Loudoun County Committee for Sustainable Society (LCCSS)
School Board Questionnaire Answers – Campaign 2007
Environmental Hazards Comments:
One of the school system’s goals is to promote programs that enhance students’ and employees’ health, safety and well-being. To that end, I believe the creation of such a task force strongly supports this goal. Its creation will go beyond nutrition and physical education programs targeting overweight children. For example, it will allow the Administration to gain valuable insight into other factors that could contribute to toxic and non-environmental friendly, educational environments, such as maintenance and materials policies and practices. We need to look at cleaning techniques, pesticides and other powerful cleaning agents used in and around our schools to determine if they meet US EPA allowable, minimum standards for carcinogenic producing compounds. Our families and taxpaying citizens deserve this type of management accountability and oversight in our school system to ensure our children are learning in clean, safe, toxic-free environments. Once the task force has completed its data collection and analysis, findings should be presented with a clear set of action oriented, recommendations detailing what is good about our current maintenance and materials policies/practices and what could be improved along with a timetable upon which the Administration should implement the proposed recommendations.
Ranking of the following initiatives according to my priorities:
(1) Upgrade the nutritional quality of food offered in school lunches
(2) Adopt a “Healthy snacks” and “Healthy Parties” policy
(3) Restrict sale of candy, soda, sweets at/through the school
(4) Reinforce learned concepts by extending education to parents
(5) Provide meal preparation and food selection workshops
(6) Initiate partnerships between local farms and school food-services
(7) Incorporate in-school kitchen gardens and local food economy education
(8) Teach the significance of packaging and processed foods to ecological and personal health
Healthy Schools / School Nutrition Comments:
While I think LCPS has made some great strides in this area, I believe we can do much more if we are innovative in our thinking around food nutrition. Students need to understand how to evaluate their food choices provided at school. Meal options should be properly labeled with fat content (proteins, carbohydrates, etc.) along with signage on what good choices are. Poor nutritional choices should be eliminated and parents should be offered sample menus for nutritional rich lunches, snacks, and treats. The key is to keep the message simple and communicate it consistently to the students, teachers, parents, and administrators.
In addition, living in Loudoun County with our rich agrarian / farming culture, we have a tremendous opportunity for our students to learn about ecological sustainability, our local food economy, and its impact on not only their physical and nutritional well-being but also what it means to our local farming economy. Field trips and partnerships with local eateries like American Flatbread in Ashburn, VA which uses fresh, non-processed, locally grown ingredients to produce organic pizzas and salads would be a good hands-on opportunity for a “blended learning” experience that incorporates both in-class and field study.
Green School Comments:
I support this initiative 100% and am pleased to see the construction industry head in that direction as well. The need for sustainable resources and smart, efficient, environmental friendly construction will outweigh the costs. Some studies have shown annual energy savings of 70% with the use of geothermal designs. Loudoun already lags behind Arlington, Alexandria, Montgomery and Fairfax counties in regards to green school construction. For example, in Alexandria, the new T.C. Williams High School boasts green building features, such as a garden roof, a system to collect rainwater for flushing toilets, and a “dashboard” to monitor energy use. In addition, the students have participated in the planning and construction, and lessons learned about conservation are being weaved into the curriculum. We need to adopt several of the “pillars” of The Green School Initiative – The Little Green House and implement them in our own, creative, fiscally sound way. For example, we may consider using the HS5, O’Connor Track, as our first green school construction / school site, and I would hope the first in a line of others to follow. This option was presented at the August 14th School Board meeting. It can be done if we in fact make it a priority.
6. The major roadblock is funding issues associated with green school construction and associated professional services and fees that help take such a program from blueprint to plan in action.
Also, there will be some planning and construction obstacles to overcome since a green school
blueprint is not part of the current approved school designs by the County for elementary, middle and high
schools. This will take time and collaboration with the Planning Commission and the Board of
Supervisors to get approved, but it can be done with a solid vision, sound leadership, good fundamental
business planning, and stakeholder management – all of which I bring to the table as a school board
candidate via my current and previous work experience. I also think we should look to forge public-private
partnerships to work with LCPS in this endeavor and well as state and federal agencies to try to get
additional funding and grants and tax credits associated with green and sustainable energy initiatives. I
think we can also over come “political risks” by learning from other jurisdictions and leveraging promising
practices. For example, look at what the NY SUN WORKS – Center for Sustainable Engineering
(http://nysunworks.org/science_barge/about_the_barge.html) does for educating many audiences via a
New York City Barge about sustainable building, production of energy, clean water and food as a non-profit
organization. This is an innovative approach and I believe we can be just as innovative in Loudoun County
with the right vision and leadership to get us there to help us overcome these challenges. However, in
order for some of these types of programs to be successful, they need to be integrated into the science
curriculum (e.g. school gardens, solar experiments, and re-cycling project-based learning opportunities). In
addition, we will need to have enough capable and knowledgeable science teachers who have experience
teaching sustainable school topics. Finally, I would also expect our School Board and its representation on
to the VA School Board Association to lobby the General Assembly to also pass laws to make it easier for
school districts in the state to pursue such endeavors. School districts in states such as California and
Texas have been successful in this regard, and could serve as examples for Loudoun to emulate.
Additional Comments: Please visit my website at www.kevinturner4dulles.com to find our more about me and my campaign. I welcome the opportunity to talk to you about these and other issues related to education in Loudoun County.