Archives for: December 2012

12/17/12

Permalink 10:39:17 am, by mleslie Email , 65 words, 337 views   English (US)
Categories: News Updates

Safe School Facilities Checklist from the U.S. National Clearinghouse for Educational Facilities

Users of this site will ask - in response to the tragedy that occurred on December 14th, 2012 at Sandy Hook Elementary School in the Sandy Hook village of Newtown, Connecticut - how can safety be enhanced in my school community? This checklist has been prepared by the National Clearinghouse for Educational Facilities, at the U.S. National Institute of Building Sciences. Please use it well ....

12/11/12

Permalink 08:51:21 am, by mleslie Email , 65 words, 268 views   English (US)
Categories: News Updates

USA TODAY special report - Green schools: Long on promise, short on delivery

By Tom Frank, December 11, 2012 - The Houston Independent School District took a big step in 2007 toward becoming environmentally friendly by designing two new schools to meet a coveted "green" standard set by a private-builders' group.

The nation's seventh-largest school district added features such as automated light sensors and a heat-reflecting roof, in hopes of minimizing energy use.

But the schools are not operating as promised.

12/07/12

Permalink 08:54:03 am, by mleslie Email , 26 words, 268 views   English (CA)
Categories: News Updates

Nova Scotia provides millions for green upgrades at 90 HRM schools

Nearly 100 schools in the Halifax region will get energy-efficient upgrades over the next four years that will result in savings of more than $2 million a year.

12/05/12

Permalink 07:47:19 pm, by mleslie Email , 653 words, 1839 views   English (CA)
Categories: News Updates

Toronto Star Editorial: Toronto District School Board must take responsibility for its errors

The Ontario Ministry of Education’s plan to stop runaway spending at the cash-strapped Toronto District School Board is an excellent step — even if it’s long overdue.

A new independent audit criticizes school board managers for a lack of leadership and accountability in capital spending projects — and cites a Star investigation into exorbitant fees charged by the board’s powerful maintenance and construction union.

The ministry says it is offering a “Special Assistance Team” of education advisors to help the board cut operations spending. However politically embarrassing it may be, TDSB Director Chris Spence and the board should accept the offer if they care about education. As high school football coaches once said (before the teachers’ job action ended after-school sports) without pain, there is no gain. And a little hurting at the TDSB could save taxpayers millions.

For too long, ministry officials looked the other way while Toronto’s school board cried poor but allowed its powerful trade union to hijack education dollars, for example by spending $3,000 for an electrical outlet or $143 to install a pencil sharpener. On a larger scale, the board sat placidly by while costs of the new Nelson Mandela Park Public School inflated by nearly $10 million — and then professed not to know how it happened.

Even now, fresh data on work orders obtained by the Star’s Kevin Donovan, reported in today’s Star, gives more examples of overspending: $147.88 to cut one key for the board’s east education office, and $810 to “remove unpleasant words” on a washroom stall at Elkhorn Public School. That’s the kind of waste that undermines confidence in public services.

When the PricewaterhouseCoopers report detailed damning examples of wasted money and ineffectual board managers, ministry officials offered the board their special assistance team. That was last week. Despite repeated requests, the ministry has had no answer from the board. Wednesday’s 5 p.m. deadline passed without a response.

Talk about avoidance. First we have incompetence; now we have ego.

To be fair, new managers at the board have started taking a hard approach with the Maintenance Construction and Skilled Trades Council, whose bosses have spent years threatening staff who questioned their extortion-worthy fees. Their contract is now being renegotiated. New facilities manager Angelos Bacopoulos is cracking down on abuses, such as workers who sleep on the job. The board has also called in Toronto police to investigate fraud allegations related to its trades.

But the problems are systemic. It’s naïve to think that a few good managers can clear away years of bully tactics by the union, especially when it created powerful political capital by helping trustees and Liberal MPPs during election campaigns.

Trustee Sam Sotiropoulos welcomes the ministry’s oversight. “By the time you finally hit an iceberg like this, you know something is really wrong,” Sotiropoulos says. “It’s going to take a long time to create lasting change.” He’s right.

It’s not just spending that creates a problem for this board. Its leadership and trustees have shown a lack of political courage on hard issues, like the recent decision against selling some school properties to raise money. The decision — to do nothing — came after the ministry froze its funding until its $50 million deficit is paid off.

When the board missed its deadline yesterday, Broten’s office issued a news release saying it accepted its plan to meet in the evening.

“If they decline (the offer) I will review the options that are available to me to get TDSB on a more stable financial footing and will be able to advise on next steps tomorrow,” Broten wrote.

Ultimately, the ministry can force its way into the board. If it comes down to brinksmanship, then the right choice is a board that takes responsibility for its flaws, however painful, and fixes its own problems. It may be the adults, not students, who need to learn that lesson.

Permalink 10:13:59 am, by mleslie Email , 142 words, 488 views   English (CA)
Categories: News Updates

Canadian Consulting Engineer Award of Excellence: Haiti Prototype Schools

On January 12, 2010, a magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck Port-au-Prince, the capital of Haiti, and reverberated throughout the country. The earthquake caused an estimated 300,000 deaths and destroyed or damaged large parts of the built environment, including over 4,000 schools in Port-au-Prince and 60 per cent of schools in a large area of Haiti’s southwest. In a country where half the population is illiterate, the loss of so much of Haiti’s educational infrastructure was devastating.

In response to this disaster, a group of four engineering firms – Blackwell Bowick, Halsall Associates, Quinn Dressel Associates and Read Jones Christoffersen – answered a call from Finn Church Aid (FCA), a Finnish non-governmental organization, to help rebuild Haiti’s destroyed schools. Recognizing they could make a bigger difference if they banded together, the four firms created a joint venture to provide pro bono engineering services for FCA’s Haiti Schools Project.

Green School News

This news page has useful information for school communities about efforts to make buildings and schoolyards sustainable, high-performance and "green".

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