ComebackTown is published by David Sher to begin a discussion on a better Birmingham.
Today’s guest blogger is Laura Gallitz. If you’d like to be a guest blogger, please click here.
David Sher’s provocative title “I’ll do anything to help B’ham schools except send my kids there,” appeared in my Facebook feed. It worked. I clicked. I read. I started reading comments, and I was compelled to comment as well. Sher wrote, “If people are serious about helping our inner city children, then they should invite those children into their school systems…Or they should send their children to Birmingham schools and then fight like hell to make them better.”
I wanted to take a moment to say that some of us are doing exactly that. We believe that our neighborhood school provides a safe and diverse learning environment for our children. We believe that our kids are just as deserving of a great education as those in any neighboring zip code. Plus, we are already paying for it with our taxes.
As an added bonus to our already good school, the Woodlawn Foundation is helping to fund the Woodlawn Innovation Network, which incorporates a group of four elementary and middle schools, plus Woodlawn High School, to which they “feed”. This network involves community partnerships with businesses and cultural organizations, plus local colleges. This good news is worth spreading – Woodlawn High School students will have the opportunity to graduate from high school with two years’ worth of college credit. Can you imagine the opportunities this will create for Birmingham’s families?
The best part is that this model will be rolled out to all Birmingham City Schools. You can read more about the initiative on the district’s website.
The impetus behind Sher’s original post was the current conversation and enthusiasm to do something – anything – to help. Even if you don’t send your kids to Birmingham’s schools, I am sure you want the best for Birmingham’s kids. These kids may grow up to be senators or Olympians, but they also more likely may be your banker, your attorney, your police officer, your plumber or your boss. They may build your car or they may fix your air conditioner. In any of these instances, you want them to have the best education and training available – it will impact your life directly.
I challenge you to keep up the enthusiasm for Birmingham’s kids. Keep volunteering and donating to organizations that support education, like United Way’s Success by Six program, which is involved in our Pre-K. Keep lending your time and talents to organizations that will partner with BCS in their endeavors to improve the schools and the lives of Birmingham’s families, like Jones Valley Teaching Farm. Be involved – tell Birmingham City Schools what is working with your schools and share what hasn’t worked.
I am sharing my experience in my little corner of the city. I cannot speak for what is happening elsewhere, but I am assured that improvement is foremost on the minds of teachers, administrators, parents and students. I urge others to share their good news stories of BCS. In fact, you can do that right on the Birmingham Education Foundation’s website. We need your voices in this conversation.
I recall seeing the mass exodus of families when I was a youngster in a Birmingham school, and I remember thinking about the paradox: if the parents moved to find better schools, then how did that help? If the involved parents all left, then what would happen to those left behind? Yes, decades later, there is a mess. But from where we stand, it is getting better.
Of course, it is up to each parent to make the best decisions for each child. Whether or not we continue in BCS, all Birmingham students deserve to have an education that prepares them for life as an adult. For right now, we plan to “fight like hell” to spread the news about the forward-thinking things that are being done. We hope that all who are quick to judge Birmingham’s schools will take the time to notice those who are trying to help make them better.
Laura Tucker Gallitz is a Birmingham native, and these opinions are her own, not those of any of the organizations mentioned. She lives in Crestwood with her husband, daughter and dog.
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David Sher is the publisher of ComebackTown, a co-founder of Buzz12 Advertising Agency and co-CEO of AmSher Collection Agency. He’s past Chairman of the Birmingham Regional Chamber of Commerce (BBA), Operation New Birmingham (REV Birmingham)), and the City Action Partnership (CAP).