Westfield Washington Schools are using less energy to save more jobs for the district’s teachers.
WWS has teamed with Energy Education to not only decrease energy usage, but to save taxpayers money and keep productive student-to-teacher ratios in the classroom.
Nick Verhoff, WWS executive director of business and operations, first found out about the project in September 2009** when Verhoff signed a guaranteed energy contract with Energy Education.
“The contract says we pay them and they tell us how much money they are going to save us,” Verhoff said. “If they don’t save that amount of money, then they will pay the difference. Wecan’t lose in this process,” Verhoff said.
Matt Kettlebar, Westfield High School science teacher, was selected as the energy specialist for the program and he receives a stipend as part of WWS’s contract with Energy Education. Energy Education also trains Kettlebarfor the new responsibilities required to get to know every building, and how he can work with Energy Education’s experts to increase the buildings’ efficiency.
“Part of my job is taking a comprehensive look at how the buildings are designed to run, what the equipment capabilities are and monitoring them to make sure buildings are used in the best fashion can be,” Kettlebar said.
Kettlebar said his regular contact with Energy Education’s experts has been key in collecting data to move forward in increasing efficiency, while also tracking the improvements and areas in need of improvements.
“We’ve been looking at the type of energy usage and utility expenditures WWS has been doing in the past, and based on their Energy Education’s expertise and suggestions, we can find the types of changes we should be making,” Kettlebar said. “The specialists have helped me get to know the buildings and specific areas to focus on.”
According to Kettlebar, energy usage for the months of June, July and Augustin 2011 decreased by 20 percent. Verhoff said the money saved by the decreased usage was used to balance the 2011 budget.
“We’re trying to save non-instructional dollars anywhere we can so we can take those dollars and put them back in the classroom. Utilities take a significant amount of dollars,” Verhoff said.“We don’t have a lot of cash floating around in this district, so every dollar saved is used to balance the budget.”
Verhoff said without the program’s savings, substantial cuts would have been required to balance last year’s budget.
“Ninety percent of our budget is salaries and benefits. That’s where most the money saved from utility bills go,” Verhoff said. “Without this program,something would’ve been cut [to balance the budget]. This is saving people’s jobs.”
Kettlebar said it’s rewarding to see the program progressing and how it can continue providing a strong learning environment for students.
“We’re a growing district and class numbers are getting bigger. It’s tough to think about how many kids would be in class of a particular subject if we weren’t able to maintain teachers,” Kettlebar said. “We were able to make another hire in the science department last year. and that wouldn’t have been possible in the future without saving money in utilities.”
Although the program’s progress has helped save jobs and maintain the schools’ educational environments, Verhoff said the program is always developing to become more functional.
“There were some bumps along the way, butthe staff and administrators understand what we’re trying to do: save their jobs andsave their salaries,” Verhoff said. “They’ve been extremely supportive.
The cost of staying cool:
According to Verhoff, decreasing utility bills is essential to continue saving money.
“When you compare the 1.5 million square feet of space we have to provide electricity for toyour house’s square footage, you can only imagine what our utility bills are,” Verhoff said.
Kettlebar said although he knows the sizes and the layouts of the buildings, he was still shocked it costs$2 million to power the district’s buildings.
“I know how big the buildings are, I’ve been in them. I was prepared for it to be a lot of money, but I was surprised how much it costs to run the buildings,” Kettlebar said. “Although all of the school’s elementary buildings look the same, the buildings’ systemscan be different. It all depends on the time they were built or other factors.”