District 1

District 2

District 3

District 4

District 5

District 6

District 7

District 8

District 9

Martha McDowell (no response)
David McKinney (no response)
Michael Millsap (no response)
Andrea Mitchell (no response)
Aaisha Muhammad (no response)
Angela Scoggins-Watson (no response)

Contact information for the following candidates could not be found:
Buford Burks (District 5)
Eloise Crenshaw Manning (District 5)

Cheri Gardner (Incumbent) (no response)
Ervin Philemon Hill Sr. (no response)

1. What is your stance on comprehensive sex education within the Birmingham City Schools?

Bennie Holmes - I am in agreement with offering a comprehensive "family" sex education program that include the parent(s) of the student(s) engaged 100% percent.

Cedric Small - I am a the father of four daughters. I believe comprehensive sex education is a topic that should be addressed within the home first. However, as a pastor i am aware that this is not a topic that many families care to discuss, therefore comprehensive education regarding sex, taught by an certified instructor, is important within the Birmingham City School system.

2. What book or books have most influenced your thinking on education policy and why?

Holmes - SBA: The Reawakening of the African Mind by: Asa G. Hilliard and The Mis-Education of The Negro by: Dr. Carter G. Woodson.  These two African-American authors with outstanding scholarship speak to the need of an educational system designed by African-Americans for
African-Americans.

Small - No response

3. What is your own experience with public education and how will your own experience influence your work as a board member?

Holmes - I am a father of eight (8) children all attended public school and Ten (10) grandchildren all currently attending public schools. I have been and still is, a strong supporter as well as, an adversary of the public school system.

As a father/Grandfather whom for over thirty-five (35) years, have been actively engaged in sponsoring the development of curriculums that will enhance the Knowledge, Self-Esteem, Self-Respect and Self-Help of our children will bring professional skills in Finance and Construction to the Board and I will stress complete Transparency.

Small - As the father of an emerging fourth grader, currently enrolled in the a Birmingham City School, I know first hand the concerns many of the parents in my community face. I will provide a voice for those concerns in order to bring forth the change we need.

4. Title IX is a federal law that makes sex discrimination illegal in most schools and most courts who have looked at the issue have said that this includes discrimination against someone because they are transgender or because they don’t meet gender-related stereotypes or expectations. As a candidate, what are your thoughts on how we can make sure we are providing a safe learning environment for all students?

Holmes - All students regardless of race, creed, nationality or selected gender have the rights to an education free from harassment and scorn.

Small - Respect. We must learn how to respect on another despite our differences. Our children require a safe learning environment and it is our duty as parent and concerned citizens to provide such. By introducing a diversity and inclusion course that is mandatory for all students we provide our students with the tools they need to respectfully and effectively address their curiosity concerning gender-related stereotypes and expectations.

5. Do you see yourself primarily as a representative of the community or as a representative of the school system?

Holmes - Representative of the community advocating for the community "school" issues.

Small - As the next board member I will be the voice of my community.  Together we will create ways to engage our students, keep the parents  informed, ensure our educators are equip with the tools they need in and  out of the classroom and promote community involvement.

Douglas Ragland (no response)
Keith Rice (no response)
Jerry Tate (no response)

1. What is your stance on comprehensive sex education within the Birmingham City Schools?

Brandon McCray - I agree with it and parents should also see that age appropriate lessons will be taught to students each grade year and it will help students understand sex more for their mental health. Their physical health should be addressed sooner because STD's in 9 and 10 year olds happen, if students are made aware of this sooner, I believe they will make better decisions about sex.

Terri Michal - I believe it is not public educations job to dictate morality.  Like I said earlier, we should be giving children the tools they need to be a productive part of society.  Sex education can help students make better decisions for themselves and their future. We should offer it in it's entirety, not a one sided version dictated by the views of one segment of society.  Of course, we can not oporate in a vaccum.  We have to be sensitive to the parents expectations.  That's where communication about what is happening in the classroom comes into play.  

2. What book or books have most influenced your thinking on education policy and why?

McCray - The Smartest Kids in the World: And How Thy Got That Way.  The author followed 3 exchange students in three different countries and found that education is simply taught different. Teachers are put through a more vigorous screening process, higher requirements are in place to even become a teacher, and students overseas just take education more seriously than we do. My thinking has been shifted to believing that being in these mindsets has the ability to turn this school system around.

Michal - The Death and Life of the Great American School System by Dr. Diane Ravitch.  

From 1991 to 1993 Dr. Ravitch was Assistant Secretary of Education and Counselor to Secretary of Education Lamar Alexander under the George H.W. Bush administration. She was a huge supporter of the Federal Ed policy, No Child Left Behind.  As it became apparent that NCLB was a failed concept and our high poverty students were suffering greatly because of this policy she began acitvely fighting against it.  

When I began my advocacy work for our students and educators in public education five years ago I realized that the unwritten policies that were hurting our students in Title 1 schools (high poverty schools) were directly linked to NCLB.  In my research I found her book and read it. It really helped me put the rest of the puzzle together about how and why public ed is changing.  I understand now that much of what we have seen in the past 6 years in Alabama, and what is continuing to happen, is due
to the privatization of public schools. Our public schools have become profit centers and our children dollar signs.

3. What is your own experience with public education and how will your own experience influence your work as a board member?

McCray - I attended and graduated from the Birmingham City School System. My son is currently a student and I have relationships with principals and teachers. All of those combined make me uniquely
qualified to make decisions that would be best for our students.

Michal - I attended public ed k-12 as did all four of my children.  My children not only went through public ed in Alabama, but 3 of the 4 went on to become public ed teachers here.  It is due to the things my oldest daughter was telling me about her experiences teaching in a Title 1 school that I became alarmed about the changes that were taking place.

I also work for Birmingham AFT, the teachers union, and have been in and out of Birmingham's public schools almost daily for the past three years. I have also attended just about every board meeting in that same time period.  I believe I see very clearly not only the difficulties BCS has, but the good qualities also.  I aim to work with the board and Superintendent to correct those policies that are having a negative affect on education, and magnify those things that are working well.  A lack of a local, system wide, evaluation system is an example of one of the policies that is having a huge negative affect on teaching and learning.  

4. Title IX is a federal law that makes sex discrimination illegal in most schools and most courts who have looked at the issue have said that this includes discrimination against someone because they are transgender or because they don’t meet gender-related stereotypes or expectations. As a candidate, what are your thoughts on how we can make sure we are providing a safe learning environment for all students?

McCray - We have to continuously educate students that excepting people for who they are make us better as people and teach them that not every student has the same upbringing, we're all experiencing life from a different viewpoint. School is not a place to fight, not a place to be disrespectful, and not a place to bully, it's cost students to die at an early age.   

Michal - The purpose of public ed is to give our children the tools needed to become a productive part of our society.  Part of giving them the tools they need is giving them a safe environment in which to learn.  What good will it do to offer them Math and English if we do not protect them from bullying and harassment while they are there?  

The 2009 Student Harassment Prevention Act here in Alabama has never been fully implemented. If our schools would follow the steps required under this act they would be safer spaces. I will bring attention to this act as a board member.
    
BCS also implemented a system of  corrective discipline, PBIS (Postitive Behavior Intervention System), that they do not use properly.   Used properly we could more effectively change a students behavior to help reduce repeated disruptions than the more punitive system of suspensions. I will work to ensure that everyone has had the training and that Administrators are implementing it fully.

5. Do you see yourself primarily as a representative of the community or as a representative of the school system?

McCray - I'm a representative of the students. Improving education is all about putting our children in the best position to succeed.

Michal -  I see the job of a board member as being a liason between the board and community.  Many in the community do not have the time to follow everything happening in our schools, but they do care.  As a board member i will consider that part of my job; getting into the community and sharing information about what is happening at BCS.   The other side of that, it will be my job to carry back to the board the desires and concerns of the people in the community.  
                 
After five years of working in different communities as an advocate I look forward to being able to take my efforts to a new level as a BCS board member. I believe there are many successes ahead for our school system as long as the voters #VoteSmart on Aug. 22nd.

1. What is your stance on comprehensive sex education within the Birmingham City Schools?

Larry Contri - Comprehensive sex education must have an approved curriculum, recognized research base textbook and an excellent instructor to teach the class. The instructor must be respected by the students and be able to conduct discussion sessions with those students as young adults.

Classes should never be gender base. It is imperative parents/guardians be made aware and given a copy of the curriculum. Written parental consent is strongly recommended. While serving as principal of  Ramsay High School the State Department of Education mandated an  HIV/Aids course would be implemented. It was mandated but no curriculum or textbook provided. I decided rather than a staff member teaching the class I solicited the UAB Medical School to allow a third year resident student to become a non-paid member of my staff to teach the classes.  This decision was well received by the
parents and members of the Science Department. There are numerous agencies we can call on to fulfill a need. The resourceful administrator and teacher will reach out for assistance when there is a need or a knowledge base deficit.

2. What book or books have most influenced your thinking on education policy and why?

Contri
- Three books have most influenced my thinking on educational policy. They are Good to Great by Jim Collins, Data Driven Leadership by Amanda Datnow and Vickie Park and Mindsets in the Classroom by Mary Cay Ricci.

Good to Great appeared in 2001 and was one of the most popular business publications of all time. Public education is a “big business”. His book employed sound management practices---hire the right people, specify your purposes, focus on results and make the tough decisions. That was his recipe to
move from good to great and they were so applicable to any school system.These are sound principles on which all Board policies should be thoroughly discussed, approved and implemented.

Data Driven Leadership is a very thought provoking book for all levels of school administration. The questions the author poses are pertinent to policy development. (1) What is gained or lost when administrators focus on data to make decisions? (2) How can data improve the global academic program? (3) Will data results motivate practioners and scholars? (4) Will the use of data help make more sound decisions and policies? Their book connects theory to practice which makes it appealing to a wide audience.

Datnow and Park published a very practical book that is an excellent resource for anyone in a leadership role and not just building administrators. If educational practices and policies focus on data results success will be realized. One must understand data and know how to disaggregate and explain to others for it to be truly a useful educational tool.

Mindsets in the Classroom  helps students believe that dedication and hard work can change their performance in school. They will grow to become resilient and successful students. When inspired by the mindset idea that hard work and effort can lead to success students will be challenged to change their thinking about their potential and abilities. The book does a good job of emphasizing the importance of continual thinking and teaching students to learn from failure. The book provides
professional development plans and ideas for sharing the mindset concepts with parents. These plans should be used through the Parent Education Department.

I found the book to be a good resource for using with the novice teacher and administrator. It helps them to create a “can do” attitude in their students and teachers . The book provides a sound framework to move students’ thought process toward “I Can” rather than “I Might Can”.

3. What is your own experience with public education and how will your own experience influence your work as a board member?

Contri
- My experience in public education spans fifty continuous years with the Birmingham School System having served as a teacher, three principalships, Assistant Superintendent for Local School Administration, Director of Research and Planning, Technology Officer, Director of Schools and my last nine months prior to retirement on July 1, 2017 Interim Superintendent.

I had multiple experiences in every position which will benefit my work as a board member. I know what was effective as well as those things we should have never undertaken. My personal experiences
were most successful using  collaborative planning and decision making that required total buy-in from all participants to be affected, working with city officials as well as business and industry leaders.

I am a recognized servant leader and respected in all segments of Birmingham. My work has always focused on students and what was best for them to be prepared to be college or career ready at graduation time.

4. Title IX is a federal law that makes sex discrimination illegal in most schools and most courts who have looked at the issue have said that this includes discrimination against someone because they are transgender or because they don’t meet gender-related stereotypes or expectations. As a candidate, what are your thoughts on how we can make sure we are providing a safe learning environment for all students?

Contri
- Birmingham City Schools is a public school system and must provide a quality educational program for all who reside in the city and choose to attend. It is critical all employees understand the components of Title IX and the importance of its contents being followed to the letter. The employee at the district level who is the Title IX contact must be thoroughly familiar with all aspects of Title IX and understand  it is applicable to students as well as employees. Discrimination or any deviation from Title IX guidelines must be avoided at all cost but should a Title IX complaint ne filed it must be acted on immediately and brought to resolution.

Acceptance of human differences is a must for all in the school system such as transgender or gender related stereotypes. The School Counselor plays an integral role in making this happen as does the
building administrators. There is currently a Board policy that deals with this topic. Several of the BCS administrators dealt with this issue during my term as Interim Superintendent and each was handled in a professional manner which kept down all controversy.

Every student has his or her distinguishing characteristics and Title IX assures they are recognized and respected. This is a non-negotiable.

5. Do you see yourself primarily as a representative of the community or as a representative of the school system?

Contri
- You are an elected representative of both---community and school system. You must always represent both with dignity and class.  In my opinion one is no more important than the other and must
compliment each other at all times.

Primarily a board member is elected to serve a specific district but must always be willing to look at and discuss all issues coming before the board from the superintendent  in an open-minded manner and from a global perspective.
 
All board members must work collaboratively with students always being their focal point. Board members must set the tone for the school system but also in their district and all other districts when necessary. They must be a listening ear for all parents, students and school staffs as well as citizens of  Birmingham.

Board members must always remember their role is to approve policy and not run the school system. That is the role of the Superintendent and must be respected. As human beings we can all agree to disagree but do it in a professional manner.

Mary Boehm (no response)

1. What is your stance on comprehensive sex education within the Birmingham City Schools?

Amber Courtney
- Given the proliferation of teen pregnancy rates among continually high STD rates (despite a decrease of almost 41% in teenage pregnancy between 1940-2013 according to the CDC) comprehensive sex education proves more prudent than not in current classroom settings like City if Birmingham schools, which more likely than not, features overly exposed children unaware of proper precautions. Additionally, as the National threat of the dissolution of Planned Parenthood as well as that of other birth control measures in the State of Alabama looms, it should galvanize us to be responsible in communicating with our children on how to be responsible –in 2014, Birmingham had the 17th highest HIV rate in 2014—which is why age-appropriate, medically accurate information on a broad set of topics related to sexuality including human development, relationships, decision making, abstinence, contraception, and disease prevention is imperative in our community.

2. What book or books have most influenced your thinking on education policy and why?

Courtney
- Dismantling Contemporary Deficit Thinking: Educational Thought and Practice by Richard Valencia, Subtractive Schooling: U.S.-Mexican Youth and the Politics of Caring by Angela Valenzuala, Teach Like a Pirate by Dave Burgess, Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison, and The Souls of Black Folks by W.E.B. Du Bois—these books capture the American experience and the journey of growth through education and how it helps to positively—or negatively—inform individuals about what education means—both the detriments of not having the ability to obtain one, the thrill of success in achieving one, and the defeat of knowing how it feels to be left behind by one.  All lessons and paths are similar and relevant even today, and such a unique perspective assists in developing an ideological approach about educational policy that is all encompassing and seeks positive outcomes for all, and not just the few. Not all of our children will have the leverage to send our children to Private Schools, or Magnet Schools—which is why our public schools need to be the best so the idea of choice is real for all.  Reading these types of literature that speaks about a broader experience helps to achieve the perspective.

3. What is your own experience with public education and how will your own experience influence your work as a board member?

Courtney
- Much of my education as a child was obtained through Military school up until high school, at which point I was entreated to the stark differences that can sometimes occur between well-organized school systems and those that are not.  In constant observance of the effects of these disparities as a Doctoral student at the University of Alabama in the Department of Education (will receive Ph.D. in May, 2018) in our own Public schools within the City, I have also seen how these can work to perpetuate a culture of apathy toward a system that is responsible for laying the formative groundwork for our young minds and helping to mold and shape them for the better—too long have the children been pushed aside for the advancement of political wills.  My own experience in Southern, inner city public schools, as an observer of our system as a Doctoral Candidate in Education, and as a dedicated citizen who is a public servant and educator as a local Community College, I have the capacity to ensure my work at the Board of Education on behalf of the community is oriented toward children and their needs by working effectively and efficiently with those serving with me to create a path of success for all of our children.

4. Title IX is a federal law that makes sex discrimination illegal in most schools and most courts who have looked at the issue have said that this includes discrimination against someone because they are transgender or because they don’t meet gender-related stereotypes or expectations. As a
candidate, what are your thoughts on how we can make sure we are providing a safe learning environment for all students?

Courtney
- I think that in providing training for our teachers so that they are appropriately aware of how to promote an environment that is characterized as mutual respect and camaraderie is key–this can be achieved by empowering a few students to help regulate behavior in the hallways and other communal spaces---sometimes taking direction from your peer is better received than from seemingly disapproving adults, and, more importantly, can teach others how others can and should be treated fairly without bias.  An emphasis on learning from one another as well as a more adept teacher qualified to handle these situations would help to create and stimulate a more productive environment that focuses less on punishment and ridicule and more on partnership and learning that is more about acceptance, support and embracing of all of the qualities that make us unique and help us contribute positively to our respective community.

5. Do you see yourself primarily as a representative of the community or as a representative of the school system?

Courtney
- A Board Member is a representative of the Community, which is why they are elected to the Board in order to reflect as well as meet the needs of the community and its children.

Daagye Hendricks (Incumbent) (no response)
Edward Maddox (no response)

1. What is your stance on comprehensive sex education within the Birmingham City Schools?

Wardine Alexander (Incumbent)
- I feel that BCS should follow the Alabama code that sets the requirements for the curriculum and instruction related to subjects about sex education.

2. What book or books have most influenced your thinking on education policy and why?

Alexander
- I am passionate about public education and believe that all students can achieve success and upon graduation should be prepared to meet the needs of our global society.  I am always interested in reading the biographies of those who attribute their success to the influence of public education.  

I am currently reading the autobiography of Steve Pemberton, “A Chance in the World”.  His troubled orphan life was positively impacted by the teachers he encountered and the studies he completed while enrolled in public schools in the northeast.  Another autobiography I recently completed was “Dare to Take Charge” by Judge Glenda Hackett.  Her inspirational journey is filled with stories that relate to her education in public schools and the positive influence of her parents and teachers.

It is success stories like these that help to influence by desire to create conditions of success by supporting policies that set high expectation and levels of achievement for every student.

3. What is your own experience with public education and how will your own experience influence your work as a board member?

Alexander
- My parents had a combined 70 -year career serving as a teacher and school secretary in Birmingham City Schools (BCS).  I feel that I draw my passion and vision for BCS thru their service to BCS students.

I am a product of BCS having attending Wenonah Elementary, A. G. Gaston Jr. High, and being a graduate of Wenonah High School.  My son is a proud graduate of A. H. Parker High School.  As a product of BCS, I feel that I understand the challenges that can be encountered in an urban school setting.  And that the expectations of our education system should be no different than any other in this state.

4. Title IX is a federal law that makes sex discrimination illegal in most schools and most courts who have looked at the issue have said that this includes discrimination against someone because they are transgender or because they don’t meet gender-related stereotypes or expectations. As a candidate, what are your thoughts on how we can make sure we are providing a safe learning environment for all students?

Alexander
- The mission of BCS is to ensure a safe, secure, nurturing environment for all students.  I carry that mission with me as I set policy and approve recommendations brought forth by the Superintendent that will ensure that safety and make the learning environment secure for all of our students.

5. Do you see yourself primarily as a representative of the community or as a representative of the school system?

Alexander
- I view my role as a school board member as both a representative of the community and the school system.  I feel that it is vital as a school board member that I advocate public education as well as educate to public on the importance of public education to ensure that every graduate is qualified and prepared to meet the needs and challenges of our global society.  

I feel that we can succeed as a school system by strengthening business partnerships and supporting parental involvement in our schools and community.

Patricia Spigner McAdory (no response)
Walter Wilson (no response)

1. What is your stance on comprehensive sex education within the Birmingham City Schools?

Tyrone Silmon
- When teachers are knowledgeable and improperly trained, I see no reason why our students cannot possess the same knowledge and understanding about important sexual matters. I support educating our children on sex and sexual issues at an age and grade level most appropriate. I also support every school district that approves classroom access for medical experts, child psychologist and counselors to ensure that the sensitive topic is being taught accurately. When teaching sex education is done professionally, then our children are less likely to make mistakes that can negatively impact their lives for years or forever.

Sonja Smith - The main reason children are contracting and spreading HIV and other STIs is because we are not talking about it enough.  Simply telling kids, "don't do it" is not enough; we need to accept that kids will try things, so it's a disservice to not educate them on how to have healthy sex lives.

Antwon Womack - I think that sex education within Birmingham City Schools should begin with several community conversations with parents and stakeholders. I believe that research and surveys are needed to review potential effectiveness. I also believe that if it is placed in schools, it should be taught by appropriately trained staff that includes school nurses. If it is implemented, it also should be taught in judgement free environments where students can be open to posing questions

2. What book or books have most influenced your thinking on education policy and why?

Silmon
- There are a number of books that have influenced my thinking on educational policy, however, the book entitled, The Ordeal of Equality by David K. Cohen and Susan L. Moffitt. This book has greatly informed and influenced my thinking around educational policy as it pertains to the disparities that persist in inner-city school districts. The authors uncovered the outdated federal education regulations that failed at producing the intended results for public schools across America. The authors also questioned and investigated failed educational policies in public schools and addressed the disparity of inexperienced teachers assigned to positions at schools in need of seasoned, experienced teachers. 

 

The Ordeal of Equality left a lasting impression on me because it confirmed as well as exposed one of my biggest concerns regarding public education—the inequalities that still exist in public education in urban schools.  In the early 90's, I taught Math and History in the Birmingham City School System. During my tenure as a teacher, I witnessed teachers going above and beyond the call of duty to ensure their students grew academically and emotionally. These teachers were committed to their students’ academic success and their emotional wellbeing.  I also witnessed teachers who didn't appear to be as committed to the academic success of their students and were not motivated in implementing "best
practices" for instruction and learning.  These teachers had little impact on their students.  The book, The Ordeal of Equality helped me to understand that for many public schools across the country, it is
challenging to find and retain highly qualified teachers to teach in urban school districts with extremely limited funds.

As a BCS Board Member, I will endeavor to work with other board members and district administration to determine best practices for hiring and retaining qualified teachers.  I am interested in the pros and cons of merit pay for teachers who accomplish what some would consider, an almost impossible task. When a teacher is asked to perform and produce what some would consider unachievable, those teachers should be compensated considerably and not only for increasing test scores, but also for making an impact in the lives of children who otherwise would be left behind.

Lastly, I believe my previous experience as an educator in an urban, public-school district has cultivated in me an understanding of the challenges inherent in public-schools at every level. I will allow my
experiences to serve as the impetus to empower community members in District 8 to become one voice as well as advocates for school aged children.   As a Board Member for District 8, I will operate with integrity and work diligently, not only for my nieces and nephews who attend school in District 8, but for every child in the Birmingham City Schools system.

Smith - Although it is not a book, the documentary Waiting for Superman has had the most influence on my thinking regarding education policy.  I like this film because it addresses the biggest flaws in modern education today: drop-out factories, school-prison pipelines, & charter/magnet schools.  Our schools as drop-out factories is a direct result of the replacement of skilled trades and vocational education in schools with a college-bound educational tract.  Our school to prison pipelines are due to
the stifling way we herd children through our school buildings in the exact manner experienced in prisons, and the charter/magnet issue is simply another way to further divide communities of color.  I see them as benefiting only a few, while the majority of students are left in substandard conditions.  Seeing the film and the stress/struggles parents and children experienced to get a decent public education is heartbreaking and should not be anyone's reality.

Womack - The book that has most influenced my thinking about education is Carol Dweck’s Mindset. This text influenced my views about education because it reminded me that most people, including myself, can experience difficulty in changing their viewpoints about pertinent issues due to experiencing what is commonly known as having a “fixed mindset”. Also, it reminded me that as a society, we must be willing to be reflective about different issues regarding education and other social issues and reflect and reevaluate as needed. This book challenges all to be open to viewing different issues and implementing needed changes. As I read this text, I was reminded about the importance of being reflective in how children are educated and rethink views regarding new initiatives introduced to promote effective learning. I understand that our children must be able to compete globally. The only way to ensure that they are competent,productive citizens is to encourage flexibility in how we think. This text gives the steps needed for one to become flexible and open to change. It is a book that I would recommend to others.

3. What is your own experience with public education and how will your own experience influence your work as a board member?

Silmon
- No response

Smith - I went to public school starting in the 6th grade; prior to that, I attended a Christian private school.  My parents have always sacrificed for me to have a quality education.  

When I was young, my parents made the decision to move out of the Birmingham City School limits in search for a better education for me.   Unfortunately, 40 years later, parents are still having to make the tough decision of where to lay roots as their family grows.  I have also taught school at the high school and junior college levels.  While junior college might seem a bit elitist, it is not when you have many of the same issues experienced when teaching high school.  Furthermore, many of the students I taught at Malcolm X College, one of the City Colleges of Chicago, were pupils in my high school.

Womack -  I have always loved school and learning, however, I was systematically bullied, could find limited assistance and as a result, I left high school. However, I did complete my GED and discovered opportunities to enhance myself, academically. After I left high school, I recalled how some people expressed that because of my barriers that I was deemed inadequate to experience success. This label was hurtful. No one knows the life stories of others. As a teen, I didn't have a great amount of support from home but my parent gave to the best of her ability. As time has passed, I understand the need to work diligently despite the obstacles. The bullying and the lack of support in my home life were major barriers. I do not believe that my story is rare. Many students rely on themselves due to limited parental support and because they don't necessarily know the steps to seeking assistance when experiencing emotional turmoil, leave school. As a board member, I desire to  work with other board members to create avenues for success especially for students that experience barriers to learning. I also desire that students have true lines of open communication with the faculty and staff to ensure that as barriers are discovered that schools offer appropriate programming, policies and procedures that will ensure that students do not to discontinue their educational processes but rather, thrive and meet their fullest potentials.

4. Title IX is a federal law that makes sex discrimination illegal in most schools and most courts who have looked at the issue have said that this includes discrimination against someone because they are transgender or because they don’t meet gender-related stereotypes or expectations. As a candidate, what are your thoughts on how we can make sure we are providing a safe learning environment for all students?

Silmon
- There's nothing I desire more than to feel reassured that my daughter is safe at school. While every child is different and learns differently, a safe learning environment is a major contributing factor in every child's development. One of the biggest steps towards creating safe learning environments is identifying first, what we don't know and then, what we can do. I believe a safe learning environment consists of, but not limited to these five things:
 
• A safe learning environment begins with admitting that we don't know everything. To ensure a safe learning environment, I believe teachers and administrators should receive ongoing professional development in areas that directly impact our students, particularly in areas of unfamiliarity.

When we learn as much as we can about a particular background of students, then we are in better positions to help them grow academically,while also keeping them safe at school.


• A safe learning environment for all students happens when school districts offer options. For students and their families who have unique backgrounds or come from untraditional families, schools must be open to an alternative learning environment. These options may include, but are not limited to online learning and Homeschool.


• A safe learning environment happens when teachers and administratorsmodel kindness. Oftentimes, confrontation among students and students and teachers occurs when either party feels as if they were treated badly or disrespected. I believe that conflict can be eliminated and most definitely resolved when teachers operate in the spirit of kindness and model that kindness in front of the student body, especially as it relates to students with alternative lifestyles.


• A safe learning environment for all students happens when teachers and administrators follow through with consequences. It is important as an educator to say what you mean and mean what you say. When the rules are not followed and consequences are applied, it sends a message to other students that mistreating, harassing or bullying any student will not be tolerated.

Smith - All students do indeed deserve to feel safe in our classrooms.  I believe the stigmas our kids support can only be fixed by a comprehensive, district-wide initiative to change the way students
respond to people different from them.  We need to make our schools safe-spaces where kids can tell a friend or counselor their feelings and recognize/address the oppression of others.  Finally, we need to make sure students have healthy outlets to deal with trauma and stresses at home.  This is considered a tier 1 approach to mental health in schools.  

Tier 2 goes a bit further.  It allows students to have their issues addressed in a group setting.  I see this as being possible through partnerships with one of the many social work programs across the Birmingham area.  Tier 3 is individualized counseling.  This is another way we can utilize our local
talents through partnerships to help our children cope with life stresses.

Womack - I think we first must ensure that everyone that works with our students truly understand what “hidden agendas” they possess. Often, people unintentionally place their own agendas into the lives of their students. I can imagine that it might be difficult for a transgender student to speak about being bullied when an instructor has discussed what he/she believes is a “natural” VS “unnatural” lifestyle or laughs with students when subjects regarding gender and gender stereotypes are discussed. We have school mission statements that encourage “socially enriching” environments but the need for a district-wide character education program that discusses issues based upon age appropriate materials is needed. I believe this program should be universal and evaluated for success ongoing using parent/student/ teacher surveys, administrative observations and other evaluation tools.

5. Do you see yourself primarily as a representative of the community or

as a representative of the school system?


Silmon - I envision myself as a representative and a voice for the community and the school district.  I believe that it is my responsibility to represent community members that comprise District 8 and the
Birmingham City School System. I want to ensure that the community has a voice in the educational processes that occur that occur within and amongst the schools in the Birmingham City School System while ensuring that students, teachers, and administrators have the support they need in order to be successful.    

Smith - As a member of the Birmingham Board of Education I am a representative of the community.  I'm elected by the community so I am a representative of said community.  My role as a member of the Board is simply to be a mediator between the Board and my community.  That said, I pledge to do three things: advocate, communicate, and be transparent.  Advocacy and communication go hand in hand.  Through regular communication and listening sessions, I will fight for the needs of teachers and parents. Additionally, I want our community to look at the board through a clear lens, so I will do my best to be as transparent as possible.

Womack - I see myself as the representative of my community as they are responsible for who is placed on the school board. I believe that when people elect you to represent them, a great deal of responsibility is included. The community is a part of the school system. They work best together.

Patricia Bozeman-Henderson (no response)

1. What is your stance on comprehensive sex education within the Birmingham City Schools?

Sandra Brown (Incumbent
) - If we are going to have sex education taught in our schools, I personally feel that the subject should be taught in a Health Class with by a teacher that is qualified to teach a sex education class.  

2. What book or books have most influenced your thinking on education policy and why?

Brown
- The most recent book I have read is A Chance In The World by Steve Pemberton.  The book is about a boy that was taken from his mother at the age of 3.  The book focus is on the how the boy was treated in his foster home an how his love of books made him determine he was to get an education even thought all odds were against him.

3. What is your own experience with public education and how will your own experience influence your work as a board member?

Brown
-  I have been doing volunteer work for many years in the schools located in my neighborhood.  By being in the schools I have had the chance to see what is is right and what is wrong,  what we need to correct and what we need to change to make our system better.  As a Board member I can push for some of the changes that need to take place.

4. Title IX is a federal law that makes sex discrimination illegal in most schools and most courts who have looked at the issue have said that this includes discrimination against someone because they are transgender or because they don’t meet gender-related stereotypes or expectations. As a
candidate, what are your thoughts on how we can make sure we are providing a safe learning environment for all students?
 
Brown
- In the Birmingham City School system there are policies in place to make sure that all of the students are in a safe learning  environment.  In today's society in nearly every school we have transgender students, we have students that are from other countries, it would be very unfair to just focus on one specific group of students when it comes to safety issues including Title IX.  

5. Do you see yourself primarily as a representative of the community or as a representative of the school system?

Brown
- Both, I was previously elected by the people in my community to represent them and be their voice on the school board.  I feel that I am in the position to advocate for the children that are attending the Birmingham City Schools.


Lawrence Jackson (no response)

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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