If there is one thing district and school administrators are familiar with, it is the uncertainty of state allocations and operating budgets, especially during times of financial difficulties. One way to help offset this unknown is through programs that save money. In K12 institutions, utility costs are often the second highest behind salaries. The good news is that utility expenses and employee efforts can be managed and sustained, if energy conservation programs are implemented properly.
Taking the first steps
Before beginning an energy conservation program, administrators should consider how to generate support. We surveyed faculty and staff to learn why they bought into their district’s energy program. The top response was one of employee self-efficacy: Participants were willing to support an energy conservation program because they knew their efforts were saving money.
This should underscore the importance of educating faculty and staff on why a certain program or policy is being implemented. Often, policies are enforced without the need being understood. If employees are aware of the desired outcome, then the policy is more likely to be accepted and sustained.
Ongoing promotion of an initiative also breeds success. Because lack of communication can cause a policy to fall by the wayside after the program is launched, administrators must update stakeholders regularly and supply data on cost savings. Updates can be provided via emails, social media posts, flyers and faculty meetings.
Keeping everyone in the loop in our district reinforced employees’ willingness to participate because they knew their efforts were helping the district save money.
The third key to success is monitoring for compliance. If employees are aware that they are being held accountable to district-requested actions, they are more likely to support and continue an energy conservation program. It is important that this is not seen as punitive, but as a follow-through, assuring employees that the program is ongoing.
All it takes is a simple visit during unoccupied times by an administrator or a designated employee, such as a facility manager or custodian. They can assess how well teachers and support staff are doing with their efforts in conserving energy within their classrooms or workspaces. These visits support accountability by letting employees know that the district is serious about its energy program by monitoring for compliance.
Keeping it going
The conservation program at our district has been ongoing for nine years, and we continue to save on our utility expenses. We regularly stress each employee’s responsibility to help the district save money. We continue to communicate about the program, the financial and energy savings generated from employee efforts, and additional opportunities to conserve. Our program is continually monitored to assess buy-in and employee actions, and to ensure that the district initiative holds all employees accountable.
Empowering employees by addressing self-efficacy, continued communication and monitoring for compliance can help administrators implement an energy conservation program. These three factors are not new, but they are proven ways to help kick-start and sustain an energy conservation program.
Jon Myers is the executive director of instruction and school improvement for Noble Public Schools in Oklahoma.