health and performance and environmental literacy.
Since 2008, these fellows have had success improving recycling and composting programs, monitoring energy usage and communicating usage to school staff, implementing environmental curriculum resources, growing indoor air quality commitments, revising maintenance or transportation contracts and more.
After years of work in greening school systems across the country, we know that truly transformative action only happens when you make sustainability someone’s job. The Center for Green Schools is proud to play a role in helping school systems achieve this reality through the unique Green Schools Fellowship Program.
Read on for a few answers to some of the frequently asked questions about this exciting and impactful program.
Where have fellows worked previously?
- 2008: New Orleans
- 2011: Boston Public Schools and Sacramento Unified School District, made possible by United Technologies Corporation.
- 2013: New Jersey School Boards Association, made possible by Bristol-Meyers Squibb.
- 2015: Grand Rapids Public Schools, made possible by the Richard and Helen DeVos Foundation, along with several other local donations.
Which districts are eligible?
Districts must be able to demonstrate high-level commitment to healthy, high-performance schools through district policies, board resolutions and other similar indicators. Districts must have specific suggestions for projects and initiatives on which district leadership would support and advance the fellow’s work.
Strong preference will be given to large, urban school districts (though exceptions are made), to affect the greatest number of students. Preference will also be given to school districts that serve a high-need population.
How do we apply?
The application to host a Green Schools Fellowship begins with a letter of interest from school district leadership. The letter of interest informs the Center for Green Schools about whether the district would be a good fit to host a fellow. If the district is deemed a good fit, center staff will begin work, coordinating with the school district, to raise the funds to support the fellowship position.
Letters should be on school district letterhead, signed by a senior district official, and no longer than 1,000 words. Please include the following information when you email the Center for Green Schools.
- Demonstration of need
- Evidence of high-level commitment to greening the district
- Suggested initiatives to be focused on by the fellow
- Supervisory capability of the district
- Designated point of contact
Can multiple school districts apply together?
School districts that would like to join together to apply for a fellow can submit a letter of interest, signed by senior officials from both or all districts, that includes additional information to explain the logistics of hosting the position between multiple districts. USGBC will need assurance that districts have a positive and productive history of working together. Issues such as where the fellow’s office will be housed and how their time would be divided need to be addressed in the letter of interest.
What will USGBC provide?
For three years, the Center for Green Schools will provide an extensive training program for fellows, including:
- Attendance at the annual School Sustainability Leaders’ Summit
- Targeted professional development (see this article for an example)
- Individual bimonthly check-in calls with Center for Green Schools staff
- Attendance at the Greenbuild Conference and Expo
- Attendance at local green building continuing education seminars and conferences
- Annual visits from Center for Green Schools staff to school district offices
The Center for Green Schools will employ the fellow, providing full salary and benefits for two years. In the third year, employment will transfer to the school district, and the Center for Green Schools will provide funds to cover half of the fellow’s salary. The training and travel program will remain fully funded during the third year.
What is the participating school district expected to provide?
The school district will be expected to provide an environment conducive to the work of the fellow. High-level commitment to the goal of healthy, high-performance schools for every child is therefore essential. The school district will be expected to provide the fellow with office amenities such as a desk, phone and supplies. It will also be asked to provide the fellow with a reasonable activities budget of $5,000 per year to implement programs and invite participation among faculty, staff and students.
What sort of impact should we expect from a fellow?
As demonstrated through the work of current and previous Green Schools Fellowships, sustainability staff bring direct benefits to the school districts in the form of positive community relations, sponsorships and grants, contract expertise, program implementation and staff training. A fellow can be expected to bring in more than $500,000 in sponsorships, grants and donated services to the school district during the fellowship tenure.
What kind of individuals will be accepted as fellows? Can the individual already be a member of the school district staff?
Individual applicants to the fellowship program are evaluated in a rigorous process that includes a thorough reference check, judging of essay responses and individual and group interviews. Preference is given to applications with a graduate degree in organizational sustainability, environmental science, the building sciences, public health or a related field; or equivalent, extensive and relevant workplace experience. USGBC will pay for one district representative to travel to Washington, D.C., to participate in selection during the interview process.
Fellows are intended to provide additional support to districts. The funds allocated for the program are not meant to subsidize a position that may already exist in the school district. School districts that already have a sustainability officer are invited to apply to receive an additional sustainability leader to boost efforts already in place, or support existing staff through our Green Schools Scholarship program. [link to the Green Schools Scholarship article]
Will the Fellow hired have all the necessary screening to work in school district offices?
USGBC will work with the school district to screen all finalists in whatever manner required by the particular school district.
Who supervises the fellow? Who determines fellows’ working hours?
USGBC will draft an agreement with the school district that delineates the appropriate division of supervisory duties.
Can an underperforming fellow be terminated?
If USGBC and the school district decide that the fellow is not performing to the level expected, the fellow will be terminated and another fellow will be hired. The hiring may be delayed to coincide with the fellows’ training cycle.
We may have a local corporation or foundation interested in funding a fellow for our school district specifically. Is that allowed, and how do we proceed?
Please contact the Green Schools Fellowship Manager, Phoebe Beierle, if you know of a company or organization that would like to fund this program at your district. We encourage school districts to seek local funding, and we will be happy to assist in the effort.
We can provide informational materials, participate in discussions concerning the nature of the fellows program, and aid in the process of securing a commitment from the funder. Each entity that funds a fellowship is invited to specify regions or particular school districts for which the funds should be applied.
In supporting your community through this program, you will make a direct, significant and lasting impact on an entire school community. We will make sure that the community knows that you made it all possible through a series of benefits from USGBC and the Center for Green Schools.