AN OPPORTUNITY TO GROW A Report to the Community from Mountain Brook Schools
AN OPPORTUNITY TO
GROW In Mountain Brook Schools, we give opportunity to every child. The opportunity to not only succeed academically, but to grow as a person. Offering an effective, challenging and engaging educational experience that focuses on the whole child is what sets us apart. It is one of the main reasons for our past achievements. And it is laying the groundwork for our future success.
A LETTER FROM THE SUPERINTENDENT This Report to the Community has been in the works for approximately a year. From the beginning, we knew we wanted to include data that reflects where we stand as a school system. In the back pocket of the report, you will find performance data that supports our theme of opportunity for all involved in Mountain Brook Schools. As the process of assembling this report continued, it became clear to us that our numbers and scores, while positive, are only one part of a much bigger picture, one that is best told with stories. These stories are about students, staff and community members who have been and continue to be affected by their experiences with the Mountain Brook Schools community. A common thread that weaves through our school system is one of opportunity: opportunity for students to flourish, for schools to thrive and for the community to benefit. While we have heard countless stories that serve as good examples, this report features eight that seem to best capture the story of Mountain Brook Schools. At the end of this booklet, which we hope you will keep in your home, you will see the logos of six companies that were generous enough to fund it. We wanted to make this a lasting piece that we could all be proud of, and we are grateful to these businesses for their financial support. We also want to thank all members of the Mountain Brook community, those who have children in our schools and those who do not, for all you do to support us. We are grateful for the opportunity to provide care and education to so many of Mountain Brookâ€™s children.
AN OPPORTUNITY TO GROW AS
STUDENTS We offer the opportunity to excel in the classroom in preparation for life in college and beyond. By providing a challenging curriculum, we develop studentsâ€™ sense of responsibility. Because it is creating an atmosphere of collaboration and ownership of the work that leads to answers and, ultimately, to success.
AHEAD OF THE CURVE
For Mack Barnes, college is a place of discovery. Discovering more about the world. Discovering more about life. And discovering something about himself he never expected. Like most incoming freshmen at Wake Forest University, the Mountain Brook High School graduate was apprehensive about the transition to the college classroom. “I was definitely nervous because I didn’t know whether it would be too difficult,” Mack said. But he quickly realized that he was far more prepared than many of his classmates, some of whom had attended prestigious prep schools. “The first time I had grades posted, I was surprised to see I was No. 1 in that class,” he said. “That’s when I started to think maybe I was better prepared than most everybody else in there.” Over the course of that year, he saw how the types of tests he took and the papers he wrote at Wake Forest were similar to what he’d done at Mountain Brook. Some of his college classmates were not so fortunate. According to Mack, “One of my friends was struggling and came to me for help. As I explained the work to him, he asked me if I had been first in my high school class or something. He was shocked to hear I wasn’t. That’s what Mountain Brook does for you.” Mack’s story is more common than you might think. Our teachers work to bring out the best in every student. Whether they are moving from kindergarten to first grade, elementary school to junior high or high school to college, we are constantly fostering growth to prepare them for what lies ahead. MACK BARNES SOPHOMORE AT WAKE FOREST UNIVERSITY
“When you say you went to Mountain Brook, a public school in Alabama, people tend to underestimate you,” Mack said with a knowing grin. “But not for long.”
ONE SIZE DOESN’T FIT ALL Even with two sets of twins, Joe and Kate Hudson found that when it comes to learning, no two kids are exactly alike. And neither are the schools they attend. The Hudsons knew they had to do something. As their kids grew older, the private school where they were enrolled was failing to meet their specific needs. “They’re all different learners,” said Mrs. Hudson of her four children. “One is in the gifted program, one is a solid student and two struggle, with one having a learning disability. But they all had the same basic curriculum.” So Mr. and Mrs. Hudson began an exhaustive search to find a place in Birmingham that would be the best fit. And what they found was Cherokee Bend Elementary School. “We looked at every major public and private school in the city and were really impressed with how well Mountain Brook Schools analyzed students’ performances,” said Mr. Hudson. Added Mrs. Hudson, “We saw how the material really challenges the kids but how they also offer intervention for the ones who need it.”
reading tests at our previous school. I had 12 meetings with teachers there trying to address it, but nothing was ever done. Within the first week here, a teacher noticed it and had the tests enlarged to make them easier to read. Then she implemented that with the other teachers without me even having to ask for it. I don’t think people realize how special that is.” Such individualized attention on student growth made a positive impression on all four children, as well. “I’ve learned the difference in a fixed mindset and a growth mindset,” says 10-year-old Abby. “A fixed mindset means believing there’s something you can’t do. A growth mindset says you have to push through the challenges to do it. It changed my attitude. Now when things are difficult, instead of saying, ‘I can’t do this,’ I say, ‘I can’t do this. Yet.’”
Almost immediately, the family experienced the Mountain Brook difference, firsthand. Said Mrs. Hudson, “One of my kids has eye issues and had trouble
THE HUDSON FAMILY CHEROKEE BEND ELEMENTARY SCHOOL
CITIZENS AN OPPORTUNITY TO GROW AS
Even before they graduate, we consider our students valuable members of society. They have a lot to offer with their talents and ideas. We encourage them to get involved in making their lives, and the lives of those around them, the best they can be.
LEADING BY EXAMPLE
How one program is combining classroom lessons with real life lessons to create a better community and leaders for tomorrow. It is one thing to learn about city government while sitting in a classroom. It is another thing to learn about city government by becoming part of the process. Students enrolled in Leadership Mountain Brook get to experience both.
The joint program is headed up by Mountain Brook High School teacher Amber Benson and Mountain Brook Chamber of Commerce Project Manager Hannon Davidson. It is comprised of juniors and seniors and is designed to give students hands-on experience with all facets of city government. Ms. Davidson explained, “They get to see how leadership operates in the real world.” Being selected for the class is difficult. Students have to be nominated by a teacher, fill out an application and complete an interview process. According to senior Katie Littleton, “It was really nerve-wracking.” But the benefits it affords make it all worth the effort. “When it comes to developing leadership skills, there’s nothing like it,” said senior George Keller. Eventually, the students will develop projects that have to be presented to the City Council for approval. Past projects have included Spartan Square at the Mountain Brook Municipal Complex, community information boards and a
village-wide recycling program. “The students have to develop a full-fledged business plan and then secure the funds to have it implemented. It’s real life,” Ms. Davidson said. “At the end of the year, they’re connected to this city and community in a way nobody else is. I wish everybody in Mountain Brook could take this class.” “I’ve grown up in Mountain Brook and I really want to learn about how the city works,” said Katie. “But more than that, I want to see what I can do to make it an even better place to live.” A program like Leadership Mountain Brook is an example of how we continue to challenge students to grow in unexpected ways. But it also forces our teachers, administrators and city leaders to see them as far more than just students. Because that is exactly how they see themselves.
GEORGE KELLER AND KATIE LITTLETON SENIORS AT MOUNTAIN BROOK HIGH SCHOOL HANNON DAVIDSON CHAMBER PROJECT MANAGER
NG MORE THAN JUST HOUSES Getting kids to voluntarily give up their Saturdays to perform manual labor might seem like a tough task. But for many students at Mountain Brook High School, it is a labor of love.
KATRINA MCGUIRE TEACHER AT MOUNTAIN BROOK HIGH SCHOOL SPONSOR OF THE INTERACT CLUB KATIE REISS AND CHARLIE STEINMETZ STUDENTS AT MOUNTAIN BROOK HIGH SCHOOL
“Usually, we have 125-175 students involved with each project. This year it will be even more,” said Katrina McGuire without the least bit of surprise in her voice.
The Mountain Brook High School teacher sponsors the Interact Club that, in turn, organizes Habitat for Humanity student volunteers, of which there is no shortage. “When I post the sign-up sheet, it fills up quickly. I have to literally cut the bottom of the page off to keep people from continuing to sign up even after we’re full,” Mrs. McGuire said. Such clambering for inclusion happens not because teenagers are eager to spend a Saturday working on a construction site. It happens because they get to work side by side with the people they are helping, and that provides a level of satisfaction most people never get to experience. “Sometimes students will be scheduled to work only the morning shift and they’ll end up staying all day because they see how important the work is,” explained Mrs. McGuire. “There have been times I’ve had to send kids home just because we had too many people on the job site.” To say the program offers a unique experience would be an understatement. “Building a house is an incredible feat. How many people can say, ‘I helped build a house for a family in need’?” said Mrs. McGuire. “Most of our families have never owned a house and some have never even had their own room.” Similar opportunities are available throughout Mountain Brook Schools for students to get involved, teaching life lessons outside the classroom that they will take with them everywhere they go. Programs that expose our students to not only the reality of the world, but also the reality that they can make a difference in it.
SCHOOL AN OPPORTUNITY TO GROW AS A
We are the sum of our parts: all of the individual schools, faculty and students. And regardless of the successes achieved by each, there is always an opportunity to improve. It is that culture of striving for improvement â€“ both personally and professionally â€“ that will have a positive impact on the countless lives that will pass through our doors for generations to come.
CHALLENGING STU AND THE STATUS Q By changing the way teaching is done, Mountain Brook Schools is changing the way learning is done. Never one to be satisfied, Mountain Brook School Superintendent Dicky Barlow believes everything can be improved upon. Even the already outstanding curriculum in the school system he oversees. Said Mr. Barlow, “We’re constantly asking ourselves, ‘Will this help students learn? And does it engage them in a way that’s innovative and challenges them to think or act differently?’”
Committee member Carla Dudley is already thinking of ways her classes can benefit. “I want my students to be able to explore the things they’re passionate about,” said the fifth-grade writing teacher. “Have them research their individual writing projects and let them develop what it will look like in the end. I want them to take ownership.” Mr. Barlow sees the program as a way to implement new ideas on a small level, then possibly expand them to something much more encompassing. “It could change not only one specific class, but it could change the way teachers teach across the entire system,” he said.
It is that type of approach that has led to the creation of the Institute of Innovation, a committee made up of teachers and administrators tasked with evaluating new methods of stimulating and facilitating learning. Teachers are encouraged to come to the committee with ideas on how they might better engage their students, It is evidence of how the Mountain Brook school system continues to grow, not whether it be through a new piece of technology or just a new way of doing things. just with an evolving curriculum, but with a changing culture. Explains Mr. Barlow, If approved, those approaches are implemented and evaluated. “We want to create a culture of innovation and creativity in every part of our system. And in order for students to be creative and innovative, teachers have to “If it’s innovative and student-centered, we’ll fund it. But the teacher then has be creative and innovative. So we’re trying to foster that culture.” to research it, try it in the classroom, then they have to reflect on it and report back to the committee with what worked, what didn’t work, and where it should go in the future,” Mr. Barlow said. “It’s almost like a research grant.” DICKY BARLOW SUPERINTENDENT OF MOUNTAIN BROOK SCHOOLS CARLA DUDLEY TEACHER OF FIFTH-GRADE WRITING AT BROOKWOOD FOREST ELEMENTARY SCHOOL
Holly Martin knew she wanted to teach in the Mountain Brook school system. What she never expected was just how much she would learn along the way.
HOLLY MARTIN TEACHER OF 10TH GRADE ADVANCED AMERICAN STUDIES AT MOUNTAIN BROOK HIGH SCHOOL
After six years of teaching 10th grade Advanced American at the central office or among the administrative team and then Studies at Mountain Brook High School, Mrs. Martin has dictated to the faculty, teachers are encouraged to learn, and quite seen what a difference professional development can make often are the ones starting the conversations,” said Mrs. Martin. in a school. Providing teachers with opportunities to expand their skill sets with new insights is something she had not The most recent professional development efforts have focused on encouraging innovation and creativity – on behalf of the experienced at her previous job. “At other schools, teachers teachers as well as students. Said Mrs. Martin, “It’s caused us dread personal development because more often than not it’s to really ask the hard questions about what we do and how we not relevant,” Mrs. Martin said. “So most teachers see it as a do it. Ultimately, that’s what we want professional development waste of their most valuable commodity: their time.” to accomplish – to spark genuine growth.” But at Mountain Brook, professional development is specifically It is an example of how Mountain Brook is transitioning from designed to be time well spent. All of the opportunities are teaching to learning. And the kind of thing that has lots of centered on the student and each gives the teacher the ability people eagerly anticipating what the future holds, especially to take something away and immediately apply it to impact Mrs. Martin. “It’s an exciting time to be a part of a faculty at students in the classroom. Mountain Brook,” she said with a huge smile. “Our district is And its collaborative nature means everybody can take about to take off and do amazing things, and I can’t imagine ownership. “Rather than ideas and initiatives being generated not being a part of it.”
THE TEACHER THE STUDENT
AN OPPORTUNITY TO GROW AS A
Our responsibility extends far beyond the boundaries of our school campuses. Whether through educational programs, volunteer opportunities, school initiatives or just people helping people, we are doing good things in and around the places we call home.
SNOW ANGEL In the midst of a brutally cold winter storm, a group of Mountain Brook students display immeasurable warmth and compassion.
When a surprise snowstorm hammered Central Alabama, kids in schools across the area were looking forward to an afternoon of fun in the snow following an early dismissal.
said Cate. “We put space heaters all around her. It was so cold outside. I had been out there for about 15 minutes and had to come in. She was out there for more than an hour.”
Mountain Brook High School seniors Ben Rysedorph, Cate Harmon and Parker Henley were no different. “Right when school got out, I told a friend, ‘Hey, everybody come to my house,’” Ben said. “It was kind of meant as a joke, but suddenly there were all of these random people there.” But there was one person who showed up that no one could have expected.
Once Mrs. Newton was warmed up, Parker drove her to her patient’s house. “I was able to get her there in my truck. Then her husband was able to get to her there,” Parker said.
Dionna Newton is a private nurse who, like many others that day, got caught off guard by the weather. As she was trying to get home, her car got stuck in the ice. She tried to walk back to her patient’s house but underestimated just how far it was and ended up stranded, underdressed and exposed to the elements. “My feet were freezing and my stomach started hurting, which concerned me because I was pregnant,” she said. A man found her panicked and crying. Trying to get to his own children across town, he wasn’t in a position to help her right away. So he walked her to the Rysedorphs’ door. With Ben’s parents still snowed in at their offices, the kids never hesitated. “We brought her in, warmed her feet, got her blankets and something hot to drink,”
But it was the next day when she was taken to the ER that everyone learned just how serious the situation had been. “The doctor told me if I hadn’t gotten inside when I did, I would have lost my baby. And possibly my life,” said Mrs. Newton. For what they did and how it represented their community, Ben, Cate and Parker shrug it off. Cate said, “Who wouldn’t have taken another human being in and helped them in that situation?” Added Ben, “We didn’t even think about it. It was the right thing to do, and every one of us knew it.” While the kids might not consider their actions as anything special, Mrs. Newton and her husband, Jason, disagree. “We can’t begin to express our appreciation,” she said. “If we raise our child the same way these kids were raised, the world will surely become a better, more beautiful place.”
BEN RYSEDORPH, CATE HARMON AND PARKER HENLEY SENIORS AT MOUNTAIN BROOK HIGH SCHOOL
JEROME LEWIS CUSTODIAN AT CRESTLINE ELEMENTARY SCHOOL LAURIE KING PRINCIPAL AT CRESTLINE ELEMENTARY SCHOOL SLADE ANDERSON STUDENT AT CRESTLINE ELEMENTARY SCHOOL
A PASS I O N F O R C O M PASS I O N
A disease like cancer has the potential to tear lives apart. But one community learned that it also has the potential to bring people together. One elementary school. Two cancer diagnoses.
It is the kind of thing most people can’t begin to imagine. But that is exactly what happened to kindergartener Slade Anderson and custodian Jerome Lewis at Crestline Elementary School just months apart. Instead of standing idly by, Crestline principal Laurie King said the school and the community sprang into action. “Some parents set up a fund to send Mr. Lewis’s wife and son with him to Houston for treatment,” said Mrs. King. “In a matter of days, students were having bake sales, car washes and lemonade stands. It didn’t take long to raise the money.” Mr. Lewis was taken completely aback. “These kids, this community, this staff, the school board, people I’ve never even met … they all rallied around my hurt with cheerful giving. It was all out of love,” he said. While Mr. Lewis and his wife, June, were in Houston, the letters from home poured in. And they read every one. Mr. Lewis said, “Tears would stain our cheeks because of what these babies wrote. It was their hearts – no parents telling them what to write. It was their heartfelt concern for my family and me.” The level of support for Slade was no different. “From the very beginning, the school and the community were amazing,” said Slade’s mother, Emily Anderson. T-shirts were made, people started hanging
crosses on their doors and there was a big fundraiser for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital at 32 Degrees, a local yogurt bar. “The first time I came home from St. Jude’s, it had only been about a week and I saw all these doors with crosses on them. It was so touching,” Mrs. Anderson said. People everywhere were eager to help. “People brought dinners, people picked up my other kids and did so many little things to help,” said Mrs. Anderson. “The community has been unbelievable. We feel so lucky to be a part of it.” The way that such potentially devastating news was handled in such a positive way is a testament to the spirit displayed by Mr. Lewis and Slade. It is a testament to the strength of their families and the community that supports them. It is a testament that growth can happen under any circumstances. Mrs. King said, “It got the kids talking and sharing stories and coming up with ideas about how we can support people, so it ended up being something valuable for the kids in the long run.” Mr. Lewis agreed. “I thank God for everything,” he said. “I even thank him for my cancer because of what it’s enabled me to do and experience. I was able to minister to other cancer patients through this. I was able to connect to the community through this. This is one of the greatest hours of my life.”
AN OPPORTUNITY TO ACHIEVE
Year in and year out, Mountain Brook Schools ranks among the top school systems in the country with high test scores, leading graduation rates, challenging Advanced Placement classes and more.
Mountain Brook Schools has 63 TEACHERS who are certified by the NATIONAL BOARD FOR PROFESSIONAL TEACHING STANDARDS.
MOUNTAIN BROOK CITY SCHOOLS FOUNDATION provides an ongoing and dependable FUNDING SOURCE for our schools, focusing on technology, professional development and library enhancements. Since 1995, the Foundation has contributed $5.2 MILLION to our schools.
IN 2014, THE MBHS ACT
27.3. 20.9. average composite score was
The NATIONAL AVERAGE composite score was
PERCENTAGE OF MBHS GRADUATES WHO TYPICALLY GO ON TO COLLEGE.
97 % 1
22 In 2014, MBHS oﬀered
ADVANCED PLACEMENT COURSES.
347 897 STUDENTS TOOK
In its 48-year histor y, MBHS has won
state athletic championships, more than any ot h e r A l a b a m a p u b l i c s c h o o l.
MOUNTAIN BROOK SCHOOLS RANKED NATIONALLY BY: IS CONSISTENTLY
639 92 NATIONAL MERIT SCHOLARSHIP FINALISTS
IN THE PAST
THE COLLEGE BOARD honored MBHS for its ACADEMIC EXCELLENCE and outstanding support of and participation in the ADVANCED PLACEMENT PROGRAM.
OUTRANKING THE NATION
Average PSAT scores over the past five years MBHS 11TH GR ADE NATIONAL
60 50 40
RHODES SCHOL ARS AND
FULBRIGHT SCHOL AR
HAVE GRADUATED FROM MBHS.
20 10 RE ADING
The Alabama Reading and Mathematics Test proficiency rating for students in grades 3 - 8 in Mountain Brook Schools was
98 % 98 %
IN READING AND
IN MATHEMATICS. Students in fifth and seventh grades had a
The purpose of Mountain Brook Schools is to provide an EFFECTIVE, CHALLENGING, AND ENGAGING EDUCATION to every one of our students.
THIS REPORT WAS MADE POSSIBLE BY
DONATIONS FROM: READY MIX USA
DESIGN, CONCEPT AND COPY DONATED BY