By Charles Barnette
We read and hear too much about what’s wrong with our schools. But we don’t focus enough on what’s right about public education, especially for Midtown Montgomery residents with families.
Far too many people say that it’s bad to live in the city because the schools are better in the suburban counties. The facts show this perception is simply not true. Living in suburban counties guarantees neither protection nor academic excellence. Montgomery has had more National Merit and National Achievement Scholars than all the private schools in the tri-county area and public school systems in the Autauga and Elmore counties combined. Check out the facts from the Alabama Department of Education.
Take for example these public magnet schools located in Midtown: Loveless Academic Magnet is considered by Newsweek magazine to be an Elite School, ranking it in the Top 20 upper schools in the USA. Loveless was ranked as the 20th best high school and fourth best magnet school in the nation for 2009 by U.S. News and World Report, and it was the only Gold Medal winner for the State of Alabama. Booker T. Washington Magnet was among 10 Alabama high schools and 1,600 high schools in America to be included on the Newsweek America’s Best High School list last year. It also boasts Alabama’s Teacher of the Year for 2009 and was twice recognized by Redbook magazine as “One of America’s Best Schools.” Baldwin Academic and Arts Magnet and Floyd Middle Magnet for Math, Science and Technology excel in their offerings and student achievement levels rank high.
Midtown elementary schools excel, too. Forest Avenue Academic Magnet, which operates with an accelerated academic curriculum, is a U.S. Department of Education Blue Ribbon School, recognized as a Safe School award recipient, and a Renaissance Master School for its reading initiative. MacMillian International Academy for Humanities, Communications and Technology continues to be named a Torchbearer School, the highest award for making significant strides in student achievement. Bear Exploration Center for Mathematics, Science and Technology challenges its students with accelerated courses. Dalraida and Forest Avenue have certified as Accelerated Reader Model Schools. Schooldigger.com ranks Bear and Forest Avenue as tied for the highest ranking test score schools in Alabama in 2009.
Many Midtown public elementary schools offer advanced courses for students who want to achieve more. Head Elementary is a Renaissance Master School and has long held a tradition of excellence in educating the total child in a safe and nurturing environment. Vaughn Road Elementary has a special focus on math and reading for all students and involving parents and guardians.
Career training for a lifetime is important in Midtown Montgomery upper schools. Lee High offers an I.T. Academy, Jeff Davis High has a Teaching Academy and Lanier High offers six special academies within its curriculum offerings.
If these options aren’t possible, there’s always home schooling–a growing trend-and private schools, parochial or sectarian. Just because we don’t read about them, even private schools have their problems and for some kids, they simply aren’t Utopia. They don’t shelter students from social and physical problems, plus they often add excess stress and pressure.
The bottom line is that schools should not be the only issue when looking for a home. There are fine public schools available and other great options. And, if your mind is made up to go the private schools, you might as well buy in Midtown, which is more affordable and will leave some money in the kitty for that expensive tuition (which often rivals or surpasses college fee levels).
And yes, if the schools aren’t doing what you think they should and they aren’t preparing all students to become responsible citizens, improve social conditions and help students become economically self sufficient, get involved. Help by volunteering, become a tutor or mentor, contribute books and other resources. Let your children help others who need a positive role model in their lives. Partnering will have a positive effect on the students, teachers, businesses and the community.
In the words of my friend Sandra Nickel, “Together, we can overcome the problems faced in our schools. That’s good for our property values. It’s good for attracting good-paying businesses to the city. It’s good for achieving our place as the state’s largest and best city. But even better, it’s right for those of us who choose to be a part of Midtown Montgomery. It will make it an even better place to live, play, shop, work and worship.”
Charles Barnette, who lived in Midtown for nearly 30 years, is a writer; public relations, marketing and advertising agency owner; Hat Team client, and a fan of Sandra Nickel, Midtown’s top champion. Recently, he moved to live with his son in Huntsville, but maintains clients in Montgomery. Charles created and managed the Midtown Living paper for Sandra Nickel Realtors.