More than 20 districts applied to participate in the three-year research project and 12 were selected. Each pilot district passed a board resolution and designated a team leader who served as the point person to collect information, participate in professional development, report findings to project managers and other participating districts, and work with an evaluator for pre- and post- interviews.
When the team leaders and their supporting school project team members were in place, initial professional development training helped establish measurable objectives* that were both manageable and attainable for the districts and schools. Each district focused on key measurable objective noted in the profiles.
Initial training emphasized the importance of collaboration and the need for district leadership to communicate within the school and with the district green team being formed. All of the schools’ green team members and leadership needed to work as a team and understand the economic and health benefits of the sustainability initiatives. Each pilot district had its own set of objectives so the process was unique to that district. This was valuable because it demonstrated a broad range of activities and strategies that were considered significant.
NJSSP’s director and manager conducted site visits to the pilot districts to learn about the educational connections to sustainability and explore strategies for continued progress toward measurable goals. Summers proved to be an optimal time to conduct intensive, sometimes multi-day training with the team leaders and their district teams. In 2012 and 2014, these groups came together for team work, professional development and concentrated exposure to subject matter experts. The NJSSP team also observed how the pilot districts established relationships with the private sector, government agencies, nonprofits and community groups to leverage resources to support their sustainability efforts.
*Measurable objectives are tangible and can be quantitatively described; they are statistically organized and can help determine how effective a particular action, piece of equipment or service is performing. For an objective to be measurable, the sustainability team must define the parameters of the objective. For example, an objective to reduce energy consumption by 10% must be accompanied by the parameters of benchmarking current energy use as well as determining who will track the objective, how and what methods will be used to capture energy reductions, and what other actions within the culture of the school district must occur to achieve that reduction.