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Green energy saves schools $3M
As Dave Raczynski, energy educator and manager for the Glynn County School System, examined his "Energy War Board" - a white board in his office full of factors in his energy management program - several figures stood out.

Included in the figures is the percentage of energy costs avoided since the program's inception in November 2007.

Perhaps the most impressive figure was the only one missing: in its first five years, the program has helped the school system avoid projected energy costs by more than $3.3 million.

It's a savings achieved by doing more than just turning off lights. It's has been possible through the adoption of an energy management program through Energy Education.

Raczynsk is in charge of four parts within the program - energy management, employee safety training, community schools program and the recycling program. All combine to create a savings for the school system.

"Energy costs peak during the work day, so everything I can get the 1,800 teachers I've trained to do during the day pays dividends," he said. "The custodians, who I train, are in charge of the lighting besides in the classroom - the gym, hallways, cafeteria. It's an important part of my job, to communicate with them, as well as principals and teachers, to make this work," he said.

Raczynski does several additional things behind the scenes from his office. The energy management system allows him to control the temperature and humidity in many individual classrooms and school buildings, schedule lighting and temperature settings for any weekend events and more.

Some have questioned whether advanced technology would be more than enough to replace some of the measures now in effect.

He doesn't think so.

"Technology like light sensors are in the new Glynn Middle School, Jane Macon and Risley Middle and they will be in the new Brunswick High, but that still leaves 15 other schools that don't have that technology and probably never will. We could budget funds to pay for those things, but to go back and retrofit 15 older school buildings with what's needed, especially in the fiscal situation, it's not happening," he said.

"It's icing on the cake, but there's still a world of opportunity for conservation that goes beyond turning lights on and off whether it's automatically or manually."

Many in the school system support the energy program, including board members Millard Allen and Mike Hulsey, as well as Al Boudreau, facilities director, and Andrea Preston, superintendent of finances.

However, some question whether it's necessary or if having someone in charge of it is also necessary.

Raczynski said Energy Education has conducted a number of studies on that very issue.

"In every single case, when school systems have done away with the energy program and/or the energy manager who runs the program, the staff reverts right back to their same old habits - lights on, doors left open, AC running high," he said. "Energy costs go right back through the roof and they have to go back and start over.

"An energy program like this only works if there's someone who enforces it. I've got 2,000 employees to manage, and if someone isn't training or reminding them, they might not be doing it. They've got a lot of important things to do and don't always remember."

Raczynski anticipates that as the school system finds more opportunities to conserve and train staff, costs reductions will continue to rise as they have every year.

"What I'm really looking forward to is breaking the $4 million mark this year. At the rate we are currently going, we should have over $4 million in energy costs avoided by the end of this, our sixth, year of the program," Raczynski said.

* Reporter Sarah Lundgren writes about education and other local topics. Contact her at, on Facebook or at 265-8320, ext. 322

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