New Providence and Other Union County School Districts Shift into Green Energy

Dr. Carmen Centuolo: Catalyst behind Union County School Districts' participation in the Green Schools Program
Winfield School
Jeff Brown
Dr. David Miceli, New Providence school district Superintendent, the first Union County supporter of the green schools program.

Staying true to their "PIONEER" spirit, New Providence recently hosted a first of its kind Energy Efficiency seminar focused on schools and libraries. Dr. David Miceli, the Superintendent of the School District and Paul Casarico, H.S. Principal, were the visionaries who saw the value in the program, and gladly welcomed it. Thanks to them, the event was held, and as a result, the New Providence Board of Education passed a resolution to have the Green Schools Program made part of the School Districts core curriculum. This sets the stage for what is believed will be a statewide agenda. Here are the details: There is a small company in Plainfield NJ that is having a tremendous positive impact on New Jersey schools and communities. Upon hearing about the severely decreased funding for New Jersey schools for the 2010-2011 school year, Shift Into Green Energytm, headed by Partners Peter Ricks and Caroline V. Jerski, has made it its goal to see that schools and libraries throughout NJ understand about energy efficiency, and how it can be a "Profit Model".

As members of the energy community, they know there are programs and opportunities to help schools and businesses save energy, help the environment and profit as well. (Programs like the popular PSE&G Solar Loan Program or the UCIA solar implementation planned for UC municipalities. Or, the great PPA options and solar integrating expertise offered by excellent companies like Nautilus Solar and GeoGenix, to name a few. And last but not least, banks like Investors Savings Banks that can offer "Gap Financing" as an affordability option.)

The problem is, only insiders really understand the energy world enough to take advantage of what's available. Information is available, but without guidance, it can be overwhelming to an outsider.

Knowing this, Shift Into Green Energytm decided to create a structure to help guide New Jersey schools through the maze, and into programs and services that could educate them and their communities, and help them save money and the environment. They created what they call a "template" for energy efficiency. The template is a defined process for running formal seminars that will present information about energy management in a structured way. Once tested, this template could be used to recreate the process numerous times. The process pulls together specific presenters and audiences. The presenters are energy experts, and related political and business leaders, including representatives from Utility Companies, Solar Integrators, County Improvement Authorities, the Board of Public Utilities, The NJ Chamber of Commerce, County School Superintendents, Directors of Libraries, and so on. Technical presenters explain their role in the energy community, and what services they offer. Be it solar, or retrofitting or specific programs for schools, the idea is to give the schools community a clear, broad picture of what is available, and who they can turn to, to avail themselves of it.

For further clarity, the relationships are diagramed out, so the audience can actually "see" what the speakers' relationship is to the big energy picture. The invited audience is very specific, and consists of school district administrators, facility managers, and accounting personnel. Peter and Caroline believe, given the breadth of information presented, that this is the ideal mix of representation who can understand the presentations, and take that information back to their superintendents and school boards for consideration of participation.

The template speaks of a three-phase approach to energy management. Phase 1 would be to understand and implement behavioral, and other low cost or no cost solutions. Phase 2 would be to consider retrofitting your existing environment (this is primarily what Shift Into Green Energytm does). And Phase 3 would be to consider renewable energy implementation. The idea was to present information about all of these areas, then allow them to decide what works best for them. When Shift Into Green Energytm and Global Learning's Executive Director Jeff Brown presented the idea to Union County Schools Superintendent Dr. Carmen Centuolo, she understood and agreed to lend her support immediately. That support, and her tireless effort to get the information to her district superintendents urging their attendance was the key to making this a successful concerted effort. Since Peter's children were in the New Providence school system, he began communicating with the HS principal there, Mr. Paul Casarico, and eventually with Dr. David Miceli, the New Providence Schools Superintendent, who agreed to host the event.

On July 29, the template concept was tested. After months of preparation and communication with all the various presenters and attendees, the first Energy Efficiency Seminar for schools was hosted in New Providence. The seminar was well attended. The political presenters made very impassioned presentations. There was a general presentation about energy management to set the stage, and then the various energy experts explained their role as actors on that energy stage.

Although all three phases were explained, the focal point program was a Phase 1 initiative called "Green Schools". This program is funded by the Board of Public Utilities, under its T.E.A.C.H. umbrella program. It has an educational component that will be part of the schools core curriculum, educating all the children in the community about energy efficiency in a very real way. There is an opportunity to put that information into practice, as the program forms teams consisting of teachers, students, custodians and administrators, whose role is to implement the knowledge within the schools. They are given equipment to determine efficiency and trained to use it. The educational impact to the schools and the community will be tremendous, as students use their knowledge in the schools and in their communities. Although there are specific lesson plans which accompany the program, it is flexible enough to customize to fit into the personality of the school. This will offer a level of fun and excitement, as students and teachers work in a creative way to implement energy efficiency ideas.

What is validating the template in Union County, is the registration of school districts into the Green Schools program. One by one, schools are contacting the Program Director Jeff Brown, and asking to join the program. From New Providence, Winfield, Elizabeth, Berkeley Heights, Cranford and more, there is a groundswell interest in participation.

Peter and Caroline have made a firm commitment to see this process taken through to its heights. Their next stop is the State Department of Education, where they will explain what is happening, and ask for support in making this a process that can be implemented in all school districts throughout New Jersey.

Shift Into Green Energytm has a strategic partnership with, and received their initial energy training from Enigin PLC of Cornwall England.

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