Students return to classes at Birmingham City Schools Monday, and for the first time they enter a school system has district-wide accreditation.
Monday marked the first day of the 2018-19 school year. The district received full accreditation this summer from AdvancED, a non-profit, non-partisan accrediting organization that conducts on-site reviews of a variety of educational institutions.
“This really, I think, galvanizes our school system and makes sure that everybody knows that you can get a high quality education when you come to Birmingham City Schools,” Dr. Mark Sullivan, Birmingham City Schools chief of staff, said.
Individual schools in the district have been accredited in the past, but never the entire district. Sullivan says its the first part of a multi-step plan to make improvements in the district.
It’s not the only thing that’s new in the district. Leaders also are implementing a dress code to replace the uniform policy, meaning students can now wear jeans, khakis, capri pants and shorts. But there are parameters. According to the district’s website, they are prohibited form wearing hoodies, cargo pants, tight clothes and sagging pants. Sullivan says it’s a transition year as everyone gets accustomed to the change. But it’s something parents, students and administrators had requested, saying that too much time was being spent on simple uniform violations.
“I think that it gives our kids an opportunity to be more independent and show their individuality at the same time while they’re in class and learning,”Sullivan said. “So we’re really excited about this change.”
The district also is offering an app for the first time. It’s available in the App Store and provides school and district updates. Parents had an opportunity to use it during the registration process.
“The app is going to be really beneficial for us pushing notifications out to parents,” Sullivan said. “So if you are a parent, please download our app. Even if you’re not a parent, you can download our app so that you can find out the great things going on in Birmingham City Schools.”
But even with everything that’s new, leaders’ top priority is safety and security. It’s always a front-of-mind issue, especially this year following the shooting at Huffman High School that killed a student last year. Sullivan says all of the district’s high schools have school resource officers. They’re also installing alarm systems that alert administrators when students exit certain doors. And they plan to partner with the Birmingham Police for active shooter training. But they’ll also focus on getting to know individual students.
“When administrators, when teachers build relationships with students, then those students share information that they have around any kind of dangerous situation,” Sullivan said.