Students sort lunch waste at Lincolnwood Elementary School. (District 65 Climate Action Teams photo via Facebook)

For years, Evanston/Skokie School District 65 staff members have discussed establishing a sustainability coordinator for the district. 

Now the district is finally hiring for the part-time job.

Adding the position is a huge win for District 65 Climate Action Teams, a group of parents and staff members advocating for more sustainable practices within the school district. 

“All along, one of our big asks has been a sustainability coordinator,” said Becky Brodsky, a co-founder of D65 Climate Action Teams, formerly known as D65 Green Teams. 

At some schools, involved parents have initiated sustainable projects, like composting in the lunchroom and adding recycling. But as parents leave, these projects tend to taper off, Brodsky said. 

Having a district staff member committed to these projects will ensure that they endure and that all schools benefit from such projects, she said. 

The new role will start off as a temporary contract hire until the 2022-23 school year, when the district plans to hire for a full-time position, said Kirby Callam, director of the District 65 EvanSTEM project. 

The sustainability coordinator will also create a climate action plan for the district that aligns with the goals set out by Evanston’s Climate Action and Resilience Plan (CARP).

In order for the city to meet CARP’s goals, the district has to be on board, Brodsky said. “The city can’t get to zero waste if the schools aren’t trying to achieve the same zero waste,” she said. 

The coordinator will work with a variety of departments, including nutrition services, curriculum and instruction and operations and facilities, said Callam, who has worked closely with D65 Climate Action Teams for the last four years.

The coordinator will seek to incorporate more sustainability and climate education into classroom curriculums, Callam said. Other responsibilities will include addressing wastefulness in lunchrooms, working with staff and looking for more sustainable classroom materials, he added. 

“It really helps us have someone across the district who can permeate into every one of those functions, to really drive home and achieve our climate goals,” he said. 

Tierre Brunson, Director of Buildings and Grounds, said many of the district’s buildings are 60 or 70 years old and in need of sustainability upgrades, which the new coordinator will oversee. 

The District 65 Facilities Master Plan will address some of these concerns, which include installing LED lights and evaluating energy use in the buildings, Brunson added.

The ultimate goal is to build a culture around sustainability, Brunson said. As a former principal Brunson said he understands the importance of building a districtwide culture in order to create lasting change. 

“This is about changing behaviors, changing habits, changing minds,” Brodsky said. “A coordinator can help create that culture.”

District 65 began seriously considering establishing a sustainability role in the fall, after staff members met with volunteers on D65 Climate Action Teams.

Together, they created a list of 10 priorities, which included reducing waste in schools, adding recycling and composting, upgrading facilities and incorporating sustainability into the student curriculum. 

“For pretty much every one of them [the priorities], we needed a driver in the district,” Callam said. “It spoke to the need for a sustainability coordinator over and over again.” 

Callam credited District Superintendent Devon Horton and the volunteers on D65 Climate Action Teams. They have always been there, “productively and constructively encouraging the district to do better,” he said. “Their voice and their support has been critical.”

Very few school districts in the area have a sustainability coordinator, and while the new role will help initiate some long-awaited change, “the road is not over,” Brodsky said.

Adina Keeling

Adina Keeling is a photojournalist and reporter, covering city news, sustainability, schools, and art. She also investigates mental health systems and environmental injustices in Evanston, and puts together...

2 replies on “Getting serious about going green: District 65 to hire sustainability coordinator”

  1. This is a colossal waste of precious resources. We need D65 to prepare our children for the rigors of high school–that is job #1. Our children are falling behind in core skills such as reading and math and this is a priority?
    Layer in the budget pressure for increased expenditure for health insurance, a claimed need to build a new school and it is readily apparent D65 is not a steward of taxpayer dollars.
    Thank you for reporting this–this is why Evanston Roundtable is such a wonderful community asset.

  2. The community needs to start holding Horton and the board accountable for all the new administrative positions and salaries that have been created this year. Over a dozen new positions sprouted from thin air to staff new departments and initiatives that have nothing to do with educating our children.

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