Will Arlington Public Schools miss the Sustainability bus?
While Maryland becomes the first state to require environmental literacy, in Arlington, VA, parents still struggle to teach administrators what “Sustainability” means. Miriam Gennari reacts to the new MD requirement, “It is definitely about raising better stewards of our resources, but it is also about attracting new innovative business that require a highly intuitive workforce that is knowledgeable about environmental challenges of our time.”
The question on the minds of many Arlington parents is:
Will environmental literacy, sustainability, and stewardship even make it into the new strategic plan that is due to be release late this summer?
On June 16, 2011, the strategic plan was turned over to the school board after an advisory committee had worked on the process for about eight months. Yet Mary Van Dyke, a full time volunteer and parent of a student at Arlington Traditional School who teaches environmental education, told the board that words like Sustainability are “buried in the comments.” She applauded the superintendent for working to create an Advisory Committee on Sustainability, but felt it lacked connection with the new Strategic Plan.
Van Dyke went on to say that if APS is fully committed to energy and environmental conservation as well as incorporating sustainability into schools’ operation and instruction programs; then the Strategic Plan needs to:
“Support the needs of the whole child — including experiential, service, and recess/play opportunities with attention and appreciation of the environment and the benefits of both indoor and outdoor learning.”
Elenor Hodges, Executive Director of Arlingtonians for a Clean Environment, spoke on behalf of the community-based non-profit organization with close to 1,000 active members in Arlington who are working to create a sustainable community. She complimented efforts thus far, but went on to say, “connecting to our global environment is a value the Arlington Community demands.” Looking at things from the perspective of civic leadership and as a Arlington public school parent, Ms. Hodges indicated there was a necessity to examine every one of the current choices the school system was making in order to meet the needs of future generation, “sustainability is a key addition to Arlington Public Schools list of values.”
Miriam Gennari, Diane Schwatz, and Zanna Worzella also spoke. Ms. Worzella, a recent college graduate, spoke about life experience and volunteer activities through sustainability and environmental stewardship. She closed her three-minute statement with a quote from Andres Edwards, author of The Sustainability Revolution
“Through education, sustainability can be firmly established within the existing value structures of societies.”
Sounds very similar to comments made by county board member Jay Fisette when county official accepted the first phase of the Energy Task Force finding. It will be interesting to see whether or not Arlington Public Schools get on the Sustainability bus, or get left wandering behind.