Ever wonder what a school district sustainability director does? Within the last five years, the network of school district sustainability staff that the Center for Green Schools convenes has grown four fold, and we've launched four successful Green Schools Fellowships. In the process, we've gleaned a lot of information about what it takes to get sustainability moving in a school system.
In a new report the Center details findings from surveys and interviews conducted by our graduate research assistant, Dania Gutierrez. In "Managing Sustainability in School Districts," we explain the profile, capabilities and challenges of being the point-person for all things sustainability in a school system.
One key finding of the research is that the capabilities and challenges of the sustainability staff do not seem to be modified by the size of the school district, which surprised us. Between medium and large districts, top challenges of the job and top feelings of success on the job look quite similar. One common element we found across sustainability staff was the marked difference in the challenges that staff cited when they did and did not have the support of their top leadership. As capable as these professionals are at their work, the clear message was that leadership matters. Visible support for sustainability from top leadership can make or break sustainability efforts.
As the Center for Green Schools gets ready to host our fifth annual School Sustainability Leaders' Summit at the end of June, we head into a new stage for sustainability in school districts. The research indicates to us that the sustainability staff position, put in place so far by school district leaders at the leading edge, relies heavily on the staff person himself to show the value of the role for the district. Without pre-existing understanding of sustainability among school district stakeholders and leaders, the staff person is called on to both define the role and succeed in it.
Familiarizing yourself with the school district sustainability role by reading the "Managing Sustainability in School Districts" report will enable you to not only advocate for the establishment of this role in a school system near you but also to be the best support you can be to a sustainability director at your local school or district.