The Look of Success
By: Patty L. Buchanan
Do you want to advocate for an electric school bus (ESB) in your local School District? You may find the story of how tiny Croton on Hudson, NY got its first ESB instructional.
Success is achieved by unflinching advocacy. Here in Croton, our two-and-a-half-year campaign spanning three school budget cycles, by all-volunteer efforts to electrify the School’s transportation fleet has achieved our first short-term goal. The School’s first electric school bus wheels are rolling, with the deployment of “EVie,” a 66-passenger bus. I was delighted to be part of Croton100’s two-person team, along with my husband and E-bus advocacy partner Chandu Visweswariah, that was invited to the ribbon-cutting ceremony and inaugural ride on Croton’s new electric school bus on October 25, 2022.
As I look back on the journey and the robust campaign that Croton100 ran, I am especially proud that we accomplished so much in the span of time that was so difficult because of COVID shutdowns, social distancing, and a general atmosphere of fear, uncertainty, doubt, rancor, and divisiveness.
How did we break through the resistance and what lessons have we learned?
Breaking Through Resistance
There is no shortcut to breaking through layers of resistance to change. The tried-and-true way is by perseverance, firing on all cylinders, getting the facts right and consistently speaking truth to power. We did it all and then some.
Below you will find aspects of our campaign on which we toiled, making this final result so sweet!
Our campaign included numerous blogs:
Our blogs have dozens of dedicated readers and are often cross-posted on LinkedIn to maximize visibility and impact. They serve as an archive of our advocacy on our website.
- Mother’s Day Deed, Support Electric School Buses- 2020
- Urging the School to lean into rapid adoption of e-buses- 2020
- Explaining school bus vote, approving funds for fossil fuel buses, urging perseverance- 2020
- Our House is On Fire and the School Bought Another Gas School Bus- 2020
- Describing School’s rejection of available funding for electric school bus- 2020
- Urging public engagement in school bus purchasing budget planning- 2021
- Voter education blog explaining why all voters should reject funding for fossil fuel buses-2021
- Additional voter education blog explaining confusing ballot, opposition to funding fossil fuel school buses- 2021
- Analysis explaining vote outcome favoring electric buses- 2021
- Momentum is building for electric school buses, and for good reasons- 2022
Letters to the editor help get the message out to a local community, especially leading up to budget votes and referendums.
- Shining light on the School’s side-stepping the will of the voters to electrify the school’s transportation fleet- 2022
- Explaining the need to forego diesel buses-2022
- Describing the adverse impacts on children’s health and academic performance caused by diesel buses-2022
- Explaining available funding from which the School is walking away-2022
- Summarizing all the reasons to oppose the School’s bus funding proposition- 2022
- Explaining ballot outcome, strong support for electric school bus purchases-2021
- Information about electric bus charging technology-2021
- Urging voters to defeat funding for fossil fuel school buses-2021
- Additional letters urging voters to defeat funding for fossil fuel buses-2021
Our campaign included participating in School Board meetings:
There is nothing like showing your strong presence at School Board meetings and speaking up during the public comment period; be prepared, however, to sit through long and tedious meetings!
Our campaign included researching and sharing information about subsidy opportunities and financial benefits to electric school buses:
We found general knowledge about ESBs to be rather poor, and we had to constantly educate School administrators, transportation officials and community members about the benefits of ESBs.
- BEST (Bus Electrification for Student Transportation) digital/analytical tool- cost and carbon comparison, created by Croton100-2021
- “Doing the Math,” article about Croton100’s e-bus campaign and BEST Tool in Nationally distributed School Transportation News, Trade Media-2021
- Presentation to School Bus Electrification Task Force, Budget Considerations-2020
- Blog about newly announced NYSERDA funding for e-buses- 2021
- Financial Benefits of e-buses presentation in Community Town Hall- 2021
- “The ABCs of Why We Need Electric School Buses” article by Croton100- 2021
- Sharing information about new NYSERDA funding announcement-2022
Our campaign included participating in webinars to share our learning and experience with others about electric school buses:
Webinars allowed us to disseminate information to diverse audiences and get the word out beyond our School District.
- Care for Creation presentation on Croton100’s e-bus campaign-2021
- E-bus webinar hosted by Mother’s Out Front, Croton100 presentation begins at 1:40:10- 2022
- Presentation about Croton100’s E-bus campaign, NYS Association of Conservation Councils- 2021
- Bring Electric School Buses to Your Town Webinar, sponsored by Sierra Club and NYLCV-2021
Our campaign included working in partnership with similarly aligned organizations and individuals:
Success requires building a coalition that includes environmental organizations, school administrators, transportation departments, parents, funding sources and the community at large.
- Promotion of Electric School Bus Webinar hosted by Mothers Out Front and Westchester County
- Promotion of NYS Conference with Croton100 electric school bus campaign highlights
- Promotion of coalition webinar on electric school buses
- Promotion of alignment with Mothers Out Front campaign for electric school buses (vote No to school fossil fuel funding request)-2020
- Letter to School Board from New York League of Conservation Voters President Julie Tighe, urging Croton to pursue electric school buses- 2021
Our campaign included documenting our work, and making it publicly available:
We expended a lot of effort on maintaining a tight and accurate website with all information updated in a timely manner.
- Summary of National Conference on Electric School Buses- 2020
- Croton100 Campaigns Tab, extensive electric school bus and related voter education materials 2020-2021
- Informing of voter results (approving fossil fuel bus funding) pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, ever onwards- 2022
- Informing public of school bus funding vote and expressing gratitude for support-2021
- Promotion of our work on electric school buses profiled in news article- 2022
Our campaign included speaking truth to power, even when it was unpleasant and painful to do so:
Unfortunately, we had to repeatedly correct the record, set the facts straight and be the unpopular one in the room during the course of this campaign.
- Croton Transportation Department mischaracterizing e-bus performance in White Plains School District- 2020 (Nearby White Plains had a good experience with 5 ESBs since 2017, but School officials mischaracterized their findings)
- Promoting blog post explaining missed electric school bus funding opportunity- 2020 (The School walked away from available funding)
- Blog post describing fiscal decisions to buy fossil fuel buses, while rejecting opportunities for e-bus subsidies- 2020 (Despite a lower Total Cost of Ownership, the School decided to buy fossil buses)
- Voter education materials describing school’s $180,000 school bus funding Fiscal Fiasco-2022 (The School decided to withdraw a funding request from NYSERDA rather than acknowledge and correct their mistake)
- Explaining School’s bus purchase plan is fiscally irresponsible, environmentally irresponsible and based on flawed decision making-2022 (School overrode the will of the voters and made poor decisions)
- Numerous private communications to School Board members, including pointing out factual untruths in a Letter to the Editor written by a sitting Board member.
Our campaign included using social media to educate the public about electric school buses and to urge taxpayers to reject use of public funds for fossil fuel bus purchases:
Social media allowed us to reach a broader audience and make our case in creative and often more succinct ways.
- Promoting electric School Bus Ride Demo-2022
- Applauding Governor Hochul for banning fossil fuel purchases post-2027 and banning use of fossil fuel school buses post 2035-2022
- Promoting new electric school bus law-2022
- Promotion describing gap in science and decarbonizing action, urging no vote for fossil fuel funding school ballot- 2022
- Promotion adding to no vote for fossil fuel buses per climate science- 2022
- Promotion adding drum-beat “Code Red for Humanity” urging vote against fossil fuel school bus funding- 2022
- Promotion sample ballot- vote no funding for fossil fuel buses – 2022
- Use of Lawn Sign, urging no vote for fossil fuel bus funding-2022
- Sample ballot school bus funding vote- 2021
- Promoting voter education about school bus ballot- 2021
- Promoting Town Hall Panel about school bus funding ballot- 2021
- Promoting blog with decarbonizing advocacy about electric buses-2021
- Promoting webinar Croton100 presentation about electric school bus campaign- 2021
- Promoting blog explaining fossil fuel school bus funding ballot- 2020
- Promoting voter education, advocacy against funding for fossil fuel school buses- 2020
- Educating about fossil fuel funding on school ballot- 2020
- Educating about carbon emissions from fossil fuel school buses
- Promoting blog explaining reasons voters should reject fossil fuel school bus funding ballot proposition- 2020
- Do as much as you can, never give up.
- Shake-off “frictionizers.”
- When others drop out, step up!
- Don’t stop because of disappointments and setbacks; pick yourself up, dust yourself off and carry on with the important work.
- Speak truth to power — even when it is unpleasant and painful to do so.
- Be part of the broad stakeholder community including elected officials, school officials, community advocates, industry coalitions.
- Accept and incorporate feedback, adjust messaging as circumstances change.
- Engage in the political policy-making process.
- Pursue information developments about technology and funding.
- Listen to nay-sayers, address their concerns.
- Be inspired by those who extend kindness and support.
- Be grateful to those who offer a helping hand.
- Be kind, even when others are not.
- Emphasize that electrification is a positive solution to an unacceptable impending global system collapse.
- Cite science and reliable sources to explain the need for this energy transformation.
- Remember: the first electric bus is the hardest. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step!
- Do not be shy about asking for donations. So, here we go: if you cannot give your time and would like to show your support for our work, please donate to Croton100’s umbrella organization peekskill100.cure100.org, here.
- If you would like to be part of our winning team, meet us, join us by writing to [email protected].
- And remember to: