A kilowatt challenge that saved energy and money has brought national recognition to the New London School District.
School board members and other administrators congratulated business director Joe Marquardt at the Monday, Nov. 11, meeting of the New London Board of Education.
Marquardt recently traveled to Boston to a 2013 Pinnacle of Achievement award from the Association of Business Officials International. It was one of four Pinnacle awards given.
The district won the award for a campaign that enlisted the aid of all 325 employees and cut energy use by 12 percent in the 2011-12 school year, saving $50,000.
Through ideas big — a district-wide shutdown for two-week periods over the July 4th and Christmas holidays — and small — turning off lights and projectors in classrooms when they’re not in use, the schools have continued to cut kilowatts.
The district trimmed another 2 percent — about $7,000 — from its utilities consumption and costs in 2012-13, according to Marquardt.
The district’s annual electrical budget is $435,000, making a $50,000 cut significant.
The shutdowns and turning off lights and other devices in empty classrooms were two of five goals. The others were training maintenance staff to better utilize computerized controls on heating and cooling systems; giving custodians meters to measure the kilowatt use of electrical devices in their buildings; and bringing in outside utility specialists to offer suggestions for retrofitting.
The kilowatt challenge offered a prize — funds for an energy saving device — to the building that cut its energy use by the largest percentage in 2011-12. Readfield Elementary School won.
Marquardt shuns the spotlight, saying he views energy conservation as the right thing to do.
“The district hired me to figure out ways to spend less money,” he said.
But he is generous with praise for the districtwide accomplishment of maintenance, custodial, teaching and support staffs along with administrators.
The campaign elicited “a lot of good suggestions from staff on how to continue to reduce kilowatts,” he said. “We have huge buildings … we still could do a lot more.”
At the start of the campaign, the district froze its utility budget. Before that, Marquardt said, automatic 3 percent to 5 percent increases had been the norm.
No money was spent up front on energy conservation measures.
Some of the savings have been used for projects such as retrofitting old, inefficient, expensive lighting in the high school commons and auditorium.
Because technology changes so quickly, Marquardt said, he looks for a payback on projects of three years or less.
The kilowatt campaign won a state award from the Wisconsin Association of School Business Officials after its first year. The second year of savings validated the program and led to the national award, Marquardt said.
“It’s replicable,” Marquardt said two days after the board meeting. “Any place could do this.”
In other business at the Nov. 11 meeting:
• Administrator Kathjy Gwidt reported a successful test of the new emergency notification system on Nov. 8. The system sends alerts via phone voicemail or email. Gwidt said text messages may be a future option.
• Jo Collar, director of teaching and learning, reported that “things are going smoothly,” with the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Exam taken by students in grades three through eight and 10 in November.