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​Georgia Schools and Districts Awarded National Green Ribbon Designation

Big Shanty Intermediate School (Cobb)

Dr. M. H. Mason Jr. Elementary School (Gwinnett)

Cherokee County Schools

Cobb County Schools

Charles P. Murray Elementary School, Fort Stewart (DOD)


MEDIA CONTACT: Matt Cardoza, GaDOE Communications Office, (404) 651-7358, or Keisha Ford-Jenrette, 404-657-2949,

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April 23, 2015 – The U.S. Department of Education announced yesterday that two Georgia schools and two school districts have received the 2015 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools designation. A Department of Defense school in Georgia was also named.


“I want to commend these Georgia schools and districts for receiving this significant award,” State School Superintendent Richard Woods said. “Their forward thinking will save money and energy, while also teaching our kids the importance of conservation of resources and protection of the environment in which we live.”


Dr. M. H. Mason Jr. Elementary School (Gwinnett), Big Shanty Intermediate School (Cobb), Cherokee County Schools and Cobb County Schools will split $10,000 in prize money from the Captain Planet Foundation and the Turner Foundation, for demonstrating energy efficiency efforts.


"The Captain Planet Foundation and Turner Foundation congratulate all the Georgia schools and school systems who have made sustainability and high-performance, healthy schools a priority in their capital improvements planning and operations.  This commitment demonstrates to Georgia students how highly we value their futures,” said Captain Planet Foundation Executive Director, Leesa Carter-Jones.


“In these challenging times, school systems across the state are embracing innovative ideas to reduce costs and focus resources on the classrooms where students learn,” said Lt. Governor Cagle, “I’m proud to stand behind the National Green Ribbon Schools contest to recognize Georgia schools that are implementing groundbreaking tools to reduce their energy costs. This will allow us to redirect precious financial resources towards direct instruction, will create a healthier learning environment for our children, and will give our students career-relevant, first-hand experience in one of our state’s emerging industries.”


In total, across the country, 58 schools and 14 districts were honored for their exemplary efforts to reduce environmental impact and utility costs, promote better health, and ensure effective environmental education, including civics and green career pathways. In addition, nine colleges and universities were honored for the Postsecondary Sustainability Award. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Goldfuss made the announcement at the U.S. Department of Education in Washington, DC.


Through a partnership involving the Georgia Department of Education, Lt. Governor Casey Cagle, the Captain Planet Foundation, the Turner Foundation, the U.S. Green Building Council of Georgia and the Clean Air Campaign, two schools and two districts were nominated to compete for the national award.


2015 National Green Ribbon Schools


Big Shanty Intermediate School is the only 3rd through 5th grade intermediate school in Cobb County. We serve 758 students and have 54 certified staff members. Our diverse population includes: 43.8% economically disadvantaged, 15.4% students with disabilities, 14.9% EIP at-risk learners, 12.1% Gifted students, 4.4% ELL students, and a 16.5% transiency rate. Our dedicated staff includes: 20% Special Education Educators, 70% hold advanced degrees, 57% have served Cobb County students for 10 years or longer, and we house the only Special Education unit for Moderate Intellectual Disabilities and Autism in Cobb County. We have a strong PTA presence and community involvement. For the past several years, we have had 100% staff/faculty membership earning us the Oak Tree Award. In 2012, the Big Shanty PTA won 1st Place for the State of Georgia PTA as a Model School PTA for schools with over 750 students.


The Green Team is a Key Team committee created by the current administration to assist our school in order to create green environments by impact, promoting health, and ensuring a high-quality environmental and outdoor education to prepare students with the 21st century skills and sustainability concepts needed in the growing global economy.


The Green Team is comprised of 6 teachers, 2 administrators, and 1 parent. In April, 2014, we had 624 community volunteers during our Comcast Cares campus clean-up. We received recognition by the City of Kennesaw for helping to make our campus more inviting and environmentally sound. Comcast donated over $9,000 worth of supplies and then an additional $12,000.00 towards school improvement. We were able to plant trees, create gardens, maintain the existing landscape, and create lasting relationships within our Kennesaw community. Big Shanty’s outdoor learning centers grew from a humble beginning of three cedar garden boxes, in 2007. We have grown to twelve purposeful garden areas, including our sensory garden, memorial butterfly garden, fairy gardens, salsa garden, and the fifth grade mosquito gardens.  Our next projects include our shuffle board court and a perimeter garden which has helped solve a water retention issue on our playground.  Future plans include revamping our nature trail and bridge, while continuing to plan innovative outdoor classroom spaces. Our sensory garden space is specifically designed for our intellectually disabled special needs students. They are able to practice self-regulation through sensory strategies and outdoor living through garden maintenance, while building self-confidence as they watch their garden grow.


One message that Big Shanty has focused on is air pollution, specifically promoting “No Idling”, carpool, and riding the bus. We make “No Idling” a part of our school routines through signs, encouragement, education, and events. Our annual events are the “We’re Not Scared to be Green” scarecrow tour and school-wide contest during fall conference week. Each team creates an environmental-themed scarecrow for judging. Another “No Idling” event, “Cocoa for Carpool,” was created by a former student to rally car line parents to turn off their engines on the cooler days of fall and early winter.


Academically, we support our children through our pursuit of  STEM school certification. Presently, our school has a Technology lab and a Math Lab as part of the students’ connections. We also use Environmental Education in the content areas, including Science, Reading, Social Studies, Math, and Health. School-wide, we have hosted multiple events.


Lastly, we are teaching our students to become global citizens and thinkers through our actions as a staff. It is the notion that one person can and will make a difference, even in simple ways; turning off the faucet while brushing teeth, turning off the engine at car line, riding the bus, asking a question,  participating in a service project, or paying it forward.


Dr. M.H. Mason Jr. Elementary School (Mason) looks beyond today’s classroom to provide learning environments for tomorrow’s students.  We employ best practices in operations management, ensuring that buildings, grounds, and athletic facilities are safe, energy efficient, and well-maintained. We follow district policies for integrated pest management, hazardous waste, chemical usage, and ventilation systems. 


Mason is ENERGYSTAR certified with a current score of 94. Our energy-efficient upgrades include lighting retrofits in classrooms, occupancy sensors, automated energy management systems, and variable frequency drives. Students and teachers practice energy conservation by turning off lights and following our school’s “unplug” protocol prior to leaving for extended breaks to prevent phantom power pulls.


For optimal teaching and learning to occur, Mason embraces the health and wellness of our students and staff. Approximately 80% of our fresh produce comes from local farmers. Nutrition staff members visit classrooms to offer learning opportunities for students. We strive to create a healthy physical environment by ensuring our students spend one third of their specials time dedicated to physical education. Utilizing the Fitness Gram program, students are assessed annually for flexibility strength, and endurance. Ninety-six (96%) of our students are helping to improve air quality by riding the bus, riding a bike, or walking to school. Our school participates in the No Idling program which is designed to reduce idling rates in our bus and car rider lines.  Signage and educational materials alert parents that our school is a No Idling School, and thus bus engines and car engines are turned off while not in motion.


Our environmental stewardship extends beyond the building and into our extensive outdoor learning areas which have been funded through local grants. Over 30% of Mason’s grounds are devoted to outdoor learning areas, which include trails, pollinator gardens, vegetable gardens, and native plantings maintained by our students.  One hundred percent of Mason’s landscaping is considered water-efficient and regionally appropriate. Plantings around our playgrounds are watered by storm water which is pumped from a detention pond on our school’s property.  Students engaged in Problem Based/STEM learning that resulted in the design & installation of terraced steps leading to our outdoor classroom.  The terraced steps not only provide easier access to the outdoor classroom, but also decreased erosion and storm water runoff.


Our school incorporates environmental education K-5 that is aligned to the Common Core. We are pleased to report that over 90% of our students met or exceeded the standards in science. Mason is in its second year of completing Georgia STEM certification process. All teachers receive monthly staff development in PBL (Project Based Learning) and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math.)


Our environmental efforts at Mason have been years in the making and required dedication and meaningful collaboration between our teachers, students, parents, leaders, and community partners. We “walk the talk” through our PBL/STEM program, extracurricular activities, and a commitment to operate our school to the highest of standards. It is in this way that we model environmental stewardship for our students to provide a sustainable community for our future generations. 


2015 National Green Ribbon Districts


Cherokee County School District

Healthy choices today for a better tomorrow

In Cherokee County School District (CCSD), “green” is more than just a trend– it’s an important factor across all operations. The Cherokee County School District, located in metro Atlanta, is the ninth-largest school system in Georgia and currently serves more than 39,000 students. Nearly 20 percent of the population in Cherokee County attends a Cherokee County School District school every day. 


The core of the School District’s mission statement is “to enable all students to become contributing citizens who can communicate effectively, gather and use information, make responsible decisions, utilize technology effectively and adapt to the challenges of the future,” and environmental awareness and stewardship of these resources is a strong part of this responsible decision-making and citizenship education focus.


Cobb County Schools

An environment for student success because tomorrow’s future begins today

Cobb County School District (CCSD), located in the metro Atlanta area, is the second largest school system in the state and the 24th largest school system in the United States, with an enrollment of 111,751 students and 13,371 employees. CCSD is comprised of 112 schools and 14 support facilities totaling 17,202,405 square feet of floor space and 3030 acres of land. District growth, rising utility costs and a heightened awareness of environmental health, as well as the safety of staff and students, guided administration to research, test and implement new technologies to provide the best possible learning environment while reducing environmental impact. Environmental strategies are implemented through individual departments, as well as site based school programs, resulting in the common goal of environmental responsibility.​