April 26, 2022 — District 99 has been named one of five school districts nationwide as a “Green Ribbon School” by the U.S. Department of Education. The recognition honors District 99 for its innovative efforts to reduce environmental impact and utility costs, as well as to improve health and wellness and ensure sustainability education. The district will be officially recognized at a ceremony in Washington D.C. this summer.

“To receive recognition at a national level is a testament to the quality of our people and programs,” said Dr. Hank Thiele, superintendent of District 99. “What’s unique about this award is that in addition to considering what we’ve practiced for years, energy conservation and education, we’re being recognized for our activities that promote social sustainability, which relates to how we work to improve the health and wellness of our students and staff.” 

The district demonstrated that it maintains a healthy physical environment, such as air quality, daylight and thermal comfort as well as an environment of wellness. District programs such as its equity and inclusion sessions, Mustang Way and Positively North lessons, vaccine clinics, food drives, community partnerships and hands-on opportunities for outdoor learning are indications of “social sustainability,” and giving people what they need in a school setting.

“District 99 established an energy management program in 2002, which includes energy conservation and awareness programs. These programs are not only vital to the future of our students, but also are fiscally responsible to our community,” said Jim Kolodziej, Director of Physical Plant and Operations. “We’re proud that we have received this prestigious award, and thank the people throughout the district who work every day to put the environment top of mind.”

Teachers James Workman, Keith Dvorkin, Kevin Ahrens and Mike McGinnis and students who participate in the Earth Action Club, Outdoor Environmental Club, Go Green Environmental Club and Science Club were integral to the nomination. In addition, teachers Jeff Grant, Megan Marrs, John Sipple, Steve Ruffolo (retired), Jackie Weishaar, Kate Troyer and Mike Heinz play a key role in delivering environmental and sustainability education, including AP Biology and AP Environmental Science courses. Click here for more information about the environmental programs at District 99.

“This year’s U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools honorees have raised the bar for sustainability, healthy and safe school environments, and hands-on learning experiences that connect students of all ages to the world around them,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, who also posted a video here. “As we recover from a pandemic that highlighted the need to modernize school infrastructure, improve ventilation, and create versatile indoor and outdoor learning spaces, we have an opportunity to invest in sustainable practices that enhance student learning, health, and well-being.” 

Across the country, 27 schools, five districts, and four postsecondary institutions are being honored for their environmental efforts. The list and nomination packets can be found here. A report with highlights on the 36 honorees can be found here. More information on the federal recognition award can be found here.