Ruthie Heis, Long Beach Green Schools student, shares her experience with campaign management.
The Long Beach Green Schools Campaign started off in August of 2020 with set goals;
transitioning LBUSD off of fossil fuels and onto 100% renewable energy in the electricity sector by 2035 and in all other energy sectors including HVAC and busing by 2040. We first met with Board Members of the Long Beach Unified School District who supported our campaign’s ideas and overarching goals but didn’t want to claim that they publicly supported our guidelines. I don’t blame them, our timeline was radical and difficult to achieve without the necessary funding. The board knew that LBUSD did not have the necessary funds to make this transition happen. Especially since we first started meeting with LBUSD staff in the middle of the pandemic. We were told that our initiative’s goals were not a priority until students returned to the classroom. So, in the meantime we organized the community. One thing LB GSC learned best was that community support will make or break your initiative’s ability to pressure the district you are working with. When students returned in early spring of 2021, our district contacts were still slow to reply. We continued organizing the community in opposition. It worked, our voices were heard across LBUSD and across all of Long Beach. But in this new season of meeting with LBUSD Facilities and other staff, we learned another important lesson: too much opposition will cause your school district to dismiss your voices. And in over-exaggerated opposition, it was difficult for both of us to brainstorm and find solutions we could agree on. We refused to move past the idea of passing a resolution while district staff that would not hold any weight over the Board’s decision making. We spent all of 2021 feeling dismissed and not valued as students. It wasn’t until we decided that compromising was easier than constant fighting.
The Long Beach Green Schools Campaign ended up passing our policy a couple months
after we decided to pivot our plan and take a different course of action. In fact, we ended up
presenting this policy twice for approval, once getting sent back for further revision. This
rejection is exactly what the LB GSC student team needed at the moment, however. After our
concerns for a need for time-marked goals were dismissed on the basis of approving the board, we gave public comment before the vote on the policy. The board heard us and affirmed our
concerns, then forced their staff to revise the policy to include our suggested timeline. After
months of feeling dismissed while working with district staff, this moment was immensely
validating and rewarding. It also marked the beginning of a new culture for LBUSD. Before the LB GSC team forced our way into the legislative system, the district had never worked with stakeholders on such a level before. LB GSC students set a new precedent that LBUSD expanded on in the next school year where students were brought into professional settings to provide direct insight on policy. This new system worked so well, they included students in seven more coalitions.
Although the LB GSC achieved great things, mistakes had to be made for us to grow. I
can share the importance of actively training members to take on higher skill responsibilities because it was difficult for LB GSC to do so. Throughout the two years of working with the district to pass our policy, we spread our team very thin. Consistently the same people were taking on the same roles, which burnt people out quickly. Therefore, only a select few remained with the majority of the workload for the entire process. This allowed only that top group to grow in skill. However, in order to incorporate other students, we would’ve had to hold group trainings or go out of our way to train these individuals since we worked on such a vertical structure. This was not within capacity for us. This is why it is incredibly important to have older mentors to fill the gaps student capacity leaves. Because we failed to train students not in the direct core team, the LB GSC had a hard time continuing after post the passing of policy 35101.1. The students in the direct core team had been with GSC the longest and therefore had the most skill, but this unfortunately meant that most of them graduated after the policy was passed. Since we had failed to train a younger generation, our group could not survive student
turnover. This bottle-necked our size and productivity. Granted, this change came at a season of low activity for the LB GSC. I still am struggling to accept that campaigns grow and diminish as they pass through different seasons of success. One way to survive the ebbs and changes of a campaign is to provide enduring consistency. Consistency builds trust. Maintaining a schedule and a structure keeps people involved throughout time. By setting a meeting time, you are creating an expectation that you have to fulfill and maintain. You want people to expect to join you on a designated time every week so that they can pitch in. Consistency is easier to keep in the school year, when you can follow a schedule that supports your school club base to core team structure. Prepare for the summer to the best of your ability and plan for productivity to be low. Mistakes are easy to make once or twice, but overtime they become consciously allowed. Have a team keep you accountable and keep yourself accountable as well. It is just as important to care for yourself than it is to care for others. So, if need be, taking a rest from managing can be a wise decision.