At the first board meeting for most of its members, the Birmingham Board of Education Tuesday night approved a new instructional support position to work exclusively with students at 13 city schools on the state’s “failing” list.
Led by newly elected board President Cheri Gardner, the board also approved hiring a new English as a second language instructor to serve multiple schools and heard from Superintendent Lisa Herring about a five-stop Listening and Learning tour she plans over the next three weeks.
The targeted instructional support position calls for an experienced teacher to work with the system’s lowest-performing schools – those that scored in the lowest 6 percent of state standardized reading and math scores on 2016 test results. The state Board of Education’s list of 75 failing schools was released in January.
The schools are Carver High, Jackson-Olin High, Parker High, Huffman High-Magnet, Wenonah High, Woodlawn High-Magnet, Hayes K-8, Hemphill Elementary, Smith Middle, South Hampton K-8, Arrington Middle, Washington Elementary and Jones Valley Middle schools.
Last year, 18 city schools were on the state’s failing list.
The new position will report to Charles Willis, an administrator who oversees the city’s high schools. Referring to the targeted schools as “promise schools” in need of extra support, Willis said this first specialized position will work with principals and teachers to identify deficits to target improvement strategies.
In other business, the board:
- Elected Gardner, who represents District 6, as president of the board and new member Douglas Lee Ragland, who represents District 1, as vice president. Gardner is one of only three incumbents on the board. The others are Daagye Hendricks, District 4, and Sandra Brown, District 9. Ragland, 60, retired as superintendent of Midfield schools and is one of six new members who attended their first board meeting this week. Other new board members are Terri Michal, District 2; Mary Drennan Boehm, District 3; Michael Millsap, District 5; Patricia Stagner McAdory, District 7; and Sonja Q. Smith, District 8.
- Heard from Herring about a Superintendent’s Listening and Learning tour she plans over the next three weeks. On the job about seven months, Herring was hired in May 2017 to replace Kelley Castlin-Gacutan, who was fired in September 2016 after 16 months in the position. The five listening tour events are set for 10 a.m. Nov. 18 at the Ward Building at Lawson State Community College, 5:30 p.m. Nov. 20 at Huffman High School, 5:30 p.m. Nov. 27 at Washington K-8, 5:30 p.m. Nov. 30 at Parker High School and 5:30 p.m. Dec. 4 at Jackson-Olin High School.
- Approved a recurring maintenance agreement for 2018 with the company that for more than 13 years has managed the system’s Windows-based software systems for payroll, budgeting, finance and payment. The agreement with Harris School Solutions includes software licenses and annual maintenance for $167,676.65 annually.
- In the board highlights section, heard from Boehm, who said a two-day retreat held last week in Tuscaloosa for new board members, incumbents and key administrators helped orient the new members. “I think we have a shared vision for improving outcomes for students and schools,” Boehm said, “please hold us accountable for that.”
- In the timed Community Voice period, State Rep. Mary Moore, D-Birmingham and a former school board member, encouraged greater transparency by the board and asked that the public have access to the detailed agenda the board uses, noting, “It’s our money that you are spending.”
- Approved memorandums of agreement with Girls Inc. of Central Alabama, United Way of Central Alabama and College Admissions Made Possible to provide services to schools through September 2018 as part of Gear Up Birmingham, a college readiness program funded by a seven-year $19 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education. Camp provides ACT preparedness training in reading and math to ninth- and tenth-graders at city high schools.