Phoenix Elementary School Wins “Our Winning Green Space” Contest


When Maxine O. Bush Elementary School Principal Leslie Saulsby learned about the Project EverGreen “Our Winning Green Space” contest, he decided to enter but never thought he had a chance of winning.

His response upon receiving a phone call with the news that his school had won was “I’m shocked!”

Our Winning Green Space
From left to right: Leslie Saulsby, Principal, Maxine O. Bush Elementary; Scott Bills, Project EverGreen Board Member; Cindy Code, Project EverGreen Executive Director; Jay Erichsen, Horizon Distributors; and Jose Leal, Unit Maintenance Manager, Maxine O. Bush Elementary. (Photo: Project Evergreen)


As the contest winner, the Phoenix, AZ school received an Exmark Lazer Z X-Series 60-inch riding mower and 30-inch walk-behind mower that will help maintain the school district’s athletic fields and grounds helping to create safer playing fields, as well as an athletic field make-over. The mower package – donated by Exmark and delivered to the school grounds by the local Horizon distributor – includes commercial grade mowers that the school will keep, even beyond the renovation.

The school’s athletic and recreation fields were barely usable and presented a safety issue due to an aging and damaged irrigation system, drainage, and seeding that resulted in uneven playing surface that was dotted with bald spots, rocks, and weeds. As a result, the 400-student school – kindergarten through 8th grade – was unable to use the fields for recess, physical education classes, or after-school sports, according to Saulsby, a former athletic director.

“This meant our students have half of the athletic opportunities that other students at nearby schools,” said Saulsby. “The fields are a hinderance to having a proper PE and health curriculum as well as having a usable space for recess and activities which are essential to the individual student health and the collective spirit of our community.

“On any given day, I have two to three dozen students playing soccer on what amounts to sand and rocks without goals,” he continued. “We go through ice packs and band aids at an alarming pace. The condition of our fields is a major reason we are losing students to inferior charter schools.”

Most of students walk to school and Saulsby wants the school campus to be a sense of pride for the community. If it’s not an asset, he says, it’s a detriment.

“New facilities look good and therefore impress. Plus, a poor looking school fuels the negative images our students have of themselves and their community,” Saulsby said. “Another area in which we struggle is school pride. It is difficult to be proud of our surroundings when our surroundings are subpar and are lesser than other schools.”

The “Our Winning Green Space” contest is sponsored by Project EverGreen in partnership with Exmark Manufacturing, the Sports Turf Managers Association (STMA), and The Foundation for Safer Athletic Fields for Everyone (SAFE).

The field make-over will be completed in 2022 and Saulsby said the project will show that Maxine O. Bush is an asset to the community.

Jimmy Simpson, Certified Sports Field Manager and STMA Board Member views the “Our Winning Green Space” contest as an opportunity to educate the public on the importance of safe athletic fields.

“Our partnership with Project EverGreen helps parents, participating athletes and fans to understand that a well-maintained surface helps to protect athletes from injury,” adds Simpson. “Exmark’s generous mower package will greatly assist with essential ongoing maintenance to keep the surface safe.”

Previous “Our Winning Green Space” winners include:

  • 2017 – In Memory of Community Garden and the Warrendale Community Organization, Detroit, MI
  • 2018 – Parks & Recreation Department, Clinton, NC
  • 2019 – Louisa County School District, VA

Project EverGreen’s community-based renovation projects have revitalized more than 100 million square feet of athletic and recreational greens spaces in neighborhoods and communities across the U.S.