There are 3 candidates – Ron Alexander, Linda Chow and Sharon Gray— more candidates than seats — so your choice of candidate is very important. We asked them 3 questions. Their responses are listed alphabetically.
1. What is your track record on environmental sustainability, including any related interests, experience, or initiatives?
[Ron Alexander] – no response
– Recycling and Composting – Our house is a mini RDF, flanked by 3 large storage compartments for recycling on one side and a large bin for composting on the other.
– Renewable Energy – When Power to Choose was rolled out, we did not hesitate to sign up.
– Energy Audit – Following an energy audit, we implemented all recommendations.
– Hybrid vehicle – Since 2003, my husband has been proud owner of 3 pre-owned Honda Insights.
– Renovation vs. tear-down – After purchasing the property behind ours, we renovated rather than demolish the farmhouse (circa 1888).
– Sustainability Challenge – While on WEF and post-WEF, I was part of the organizing team for the 2015 and 2017 STEM Expos. Partnering with members of Wellesley Green Schools and Sustainable Wellesley, we launched the first Sustainability Challenge in 2015, and followed that with another one in 2017.
– CreateAthon – also in 2017, a group of us worked with several WHS students to bring to life their vision of a CreateAthon, an event in which middle- and high-school students worked in teams building apps to solve problems in the community. Several teams chose to focus on sustainability.
[Sharon Gray] – My answer isn’t very exciting, but it’s meaningful to me: When it comes to sustainability, what’s influenced my thinking and actions the most is the simple fact of living in Wellesley for the past eight years.
I am a Florida native, and incredibly, my hometown did not have a workable recycling system for its residents until 2015. I appreciated the sustainable mindset in Wellesley as soon as I moved here, and do my best to incorporate that thinking in little and big decisions. I’m a compulsive recycler, supportive of initiatives like Power to Choose, and regularly talk to my children about ways to make sustainable choices. I appreciate those in town who are so passionate about the environment and I’m always learning from them. I can’t help but mention here that my hometown officials have, more than once, received pictures of Wellesley’s RDF from my visiting mother. (The dump is her favorite!)
As far as big-picture actions go: I have directly supported sustainability as a School Committee member involved in the HHU process (see below).
2. What are your thoughts on sustainability as an issue and opportunity for current and future students in the Wellesley school system?
[Ron Alexander] – no response
[Linda Chow]- Just as I hope parents are doing their part at home to make kids aware of the importance of sustainability, by modeling and setting examples, the same applies to the school system and the opportunities that exist for further awareness-building. Wellesley Green Schools has done a lot to shine a light on and coordinate green efforts across schools through the years. A great example is the Recycling and Food Waste Diversion Project at Bates which I understand came about as a collaboration between parents, school administrators and staff, town energy leaders, and students, resulting in 30% reduction of cafeteria food waste. It was especially exciting to hear how other schools have been so inspired that similar projects are underway elsewhere in town.
While a program such as Evolutions does often focus on sustainability, I believe more could be done to further integrate sustainability topics into the curriculum. Moving forward, the District’s effort to define what knowledge and skills our students need for success beyond WPS could provide this opportunity. Much will depend on what the community task force agrees should go into Wellesley’s Profile of a Graduate, which in turn will drive the next iteration of the WPS strategic plan.
[Sharon Gray]- Having served on the School Committee since 2015, I can confidently say that sustainability already touches countless aspects of the Wellesley Public Schools. From “small” things, like our teachers encouraging students to use both sides of scrap paper or create projects using only items in the recycling bin; to the retrofitting of school lighting to LED; to food recovery; to the inclusion of environmental issues into the curriculum; to the opportunity to consider sustainability when rebuilding facilities – it’s all woven into decisions that are happening now in our schools, every day.
Our faculty and administration (with School Committee as support) regularly make sustainability a priority, and I believe our students are absorbing those messages. There is always an opportunity to do more, which is why collaboration with groups like Wellesley Green Schools is so important.
Folding newer, environmentally conscious practices into a complex operation like a school system can be challenging, however, so I believe it’s important that all parties exercise patience and listen to one another. Pilot programs are an ideal way to try something new, and give everyone time to think critically about how such changes can be worked into the entire system.
3. Please describe how you see sustainability fitting into the decision-making process for major school projects, including Hardy, Hunnewell, and Upham.
[Ron Alexander] – no response
[Linda Chow] – While I have to admit I’m not all that familiar with what school building projects might entail, I do believe sustainability should be a key factor in the decision-making process for any major school project. I read with great interest the letter from Laura Olton, Chair, Sustainable Energy Committee, to the Townsman (on Jan. 26) and was pleased to hear how School Committee and the School Building Committee had expressed their support for the SEC’s recommendations on how to approach the HHU project. And even though the process is changing now that the town received notice of its eligibility under the MSBA’s grant program, I cannot imagine that would change the priority which has already been placed on sustainability. It also appears that creating “affordable, sustainable and energy efficient schools” is part of the MSBA’s mission.
I also learned of a study conducted by Harvard’s Center for Health and the Global Environment that shows how green buildings positively affect health and cognitive function. The results are quite compelling, and only help reinforce the importance of making sustainability a key criterion in the decision-making process for school building projects.
[Sharon Gray] – As chair of the School Building Committee, I have worked extensively and directly with the Sustainable Energy Committee to ensure that the potential impacts on the environment are considered in every step of the HHU project. The SBC has adopted numerous assessments into the scope of the upcoming feasibility studies, including analyzing sites using LEED and CHPS standards; evaluating the highest level of sustainability that each site can accommodate; and considering sustainable design possibilities for each potential option.
The School Committee has committed to using this data and analysis to inform its decision-making on the HHU project. I am in full support of this collaborative approach.
Personally, I am intrigued to see how design choices made at an early stage can influence the sustainability of a large-scale building project like an elementary school. Could we be thoughtful about square footage by clustering learning spaces in a way that reduces the footprint? Can energy costs be reduced by siting a school in a particular way? I expect these questions and many more to be examined in detail as we move forward on this important project for the students and the Town.