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Sustaining Budgets During Tough Times
Mountain Brook, Alabama -- One small school district outside of Birmingham, Alabama, has found funding for technology, professional development, and library enhancements through the support of the Mountain Brook City Schools Foundation. Mountain Brook Schools includes 4 elementary schools, 1 junior high and 1 senior high.
Securing Future Funding
The Alabama Power Foundation created seed grants to enable many districts to start foundations to alleviate that gap. The foundations use different approaches to raise money and distribute the funds. Some work with their community and others target national foundations or corporations for support. The Mountain Brook Foundation works with the superintendent to prioritize projects and allocate funds. Other districts allow teachers to apply directly to the foundation for support of specific activities.
A Capital Campaign
"We answered all of the negative questions in our own minds before we went public," said Carmine Jordan, Executive Director of the Mountain Brook Foundation. "We had good reasons for funding particular programs and we wanted to share that with the community. We trained everyone to respond to a wide range of questions from people we approached before they went out."
A Reliable Source
The school district did a study and found that books in the non-fiction department of the school libraries were too far out of date," said Jordan. "They set a goal to raise the average copyright date. As a result, we've purchased over 4500 library books to benefit everyone and improved the average copyright date from 1979 to 1992."
Evidence of Change
The Foundation leverages successful programs to sustain them and broaden their reach. The success of a state-funded reading specialist at one elementary school was presented to the committee as evidence for the support of a second specialist at another school. To improve student writing and keyboard skills, they purchased Alpha Smart keyboards, a low-cost way to offer more students more access to learn the basic skills for technology use. Mountain Brook Schools was one of three systems chosen for the National Award for Model Professional Development in 2000.
Engage the Community
"Education is a high priority in our community," she says. "Most people think that taxes and state government ought to pay for it, we had to convince people that it was a good idea. We have a history of being an excellent school district and we've enabled our district to continue that excellence."