Group’s Plan to Update Schools’ Lighting to LED Could Lead to Big Savings

A group of Moore Public Schools patrons is concerned about the condition of education in Oklahoma, especially during the past few years’ financial turmoil. They take a great deal of pride in their school system, praising the outstanding job the school board and administration have done in shepherding the schools through these difficult times. But the challenges are daunting, and this group wants to be part of the solution.

About nine months ago, they organized under the leadership of Dr. George Elassal to create the Community Fund for Moore Schools, with the goal of supplying grants to update the physical infrastructure of schools in the Moore Public Schools system.

In addition to Elassal, the current board members of the Fund are David Postic, vice president; Steve Buchanan, treasurer; and Karrie Freeman, Marcie Falcone and Sen. Darrell Weaver.

While the members feel there are many ways to help schools, they chose a route of practical, concrete action, because they believed brick-and-mortar improvements could lead to a wide range of positive outcomes and would benefit all students impartially.

“In addition to improving the educational experience for students,” a statement on their website explains, “these grants can help schools conserve ever-scarce financial resources.”

Their first project is designed to meet both those goals while conserving energy–the updating of lighting in the school buildings from fluorescent to LED.

The idea for this project came from Dr. Elassal, who converted his office lighting to LED about two years ago and subsequently saw “big savings” on his electric bill. With the help of Todd Stapleton, energy and conservation manager for the school district, an estimate was performed on a representative elementary school  to gauge the possible impact.

They concluded that it would cost about $19,300 to retrofit the lights in in the school, but the project when complete should save about $8,000 per year. It was also estimated that the LED bulbs would last from 10 to 15 years–a savings of nearly $100,000 over the lifetimes of the bulbs.

These numbers were impressive enough to get the support of the board members and encourage them to begin detailed planning, starting with the 25 elementary schools in the system.

“We were thinking about tackling the older schools first,” Elassal said, “but we will talk to the school administration and take our guidance from them.”

When the lighting project is complete, the group plans to continue working with the district administration to fulfill other infrastructure needs, such as updating school electronics.

The members of the Fund, all enthusiastic supporters of Moore schools, are excited about the project. Each of them has had–or still have–children in the system, or have worked for or attended Moore schools.

Freeman, who has had five children in Moore schools, was a teacher and school counselor at all grade levels from 1982 until her retirement in 2017. She said she got involved in the Fund “because George is very persuasive.”

That was a sentiment repeated by all the board members.

Falcone, an active PTA member and volunteer in the school system, has two sets of twins attending Moore schools.

“There’s so much division in education right now,” she said, “and this project is just black and white. There’s nothing to argue about. I’m sure when people see the numbers, they’ll agree this is a way to do something great for the schools.”

Elassal said that Postic, a 2009 graduate of Westmoore High School, is “from a very giving family so he has a tradition to live up to” that encouraged his involvement. Elassal also recruited Postic because he wanted a member from a younger generation.

“And they wanted an attorney on board,” Postic joked.

More seriously, Postic said he was “very impressed by the numbers. This is a chance to make a difference, to provide a big service in a time of real need.”

Postic also added that studies have found that LED lighting–which simulates natural light better than fluorescent lighting–can help improve student mood, concentration and performance.

Buchanan, another graduate of Moore schools, had two daughters in the school system.

“It is important for those of us who grew up in the community and/or have raised children in the Moore schools to give back and help support the excellent school system that we have–for future generations.”

“Maintaining the school buildings and facilities in top working order and efficiency is essential for continued success,” he added. “If the maintenance expenses become too great or the problems and repairs too severe, this cuts into the funds that could be used for teacher and student resources.”

Weaver was drawn into the group when he met Elassal while knocking on doors before the last state election. Elassal invited him in, Weaver said, and did a little campaigning of his own. Since Weaver has children in the Moore schools and is “very pro-education,” he also found that “George is pretty persuasive.”

“The ideas of this group are very practical,” he said, “and we believe that everyone

can embrace George’s vision for the schools. Education is the cornerstone of this state and we all can support it.”

 The group is just beginning its publicity and fundraising efforts–but has already been designated a 501(C)(3) charity, so donations can be tax-deductible.

 “Soon we will be contacting businesses and individuals in the Moore school district seeking in-kind and cash donations,” Elassal said.

The group also hopes others will join their effort as board members or active supporters.  Anyone interested in the organization may visit their website, CommunityFundforMooreSchools.org, for more information.