'Official Tree' of U.S. Education Department to Be Planted, Green Ribbon Schools Competition Unveiled

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U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, joined by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa P. Jackson; White House Council on Environmental Quality Chair Nancy Sutley; Chegg CEO Dan Rosensweig; American Forests CEO Scott Steen; Lynda Bird Johnson Robb, daughter of President Lyndon Baines Johnson; and local fifth grade students from Amidon Elementary School, will participate in planting "the official tree" of the U.S. Department of Education Tuesday at the Department's headquarters in Washington. During the ceremony, Duncan will also announce plans to create a Green Ribbon Schools program that will be run by the U.S. Department of Education with the support of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the White House Council on Environmental Quality. The program will promote public schools that put forth exemplary efforts to: raise environmental literacy, both inside and outside the classroom; reduce a school's environmental footprint by improving energy efficiency and resource use; and increase a school's environmental health.

A Texas live oak, the official tree depicted on the Education Department's official seal, will be planted in the plaza at 400 Maryland Ave., S.W., facing the National Mall. The tree will be brought to Washington by Jośe Rodríguez, elementary school teacher at Knowles Elementary in Cedar Park, Texas, near Austin. Rodriguez was a U.S. Department of Education "Teaching Ambassador Fellow" in 2009-2010. The planting of the Department's official tree also represents the five millionth tree planted in partnership between Chegg, the online textbook rental company, and American Forests, the nonprofit conservation organization.

The official tree of the U.S. Department of Education will be a living memorial to symbolize the Department of Education's mission to promote student achievement and foster educational excellence. Tuesday's ceremony will also serve as a tribute to the upcoming 31st anniversary of the U.S. Department of Education. It was May 16, 1980, when the U.S. Education Department began operations, following then-President Jimmy Carter's signing into law on Oct. 17, 1979, the Department of Education Organization Act creating the Department.