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School tops $1 million in energy savings

School tops $1 million in energy savings

By Judy Reed

Staff at Cedar Springs Public Schools used to hate to see fellow teacher and energy manager John Willette show up at their door. But that was before they understood that the things Willette told them to do really saved money.

Board President Brook Nichols, Superintendent Ron McDermed, Energy Manager John Willette, and George Woons, Marketing Consultant for EEI.

Board President Brook Nichols, Superintendent Ron McDermed, Energy Manager John Willette, and George Woons, Marketing Consultant for EEI.

“People thought it was going to be a ‘take away,’” explained Willette. “Now I get emails with ideas on what else we can do.” And he said he’s almost never called the energy cop anymore.

Cedar Springs just passed the $1 million mark in savings on energy costs, and both Willette and Cedar Springs Public Schools was recognized with an award for that feat on Monday evening, November 9. George Woons Ph.D., marketing consultant for EEI and a former Kent ISD superintendent, presented the award. “You have a keeper here,” he said, referring to Willette. “I’d like to clone him and send him out to other districts.”

Cedar Springs was the second school district in Kent County to sign up for the program in May 2004. According to the most recent figures, they’ve saved $1,023,802. Their most recent performance was a savings of $283,000, which translates into about 4 teachers, and $85 per student. “If we hadn’t changed our behavior, we’d be $85 worse off per student,” explained Willette.

Overall savings for the program has been 26 percent. “If you get up into that 30 percentile range, you’ll be among the top 5 percent in the state,” remarked Woons.

According to Woons, when Cedar Springs started the program, they were spending about $158 per student on energy, while some districts were spending $300. That makes it even more remarkable that they were able to hit the $1 million milestone. “You were already doing some things right,” noted Woons.

They’ve done so well at nipping energy costs that it sent up a red flag on the school’s most recent yearly audit. “They said our utility bills were too low,” explained Willette.

He noted that they couldn’t do it without the cooperation of everyone, including the teachers, custodial and maintenance staff. “It’s more than turning off the lights and computers,” explained Willette, “it’s auditing the mechanical systems.” He gave kudos to the maintenance staff for following through on recommendations. “I just identify something’s wrong, and they fix it,” he said.

Soon residents may be able to see some energy savings in their own homes, using some of the same ideas Willette uses at school. “We’ll be offering Greenquest to the community so homeowners can track their own energy costs,” he said. He hopes to have the Internet website up and running by the next Community Night in April.

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