GROTON -- If the the Groton-Dunstable Regional School District still used a traditional grading system, business manager Gerry Martin would likely have brought home an A+ for a essay that will bring a free electric light upgrade worth up to $50,000 to the Middle School South building.
On his own initiative, Martin filled out a form he found posted online by NorthEast Electrical Distributors for its Project Green Lights 2012 contest.
According to the company's description, Project Green Lights "is a community initiative to educate businesses, municipalities, school districts, and consumers in our communities to understand the importance of saving energy with 'Green Lighting Products.'"
The company, founded in 1999, is one of the largest distributors of electral equipment in New England. It provides electrical products and services to contractors, industrial, utility, and institutional customers through branch locations throughout New England and has run the Green Lights contest for several years.
"I heard about the contest on a radio station and kind of jotted the information down on the way to work," Martin said. "When I got the chance, I checked it out and discovered that the contest was still open so I entered the Middle School South and explained why it should win the contest."
The entry form asked a number of basic questions, such as who was filling out the form, how old was the school building in question, and had the building's electrical system ever been upgraded.
But the heart of the entry form was the space for a 250-word essay explaining why the applicant thought the school in question deserved to win the contest. Martin's essay caught the attention of the contest's sponsors.
"I just wrote about how the school's green initiatives were doing, like the garden in the center of the school building that grows vegetables for the cafeteria, and how the staff is good about switching off the lights," he explained. "I also noted the fact that the school was built in 1989 and has had no upgrades since then. I mentioned that it was getting a new roof this summer and that it would be nice to have new lights, too."
Martin says his essay was school-specific and identified the Middle School South as being in the most immediate need of an electrical upgrade.
The essay must have been persuasive because Martin was soon informed that he had won the contest with the school district as the beneficiary of electrical upgrades to the Middle School South worth $50,000.
In a time of continuing belt-tightening, it was nothing to sneeze at.
"Basically, they'll just be taking the electronics out and leaving the frames intact," Martin said of the work to be done on the school's lighting fixtures.
"They're going to fix them so that they can accept lower wattage lamps. They'll be doing it during the summer so there will be no impact to the kids. The work will probably take about three weeks."
Similar work was performed at the Swallow Union Elementary School last year thanks to a program sponsored by National Grid. The school's lighting system was upgraded at a 70 percent discount, saving thousands of dollars in energy costs.
With installation at Middle School South expected to be completed by Aug. 31, Martin said it would be some time before there is any evidence of savings.
"It will help the electric bill at the Middle School, but we'll have to give it a year or so in order to have anything to compare it with," said Martin. "It's hard to say how much it will save right now."
In the meantime, Martin said auditors from NorthEast Electrical Distributors are expected to look over the Middle School on Jan. 22 with him and building and grounds manager Steve Byrne.
"It was just one of those luck of the draw things in terms of just entering the contest," Martin concluded modestly. "I didn't really see it in terms of winning. But upgrading the lighting system is something that's long overdue for that school."