Staff responsible for sustainability strategies in school districts must overcome organizational challenges and a lack of understanding in order to be effective and win support for sustainability initiatives, a new report from the Center for Green Schools says.
The report, “Managing Sustainability in School Districts: A Profile of Sustainability Staff in K-12 Districts,” found that that bureaucratic barriers and a lack of familiarity among district hierarchy with a sustainability professional’s role—and sustainability in general—hindered the success of sustainability initiatives.
“The general consensus among the sustainability professionals interviewed is that their school districts do not know what to expect of the sustainability staff role,” the report states.
The findings from the center are based on surveys conducted with sustainability professionals in 35 school districts.
Many of those who took part in the survey pointed to numerous successes with sustainability initiatives, but they also indicated that they confronted considerable challenges: lack of administrative support, lack of resources, difficulties with shifting district culture, and poor district-level leadership.
“Traditional hierarchical structure in school districts often makes it difficult to communicate with other departments, school administrators, and students,” the report says.
In too many school systems, leaders do not recognize that sustainability is more than just one or two environmental projects and instead should be viewed as an innovative strategy for enhancing district management.
A sustainability professional in a school district “needs strong administrative support to thrive, and…needs to be able to build on this support to engage internal and external stakeholders in fully integrating sustainability into district culture,” the center concludes.