Mountain Brook could quell critics–benefit its children, parents, and community

Mountain Brook Board of Education
Mountain Brook Board of Education

These are trying times.

A stubborn pandemic and social unrest.

Words matter, but action is required.

The Mountain Brook Board of Education has an opportunity to take an action that could ultimately begin to change the dynamics of our region.

One simple act could quell some of its critics and benefit its children, parents, and the community.

This idea has been embraced by school systems all over Jefferson County including the other over-the-mountain school systems.

That is, to allow school employees who live outside the district boundaries the opportunity for their children to attend Mountain Brook schools.

Not only does this make it easier for teachers whose children now attend a different system, but it opens a world of opportunity for employees doing essential work at the schools, many of whom are minorities. This is currently not the policy of Mountain Brook schools.

I discussed the idea with a Mountain Brook school board member and he recommended I pen a letter to the Mountain Brook Board of education. He said he would present the letter to the school administration and members of the board.

This is a difficult time for all school systems struggling to educate during the pandemic, but as I say in my letter, “We can’t let this generational opportunity pass us by and default to business as usual.”

Mountain Brook School superintendent, Dr. Richard “Dicky” Barlow, tells me that the Board of Education has established a blue ribbon committee to consider ideas for diversity and equity and this idea will likely be considered.

This simple procedural fix could provide equity and opportunity to children through a world class education.

If you live in Mountain Brook and embrace this concept, please consider letting your school board members know.

Letter to the Mountain Brook Board of Education:

I would like to propose an idea that would be good for Mountain Brook parents, their children, the school system, our region, and future generations of children whose families are unable to afford to live in one of the finest cities in America.

It is a common practice that school systems allow children of their full time employees to attend their schools.  That is certainly the policy at other over-the-mountain school systems such as Vestavia Hills, Hoover, and Homewood. But it’s also true for other major school systems like Birmingham and Jefferson County.

This is a policy the Mountain Brook Board of Education might consider.

I’ve had conversations with school board members from Vestavia Hills and Homewood and they enthusiastically support this policy.

Board members told me this helps at multiple levels.  Many parents today seek diversity for their children and by allowing children of employees to attend their schools this enables the school systems to hire top talent.

Jefferson County is divided into 35 cities and 12 schools systems—segregated primarily by class and race. This is not likely to change. Having a more diverse student population will allow children from our greater community to interact and get to know one another.

Here’s a story shared with me by a Vestavia Hills School Board member.

This school board member recently had a conversation with a Vestavia Hills’ bus driver whose daughter attends Vestavia schools. The parent said that before coming to Vestavia her daughter had never met a student’s parent who was a doctor, lawyer, or professional. The experience of attending a school with a diverse student body opened an expanded world—one that would be less likely in her previous urban school district.

This is a difficult time for America and many folks are looking for substantive ways to make a difference.

This is a chance for Mountain Brook schools to make a meaningful difference.

We can’t let this generational opportunity pass us by and default to business as usual.

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David Sher is the founder and publisher of ComebackTown.  He’s past Chairman of the Birmingham Regional Chamber of Commerce (BBA), Operation New Birmingham (REV Birmingham), and the City Action Partnership (CAP).

Invite David to speak for free to your group about how we can have a more prosperous metro Birmingham. dsher@amsher.com.

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2 thoughts on “Mountain Brook could quell critics–benefit its children, parents, and community”

  1. As a former home-owner in Homewood and Mountain Brook, I don’t know whether this article makes me want to laugh or cry.

    In Homewood, even in the mid-1980s, we had mixed social classes and races – it was inclusive and nice – nobody aked me what I did for a living or what church I attended or cared.

    When my family moved to Mountain Brook in the mid-1990s, we saw social class discrimination even among the different “neighborhoods” of the Tiny Kingdom. Our realtor even pointed out to avoid certain Jewish sections. We found that newcomers were not socially welcomed. Crestline even discriminated among those who live on the flatside (preferred) and the uphill Euclid Avenue, down to St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church. I met older residents who lived East of Montevallo Road who looked down their nose at the cracker box folk in Crestline.

    Now I read that Mountain Brook is considering whether to “allow” minority teachers to have their children attend Mountain Brook Schools! OH! The outrage! Tsk, tsk, can you imagine?! Is this 2020 or 1929 (Mountain Brook’s founding)?

    BTW, when Jemison developed Mountain Brook, the Old Money folks along Red Mountain dismissed it as nouveau riche and tacky, according to my older business friends who are sadly no longer with us.

    You may have the money to move into Mountain Brook, but that doesn’t mean you will ever be welcomed or accepted. Mountain Brook just needs to build a wall around it and be done with it.

  2. Putting a bandaid on cancer won’t cure it. The only schools which provide even a fair education are those where the parents have the resources to partially overcome the inherent deficiencies of a government monopoly on education. Most schools do far worse, but no one gives much thought to the solution. We need to provide education vouchers which would allow the competition inherent in the marketplace to give our children decent educations. But, horrors, someone might make a profit! Some might even make enough profit to gain income inequality–the American Dream.

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