CUSD recognized for sustainability excellence

Natalie Taylor-Barbiera, CUSD’s director of intervention and English learner programs, and Superintendent Jim Elsasser are pictured Tuesday at the 2024 California Green Ribbon Schools Award ceremony at Claremont High School. Courier photo/Andrew Alonzo

By Andrew Alonzo |

Claremont Unified School District was recognized Tuesday as part of the 2024 California Green Ribbon Schools Award ceremony.

This year’s gathering at Claremont High highlighted 20 schools, 14 districts, and two county offices of education for excellence in resource efficiency, health and wellness, and environmental and sustainability education according to the California Department of Education.

“The recognition award is part of a larger U.S. Department of Education (ED) effort to identify and communicate practices that result in improved student engagement, academic achievement, graduation rates, and workforce preparedness; and reinforces federal efforts to increase energy independence and economic security,” the Green Ribbon Schools Award Program webpage read.

CUSD was one of five schools and districts nominated as a green achiever by California State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond. The district was also recognized with a  United States Department of Education Green Ribbon School District Sustainability Award.

“Claremont Unified School District (CUSD) has several board policies to guide the district’s commitment to sustainability, environmental literacy, and school community wellness. In 2009, the district collaborated with a sustainability consulting company and hired a district energy manager to monitor energy use. With these two initiatives, the district changed the behavior of staff and students and reduced energy consumption by over 19% in six years,” read the CDE website.

The CDE also mentioned many CUSD schools have recycling and composting programs to divert waste from landfills, boast gardens and outdoor learning environments, and promote environmental instruction. It also recognized the district’s collaborative efforts with Sustainable Claremont, a local nonprofit; that CHS offers four sections of environmental science as well as many environmental community projects; and how fifth grade students engage with students at the Claremont Colleges to learn about sustainability.

(L-R) California Department of Education Chief Deputy Superintendent of Public Instruction Nancy Kim Portillo, CUSD Board of Education President Bob Fass, Director of Intervention and English Learner Programs Natalie Taylor-Barbiera, and Superintendent Jim Elsasser at Tuesday’s 2024 California Green Ribbon Schools Award ceremony at Claremont High. Courier photo/Andrew Alonzo

Natalie Taylor-Barbiera, CUSD’s director of intervention and English learner programs, delivered a short acceptance speech.

“I want to thank so much Dr. [Jim] Elsasser for his leadership over many years to build these programs in the way that you will see today, and our board of education for always supporting,” she said. “Also, our groundskeepers, our facilities and maintenance team, our nutrition services team; these are the folks who are out there making sure the food that we serve our kids comes from farms and that the gardens that we are gorgeously cultivating in our campuses are full of native plants and are providing food for our community, and so we just thank them so much.”

Also part of the Green Achiever’s cohort were Trabuco Elementary School, Pacific Ridge School, Cabrillo Unified School District, and Rio School District. Green Ribbon School awards were also given to gold, silver, and bronze honorees.

Gold Level honors went to Fairfield-Suisun Unified School District, Laguna Beach Unified School District, Modesto City Schools, Mountain View Whisman School District, the San Mateo County Office of Education, and Oxnard High School.

Recognized at the silver level were Bella Mente Montessori Academy, Captain Leland F. Norton Elementary School,Community Roots Academy, Gretchen Whitney High School, La Colina Junior High School, Magnolia High School, Mary Collins School at Cherry Valley, Raymond Temple Elementary School, Temecula Luiseño Elementary School, Walnut High School, National School District, Pittsburg Unified School District, Centralia Elementary School Districtand the San Joaquin County Office of Education.

Rounding out the bronze level honorees were 24th Street Elementary School, Charlotte N. Werner Elementary School,Foothill Middle School, John Muir Elementary School, Levi Bemis Elementary School, Longfellow Elementary School, Santiago Charter Middle School, Moorpark Unified School District, Palos Verdes Peninsula Unified School District, San Benito High School District, Santa Clara Unified School District and Vista del Mar Union School District.

Following the ceremony, attendees were given a tour of CHS. To learn more about Green Ribbon Schools, visit A recap of Tuesday’s ceremony is available at, search “2024 California Green Ribbon Schools Award Ceremony.”


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