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Best of the BCS as 2022-2023 City School Year Winds Down

The mission of George Washington Carver High School for Health Professions, Engineering, and Technology includes cultural enrichment such as the Heritage Hispanic Festival. (PROVIDED PHOTO)
The Birmingham Times

A look at a few accomplishments for Birmingham City Schools and its students for the 2022-2023 school year from high marks by an international accreditation agency to more than $80 million in facilities upgrades.

W.J. Christian 8th-Grader Finalist in Nationwide Google Contest

Brooklyn Chandler, an 8th grader
at Birmingham’s W.J. Christian K-8 School, one of 55 state and territory winners, is entered into a nationwide Doodle for Google voting competition. (PROVIDED PHOTO)

Brooklyn Chandler, an 8th grader at Birmingham’s W.J. Christian K-8 School, has been selected as one of 55 state and territory winners of its 15th Annual Doodle for Google contest.

Chandler will now be entered into a nationwide Doodle for Google voting competition at doodle4google.com. Folks can help determine who out of the 55 state/territory finalists will go on to become one of Google’s five national finalists — and one of who will become its overall national winner.

In January, Google asked students across the U.S. to submit ideas for this year’s contest and invited K-12 students to answer the prompt “I am grateful for…” through their art. Across ages, students showcased what they appreciate most in thoughtful and intentional ways.

Chandler titled her entry (attached) “Conspicuous Hair,” and wrote of her design: “I am grateful for … my hair. I drew my hair because I believe my hair is a blessing, even though I’ve been ridiculed for it, and it’s been treated like a toy, I love my hair. The reason for my title is because, around my family, I’m always pointed out first because of my easily noticeable hair.”

Doodle for Google is an annual contest open to students in grades K-12 in all 50 states plus Washington DC, Puerto Rico, US Virgin Islands and Guam. Students are encouraged to use their creativity to create their own interpretation of the Google logo, centered around an annual theme. This year it is, “I care for myself by…”

The Doodle for Google winner be shown on the homepage on June 6.

Bush Hills STEAM Academy Now Home to Transformative Learning Program

Bush Hills STEAM Academy is now home to the latest Ed Farm Space, a dedicated area for a new transformative learning program, in partnership with Birmingham City Schools and tech and education nonprofit Ed Farm. The program uses advanced tools that help students gain future-focused skills, learn with disruptive technologies, and have their creativity inspired.

Bush Hills Academy welcomed local leaders in May to a ribbon-cutting for the new space. The academy is Birmingham City Schools’ first science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics (STEAM) school. Thanks to the Ed Farm Space, students at Bush Hills will have access to a range of resources, including a podcasting studio, a video lab, a fabrication lab, makerspace, and a code lab that introduces early concepts of computer science using Apple’s Everyone Can Code curriculum.

“We are extremely happy to have this relationship with Ed Farm,” said Mark Sullivan, superintendent of Birmingham City Schools. “Engaging our students with technology is key to preparing them for the future.”

Conflict resolution program expanding next fall

The Birmingham City Schools program designed to bring conflict resolution tools to students is expanding in the fall.

Right now, the program is in every high school and middle school, but it’s only for male students. The district has been testing a female oriented program and now plans on expanding to female students.

Birmingham City Schools has had a pilot program this semester with five different female-oriented programs. They have more than 400 students participating, but besides the pilot program, its all-male classes. They plan to expand next fall and offer a female class at every high school and middle school.

“There are so many distractors at a certain age for kids,” Birmingham’s Presiding Municipal Judge Andre Sparks said. “When we can sit down and just talk to young guys about being you guys, and young ladies about being you ladies, I think we can help them focus more on some of the issues at hand.”

They’ll use specific curriculum and lessons targeted to young female problems and officials said it’s can be easier for kids to open up when they are separated from the other gender.

“Each session is driven by a curriculum and there’s a concentration on a particular topic for that particular day,” Sparks said. “One day might be decision making and so the entire period is dealing with the topic of how to make good decisions. Another might be how to deal with your circle of friends.”

UAB’s ‘Healthy Happy Kids’ Graduates Over 2,300 Birmingham Elementary Students

The University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Minority Health and Health Equity Research Center and the Birmingham City Schools system celebrated the graduation of more than 2,300 students from the Healthy Happy Kids program in early May.

HHK is an eight-week after-school program that focuses on teaching children what their bodies need to stay healthy so they can potentially avoid obesity-related chronic diseases when they are older.

The MHERC developed the program using evidence-based research and best practices. In the past, classes were led by nutritionists and exercise experts and the MHERC delivered HHK at two elementary schools a year.

This year, the MHERC redesigned HHK so that teachers and after-school care directors could teach the classes. Now with support of funding partners and community resources, HHK is implemented at every elementary school in the Birmingham City Schools system. More than 200 BCS after-school care directors are trained as HHK leaders and are teaching HHK to more than 2,300 students in 24 after-school care programs.

Woodlawn HS Student, Birmingham Promise Scholar, Makes History at UAB

Woodlawn High School’s Destiny Nelson-Miles graduated from UAB with a degree in finance and a concentration in business honors after excelling in Woodlawn’s early college program. (PROVIDED PHOTO)

Destiny Nelson-Miles in April became the first Birmingham Promise Scholar to graduate from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Nelson-Miles, a finance major in the UAB Collat School of Business, completed the rigorous Early College Program at Woodlawn High School and enrolled at UAB with 69 hours of college credit.

She graduated after only two years on campus. The Birmingham native is 19 years old, and while graduating at such an early age is an accomplishment, she says she could not have done it alone.

She credits a portion of her success to the Birmingham Promise Scholars Program, which provides four years of tuition assistance for graduates of Birmingham City Schools to attend any public two-year or four-year college or university in Alabama. The program, launched by the City of Birmingham, also provides students with coaches to help them succeed in college — the most helpful tool, according to Nelson-Miles.

“The finance program at UAB is awesome,” Nelson-Miles said. “It gives a lot of opportunities to explore the many different disciplines in finance. Collat does a really good job of getting finance majors hands-on experience.”

Martha Gaskins fifth graders win anti-bullying campaign contest

A fifth-grade class at Martha Gaskins Elementary School took first prize in May in an anti-bullying campaign contest for their public service announcement video highlighting the importance of standing up for one another.

Students in Yuvraj Verma’s class wrote, shot and edited their own video for the PACER Center’s National Bullying Prevention Center’s “Student with Solutions” competition after finding out about it on social media.

“I’m a part of a Facebook group that has different competitions and that students in elementary school can be a part of,” Verma says. “The competition lasted from late January until April, meaning it took us about two and a half months.”

“Every day, we would practice our lines and every day, we’d work with others on their lines as well,” added Kaitlyn Moore, one of the students involved with the video. “We used our school iPads to help work on everything we did.”

Ramsay High School students invited to perform at Carnegie Hall on May 13.

Once you hear the introduction, it’s easy to sing along with the famous line “they say the neon lights are bright on Broadway.”

Members of the choirs at Birmingham’s Ramsay High School were invited to perform at Carnegie Hall on May 13.

The choirs joined Alabama State University’s choir and ASU Director of Choral Activities, Dr. Kristofer Sanchack who was invited to be a guest conductor of Adolphus Hailstork’s “I Will Lift Up Mine Eyes” with the New England Symphonic Ensemble.

“A lot of people have very successful careers both in choral music, solo music, opera, theater, dance and never set foot in that building” Zachary Banks, of Ramsay told Birmingham City Schools. “So it’s pretty impressive that we’re taking a bunch of teenagers to get an opportunity to perform at Carnegie Hall.”

$2.4 million on new metal detectors

Several Birmingham high and middle schools will soon have an additional layer of security.

The Birmingham Board of Education in April approved purchasing new concealed weapons detection systems. The new systems will be placed in all BCS high schools and some middle schools, according to a release from the school system. The new technology will allow school officials to search more thoroughly as students and visitors enter facilities.

Superintendent Dr. Mark Sullivan says metal detectors that currently are in use at high schools will be transferred to some middle schools and elementary schools to provide an added level of security.

The district will spend about $2.4 million on the new detectors, which will be in place by the start of the next school year according to Sullivan.

“Protecting Birmingham City Schools students and employees is our priority”, stated BCS Superintendent Mark Sullivan. “The Board of Education and the entire district recognizes the importance of a proactive approach to safety and security.”

BCS members say this will allow school officials to scan more thoroughly as more students and visitors enter the facilities.

City Schools receives high marks in latest accreditation report

Birmingham City Schools received its highest-ever score from the International Accrediting Agency in March.

According to BCS, Cognia, the world’s largest education improvement organization awarded the district a score of 335. This is the highest score Birmingham has received since it began its partnership with Cognia more than a decade ago.

“This success happens because of our educators, and all those who support our core business of teaching and learning, are committed to producing favorable outcomes for all of our students,” says Superintendent Dr. Mark Sullivan.

Key findings from the review included:

The BCS learning culture is free from bias and reflects the values of respect, fairness and inclusion.

BCS has a continuous improvement process that includes goals focused on learner performance.

Learners in BCS are engaged through courses that foster life-long skills, and they benefit from high expectations and engaging experiences that promote and develop their self-confidence and love of learning.

System leaders are committed to investing in the professional growth of faculty and staff and the well-being of learners, leaders, and staff.

“We still have room for improvement,” says Dr. Sullivan, “But our overall score of 335 means that this district more than meets the standards for a solid educational system.”

Martha Gaskins students win big in robotics competition

A group of fifth graders from Martha Gaskins Elementary School competed in the Fall 2022 CoderZ League Robotics Competition and walked away with the title of Eastern United States Champions.

“This should not be considered or perceived as the end, but the beginning,” said fifth-grade teacher and robotics coach Yuvraj Verma.

Students were challenged to program a computer robot using codes to complete tasks and puzzles.

“They have so many more years in their lives, educationally as well as personally, where they can really do so much more and really expand on the knowledge and the information that they learned from this competition in careers and in education,” Verma said.

The team competed with more than 60 other school teams from across the eastern United States.

A team of six fifth-graders won the first place prize, and the school’s other team of five placed 12th.

Hudson K-8 Selected as a Verizon Innovative Learning School

Representatives of the Birmingham Board of Education, Birmingham City Council and Bertram A. Hudson K-8 cut the ribbon on a new science lab in August completed through a partnership with Verizon and education nonprofit Heart of America, which will give Hudson students access to educational technology, including augmented and virtual reality hardware, artificial intelligence, 3D printing and coding.

Verizon Innovative Learning program addresses barriers to digital inclusion by providing free technology, access and a next-gen technology infused curriculum that transforms the learning experience and enables students to develop the skills, knowledge, and capabilities needed to thrive in the digital world.

Justin Tanner, Government Affairs, Verizon said the company was excited to help provide students with technology that helps with future growth.

“So many students across the nation lack the access to technology and resources they need to be successful in today’s digital world,” said Tanner. “On behalf of Verizon, we are excited to enable students in Hudson K-8 School and Wilkerson Middle School in the Birmingham City Schools with this multi-year initiative that integrates emerging technology with an online, project-based curriculum along with real-world problem solving in a custom-designed, experiential learning lab.”.

ARMS to increase mental health services for students

Birmingham City Schools announced in July that it and Alabama Regional Medical Services (ARMS) will collaborate to increase the availability of behavioral health services and wrap around support for school students and their families.

The Birmingham Board of Education approved an agreement with ARMS to serve six schools, in addition to its current wraparound services clinic at Wenonah High School.

BCS officials said schools will provide space for behavioral health professionals to serve the students. ARMS will offer the services, using grant money and Medicaid payments to handle the costs. Students and families will not be charged out-of-pocket expenses for the services.

BCS officials said the new services through ARMS are offered at Hayes K-8, Washington K-8, Green Acres Middle, Carver High, Huffman High and Brown K-5. ARMS also will also continue providing a variety of medical and behavioral health services through its dedicated clinic at Wenonah High School.

Schools continue upgrades

Birmingham City Schools is investing more than $82 million in facility upgrades for students and the district’s future.

At Huffman Middle School, a new gym, cafeteria, and other enhancements are almost complete. Woodlawn High School’s new stadium will be ready for fall sports.  The district also has continued with investments in technology, as well as upgrades for security.

Birmingham high schools and several middle schools soon will have an additional layer of security. The Birmingham Board of Education recently approved the purchase of new concealed weapons detection systems.

The new systems will be installed in all BCS high schools and some middle schools. This will allow school officials to scan more thoroughly as students and visitors enter facilities. Metal detectors that currently are in use at high schools will be transferred to some middle schools and elementary schools to provide an added level of security.