Kim Summers, the new principal of Evergreen Elementary School and alumna of St. Mary's College of Maryland, and Larry Hartwick, supervisor of design and construction for St. Mary's County Public Schools, don hardhats at the school's construction site. (Submitted Photo)
ST. MARY'S CITY, Md. (July 30, 2008)—When Kim Summers graduated from St. Mary's College of Maryland with a bachelor's degree in human development in 1988, she didn't foresee that her teaching career would lead her down an environmental path, from one "green" school to another. As the recently appointed principal of St. Mary's County's new Evergreen Elementary School, Summers will help develop "a deeper understanding of the environmental issues we're currently facing."
The school will open in August 2009 as the first green school in the county. Summers' alma mater, St. Mary's College, is also a school of green firsts, including Goodpaster Hall, the first major green building built by the state of Maryland.
Summers, who served on the committee that designed Evergreen Elementary School, in Leonardtown, views her new position as "a tremendous honor" and "an incredible challenge." She credits her two sons with raising her awareness of environmental issues. "I want to do my part to make sure the earth is here for them." As principal, Summers hopes "to cultivate students as the next generation of leaders who will live environmentally-conscious lives."
"As an administrator, I have often drawn from my experiences at St. Mary's College and set the bar high for my staff," Summers said. Her undergraduate experience contributed to her organizational skills, drive, and desire to achieve. "My experience at the college was absolutely fantastic," she said.
After receiving her degree, Summers taught for a year and then went on to earn a master's in education from the University of Maryland. Summers served as an instructional resource teacher at Oakville and Dynard Elementary schools and a class room teacher at Mechanicsville and Lettie Marshall Dent Elementary schools before deciding to pursue a career in administration. The path from teaching to administration was natural; "it all just fell into place" for Summers, who decided to pursue a career in administration because she wanted to make a difference on a larger scale.
Larry Hartwick, supervisor of design and construction for St. Mary's County Public Schools, describes a green building as "one where the design, construction, and operation of the facility is focused on the efficient use of resources and minimal impact on the environment." According to the U.S. Green Building Council, a green school is "a school building or facility that creates a healthy environment that is conducive to learning while saving energy, resources and money."
The construction of Evergreen Elementary will follow guidelines set forth by Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) to use sustainable, renewable, and recycled products. A LEED-certified building helps the environment by reducing waste, conserving water and energy, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Rachel Clement, one of two sustainability fellows at St. Mary's College, believes that a green school should provide "opportunities for those who work in the building to learn and practice sustainable choices."
Evergreen Elementary, the first new elementary school in St. Mary's County since 1980, has been designed to serve as a teaching tool for conservation and environmental stewardship. During the building process, 75 percent of construction debris from the site will be recycled. The school's design for sustainability will help decrease water consumption by 90 percent and energy consumption by 25 percent. An Environmental Learning Lab located on the second floor will give students first-hand experience in renewable energy and water conservation practices. The school will also boast a green vegetated roof, which will reduce storm water runoff; cisterns, which will collect 15,000 gallons of water; and photovoltaic panels, which will provide five kilowatts of power.
These environmentally friendly tools will be surveyed and maintained by students in the lab and in science classes. "These are things that students have never had the possibility to experience before," Summers noted. A Green Building Kiosk, located in the foyer, will enable students to compare the building's geo-thermal heating system and standard heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system. Over half of the school property will be preserved as woodlands and wetlands.
According to Hartwick, "We are not just building one environmentally unique school but a complete environmentally responsible school system. As principal for Evergreen Elementary School, Kim Summers will be a great ambassador for this effort."
Summers is "extremely excited about the high performance building" and believes that it will have a "tremendous impact on student and staff performance." Her current Evergreen responsibilities include attending construction meetings and observing the construction of the school offsite from her computer. "It is so exciting to be involved at this point, so I can see the building from the ground up." She has also been busy researching schools similar to Evergreen and developing ideas for "Green Squad" programs. She plans to assign each grade level different goals to make sure that the building runs effectively and efficiently. Summers hopes that Evergreen will set a precedent for other county schools. "This is the way of the future."
Appointed by St. Mary's County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Michael J. Martirano and the Board of Education to her new position, Summers will continue serving as principal of Dynard Elementary School in Chaptico, until May 1, 2009. Under Summers' leadership, Dynard was named a 2008 Maryland Center for Character Education School of the Year. Martirano has no doubt that Summers will help Evergreen Elementary succeed as well. "Ms. Summers is an outstanding principal in the St. Mary's County Public School System," he said. "She has tremendous leadership skills and organizational skills that will allow her to be successful in opening this new elementary school."
Soon Summers will have the opportunity to make a difference on an even larger scale, for her students, the community, and the environment.