The board of directors of the Mountain Brook City Schools Foundation last month approved grants of $382,776 for library, professional development and technological enhancements in the school system.
The grants will help provide a Chromebook cloud-based device to all Mountain Brook High School students, continue employing a math coach at the elementary level and fund the Institute for Innovation, among other projects.
The foundation approved the requests during its board meeting May 18, according to a news release. The foundation, which has an endowment valued at about $8 million, helps to bridge the gap between the school system’s annual needs and the amount it receives from local and state sources.
Of this year’s grant money, $175,776 will fund the school system’s website, replace classroom projectors, continue to fund MBTV with EduVision, an internet broadcasting company, and offer a new technology bundle to all Mountain Brook High School students.
The foundation’s underwriting of the new technology bundle, paired with technology fees paid by families during registration, will arm each student with a Chromebook and provide school system management, tech support, customer care and email and content filtering.
“The foundation has been the catalyst to help determine which way the school system should go in terms of devices,” Dicky Barlow, Mountain Brook school superintendent, said in the news release.
A research committee consisting of administrators, faculty, students and volunteers helped determine what technology was the best option for students and faculty at the high school.
School officials said the Chromebook will have everything loaded that students need to complete classwork, do research, communicate with faculty and each other, and take tests. Because Mountain Brook Schools cannot securely monitor individually owned electronic devices, the school cannot allow students to take tests on their personal devices. Providing students with a monitored device puts all students and faculty on an even playing field.
“Usually the system requests funding for technology and then gives it to the teachers with a directive to implement its use,” Barlow said. “This time, the teachers have asked for this very important technology initiative. This change in the request process is evidence of the difference the foundation’s support is making.”
In addition to the technology funding, each of the system’s six school libraries will receive $2,000, which will enable them to buy books, magazines, subscriptions and software.
“Due to the large demand by students, this funding will enable librarians to purchase more eBooks, so more than one student can check out a book at one time,” Dr. Missy Brooks, director of curriculum and instruction, said in the news release.
Furthermore, $195,000 was awarded for the continuation of partial funding for a math coach at the elementary level, summer professional learning stipends for all faculty members and a virtual learning space through the Institute for Innovation.
“We cannot take students on weekly field trips around the world, but we can provide them with an alternative,” Mountain Brook High School foreign language teacher Jessie Creech said during a board programs and needs committee meeting. “With projectors, Google Earth and motion controls, we can bring the world to our students by immersing them in a virtual world.”
The latest grants bring the foundation’s donations to Mountain Brook schools to almost $6 million since its inception in 1992.
“It is exciting to hear how our teachers are using these resources and rewarding to see their enthusiasm for the new initiatives,” Alice Womack, Foundation board president, said in the news release. “The foundation is making a difference for all of the students of Mountain Brook.”