Diversity Committee engages in conversation, evaluation during summer meetings

  • Mountain Brook Schools announced in early June the formation of a Diversity Committee tasked with examining the school system’s efforts to achieve the following strategic goal:

    Develop or enhance structures and practices to ensure that the school district honors individual differences, diversity, and the dignity of all, and that all members of the school community are treated with respect.

    The announcement followed an Anti-Semitic incident involving MBS students in May and a wave of injustices experienced across the country by religious communities and communities of color.

    The committee is comprised of 17 individuals representing the school system’s various stakeholder groups, along with faith leaders and ambassadors from local diversity education organizations.

    A list of committee members is below:

    Jenny Argo: Teacher, Mountain Brook Junior High

    Stephen Bridgers: MBS Parent

    Christy Christian: Principal, Crestline Elementary

    Donald Clayton: Principal, Mountain Brook Junior High

    Al Cohn, M.D.: MBS Parent

    Danny Cohn: Chief Professional Executive Officer, Birmingham Jewish Federation

    Cameron Cole: MBS Parent

    Carla Dudley: Assistant Principal, Cherokee Bend Elementary

    Christi Elias: Teacher/Coach, Mountain Brook High School

    Hannah Halpern: Student, Mountain Brook High School

    Ann Mollengarden: Education Coordinator, Birmingham Holocaust Education Center

    Sandy Ritchey: Principal, Cherokee Bend Elementary

    Brock Rotter: Teacher, Mountain Brook High School

    Ben Wei, M.D.: MBS Parent

    Adam Williamson: Student, Mountain Brook High School

    Adam Wright: Rabbi, Temple Emanu-El

    Charles Woods: Outreach Coordinator, Birmingham Civil Rights Institute

    “We are grateful for the individuals who served on this committee,” MBS Superintendent Dr. Dicky Barlow said. “They possess unique strengths, provide valuable perspectives, and understand our community’s values. Moreover, they share a desire to help our school system foster acceptance and inclusion while preparing our students for life in a diverse world.”

    Christy Christian and Dr. Al Cohn served as facilitators for the committee, which met on June 11, July 7, and August 4. At each meeting, committee members referenced four guiding questions to lead discussions.

    What is MBS doing now that contributes to its picture of success?

    What is MBS doing now that needs to be redesigned?

    What does MBS need to stop doing?

    What does MBS need to start doing?

    The initial meeting in June allowed committee members to introduce themselves to one another, review existing diversity initiatives at each Mountain Brook school, and establish the committee’s goal.

    In July, committee members learned about the diversity education resources available to MBS. The meeting featured presentations from the Anti-Defamation League, Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, Birmingham Holocaust Education Center, Global Prep Club, and YWCA.

    After its July meeting, the committee divided into three subcommittees focused on the areas of programming and curriculum; communication and community; and professional learning and student training. The subcommittees met individually to formulate recommendations they presented to the full committee when it reconvened in early August.

    Committee facilitators are in the process of distilling those findings and will soon provide formal recommendations on behalf of the committee to MBS. The school system plans to begin consideration and implementation of those recommendations beginning in the 2020-2021 school year.