Believe It Montgomery

By on 1 April, 2011 in City Living, Heather Coleman, Schools with 2 Comments

For years I have heard people say, “I wish that we had good neighborhood schools”, but there has never really been any sort of plan to come together as a community and change the status quo — that is, until now! Believe It Montgomery is an exciting new grassroots community engagement program sponsored by the Montgomery Education Foundation (MEF) that promises to give a voice to our community by offering structured planning sessions across the county. MEF is a nonprofit group that works to provide all children in our community with a quality public education. Believe It grew out of the realization that community was essential to the attainment of that goal.

Believe It is unique in that it is community driven. All voices are equal and no one is excluded. Trained volunteers steer the meetings and anyone can host a meeting. Call the office and give them a time and location and they will provide you with trained volunteer facilitators. If you need help finding a meeting location, they can assist you with that as well. Staff are trying to make sure that at least one meeting is being held in each of the 44 voting precincts in Montgomery County. These meetings are being held in churches, community centers, homes — anywhere that communities gather.

Great communities start with strong schools. Here in Midtown, we have wonderful neighborhoods full of parks that are well-suited for families, but we are missing the enhanced connection that a strong neighborhood school brings. Our children are spread out over various private and magnet schools, dividing our interest and taking the focus away from our community. Believe It hopes to bring that focus back and strengthen our common bonds, empowering us to make the schools and neighborhoods that we dream of a reality.

The community meetings being hosted by Believe It aren’t just for parents. Business owners, community and religious leaders, single people, couples, parents, grandparents, and even students are all invited to attend. There is a strong connection between education and community and the meetings are focusing on that relationship. Believe It reminds us that schools belong to everyone and we have a right to demand accountability. At meetings, participants are asked to define the ideal community and the ideal education system. Then they work to come up with real life solutions to help reach those goals.

At the end of the process, the Montgomery Education Foundation will gather all of the data from these meetings and help draft an agreement between the community and the school system. The agreement will contain measurable short and long term goals decided on in the meetings. MEF will act as the watchdog for the community, ensuring that these goals are kept at the forefront of the discussion and that steps are being taken to reach those goals. They hope to help keep citizens engaged and involved in the process.

Other communities have seen great success with this model. In our state alone, Birmingham, Mobile and Dothan have all implemented similar programs. All have seen measurable improvement in their schools. Dothan alone saw 1,000 students return to their system. Other communities saw reduced dropout rates, increases in performance, diminished crime and improved accessibility to early childhood programs — all things desperately needed here in Montgomery!

After attending a meeting, I am really excited about the future of education in our community. Finally people are realizing that they can bring about change on their own, instead of waiting for the government to do it for them. They are reconnecting with each other, reengaging and getting excited about the future. Midtown especially has great potential in that we already have strong communities and neighborhood associations in place. Midtown and downtown have both seen a huge resurgence in business and industry in the last ten years. Now it is time for the schools to catch up.

If you are wondering what you can do, start by visiting Believe It online. If you are connected on Facebook and Twitter, you can find them there as well. Get a sign for your yard. Spread the word. Most importantly, attend a meeting and have your voice heard. There is one coming up on Tuesday, April 5th at the old Cloverdale Jr. High at 5:30. I hope to see you there!

Heather Coleman is a freelance writer and part-time DIY’er who mostly manages to fit her projects in around her family and her volunteer work. She lives with her husband, two boys and two pets in Midtown.

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There Are 2 Brilliant Comments

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  1. Gabbie says:

    Great article-thanks for the info!!!

  2. Heather C says:

    Thanks Gabbie! I am excited by the potential and hope that real change can come to our schools.

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