Umatilla School District offers K-12 students more than just an education


Umatilla School District’s superintendent, Heidi Sipe, accepts a check from Energy Trust.

The Umatilla School District continues to have an active energy program since enrolling in Energy Trust of Oregon’s Strategic Energy Management (SEM) offering in 2019. SEM is an offering that provides the tools and education for businesses to start saving energy now and in the future. The cost savings piece of energy efficiency is important to the three schools that make up the district, but the district focuses on emphasizing the impact that reducing energy use can have on the environment. “It really shows the students that we’re honoring their future and that’s really important,” said Heidi Sipe, superintendent.

Teamwork

The District’s energy team has been a hit among students and staff. “Administration, maintenance staff, students, teachers, they all work to educate others as well as identify energy-saving projects” said Sipe. The team has seen success with behavioral changes with students who are quick to adapt to simple habits like turning off lights. “A teacher flipped on the lights in the classroom and a student called her out. He said, ‘you know, I really feel like we get enough natural light now, I don’t think we need those lights on.’” These simple, low-cost changes have allowed students and staff to change the culture in a positive way.

Because the energy team has several years of SEM under their belt, the savings are starting to add up. “My deal with the team is, if they saved enough energy, then they could identify where they wanted to reroute those funds,” said Sipe. The behavior work combined with equipment upgrades has allowed the district to spend the savings on other improvements. As students return to in-person learning, students at the middle school will enjoy a brand-new playground purchased with the savings.

Leadership

Much of the SEM program and cost savings success is credited to the maintenance director, Stacy Skerjanec. Stacy leads the team in discovering energy savings across the schools and has helped the district shift their buying patterns. “Stacy will go through rebate lists and make sure that whatever we’re purchasing, that we’ve taken into account the energy usage as well as the potential rebates,” said Sipe. Stacy sees the value of energy upgrades and carries the vision in everything he does–not only for his team but for the district and the bottom line. “He’s a wonderful mix of practical knowledge, hands-on skill and vision.”

Continuing Education

The students aren’t the only ones learning in the Umatilla School District. The leadership team knows the value of continuing education and is providing opportunities for professional development for all staff. Just recently, maintenance staff finished their first Building Operator Certification (BOC) training and will continue to take courses. BOC is a nationally recognized program that gives building operators the skills and knowledge to improve the energy efficiency of their building.

“It’s hard to find strong professional development opportunities for maintenance staff and the BOC is a great opportunity for them,” said Sipe. The BOC education empowers the maintenance team to look beyond repairing equipment and really evaluate how to identify usage patterns and enhance energy efficiency.  “BOC as a whole has helped the team see the ways in which energy efficiency can impact their work environment or classroom environment, and also the budget,” said Sipe.

For more information on existing building property upgrades, BOC and SEM, call 1.866.605.1676 or email existingbuildings@energytrust.org.