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ACEF Journal Vol 3 Issue 1 December 2012

Designing Sustainable Schools Three items were designed to examine five components of an ecological worldview: the reality of limits to growth (questions 21, 26, 31), rejection of anthropocentrism—the belief that humans are separate from and superior to nature (questions 22, 27, 32), the fragility of nature’s balance (questions 23, 28, 33), rejection of exemptionalism—the belief that humans are not subject to the laws of nature (questions 24, 29, 34), and the possibility of an ecocrisis (questions 25, 30, 35). The eight odd-numbered items were worded so that agreement indicates a pro- ecological view. The seven even-numbered ones were worded so that disagreement indicates a pro-ecological worldview (Dunlap & VanLiere, 1978). Findings Data in this study confirmed the role of the superintendent as active decision-maker in the construction of sustainable buildings. The findings produced two major themes that revealed influence: leadership grit and expert networks. These themes supported both questions regarding the superintendents’ knowledge of sustainability and the superintendents’ attitudes toward sustainability. One of the superintendents in this study acknowledged the need for leadership skills, an expert network, a guiding vision, transparency, and stewardship: If you have an inquisitive mind and a desire to learn, and most superintendents do, you are going to be able to ask appropriate questions when it comes to the construction process. You will create a good learning environment for kids. Taxpayers want to know that you spent their money well. Superintendents’ Knowledge of Sustainability Gathering information. Superintendents have no formal means of acquiring the aggregate information necessary to advise decision-making on a complex project of this nature. One superintendent explained, Nothing really prepares you for this. . . . You talk to colleagues, you read a lot. . . . It still comes down to exercising good judgment, using good common sense, and trusting people who have a higher level of expertise than I do. Most superintendents were satisfied with the reliability of getting technical information from the architects or construction managers, although board of education members were less likely to show this same level of trust in professional counsel. “When you interview the architectural firms, you have to get a feel for if they have an understanding of your community and the type of people that are represented in the district,” cautioned one superintendent. In many cases, depending on the contracted agents to provide information did not always provide information in the best interests of the school’s educational mission. As one board member rejoined, “They’re all liars.” Citizens’ groups were an invaluable source of knowledge throughout the process for four of the six districts in this study. At one district, there was a perception in the community that taxpayers’ voices were not being heard. The superintendent explained, “We thought it would be important that if we were going to empower a citizens committee, we didn’t want to leave the impression that somehow we were leading them by the nose and leading them to a predetermined conclusion.” By involving all stakeholders in the decision-making, multi-level ownership was generated. This process also helped develop leadership capacity within this group, including enhanced sensemaking competencies, and an enhanced relationship between expert networks. December 2012 / ACEF 62


ACEF Journal Vol 3 Issue 1 December 2012
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