Montgomery Business Journal

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Program pairs principals with business leaders

October 2015
By David Zaslawsky   
Photography by Robert Fouts

Martin Luther King Elementary School Principal Booker McMillian was having trouble keeping up-to-date information on the students and their parents.

The Montgomery Public Schools principal said it critical to have accurate phone numbers in case of an emergency. “It’s a big problem for us having immediate access to our parents.”

Booker McMillian
Booker McMillian

Natasha Starr
Natasha Starr

Steve Goldsby
Steve Goldsby

McMillian turned to his business partner – Steve Goldsby, president and CEO of Integrated Computer Solutions (ICS). Goldsby contacted schools officials in Maryland and Washington D.C.

The two, who first met in February, are participants in the Auburn University at Montgomery Outreach program Boardrooms to Classrooms. They talked about different incentives, and for the fall semester, will give away some iPads to some parents for keeping accurate and up to date information. Integrated Computer Solutions will provide some iPads and Goldsby will contact other businesses to supply additional iPads. The iPads will be used as door prizes – incentives for both parental involvement and student behavior.

His focus is on parental involvement, McMillian said about the 470-student school, which ranges from pre-K to fifth grade. If the parents become more involved and engaged, he said that will have a positive impact on his students, who will also become more engaged and involved.

“We just need that parental piece,” McMillian said, and he will be working with Goldsby to achieve results.

Each grading period the school will send home a new registration form. “It sounds simple, but it was something that I had not thought of,” McMillian said. That’s the beauty of the Boardrooms to Classrooms program – paring a businessperson with an educator and bringing together different perspectives.

   
   

School officials were planning a back-to-school bash the first two weeks of the fall semester instead of having an event at the end of the school year. A student night/carnival/festival “tends to draw our parents when we have those kinds of things,” McMillian said.

It’s all about increasing parental involvement. Although McMillian did acknowledge a need for funding, he said he is not trying to burden ICS with financial requests. Goldsby is working with the school’s technology coordinator.

Brewbaker Intermediate Principal Natasha Starr, another participant in the Boardrooms to Classrooms program, said her focus is exposing her students to careers at a very young age – third-graders to fifth-graders. Her business partner is Baptist Health Chief Financial Officer Melissa Johnson.

“I want our kids at an early age to develop aspirations for what they can become in life,” Starr said. “I think working with Ms. Johnson can help us do that because there are so many components to what happens in the hospital. All the different aspects that can (be brought) in would be something that my children have never been exposed to.”

The school held a college and career day this past spring, but there was no one from the health care field. “I have kids who do aspire to be doctors and nurses, but they only see them when they go to visit (the doctor’s office), Starr said. “They have never had conversations with them about things like what does it take to be one (doctor or nurse). Just getting them the exposure and being able to see what the possibilities are for them is a great thing.”

Starr is hopeful that Baptist Health or a company that Johnson contacts could help replace old carpets, which are a health risk with dust and allergies.

More than one-third of Starr’s students are Hispanic and she said that many don’t have access to quality health care or have had any type of health care. She likes the idea of having someone such as Johnson or someone else from Baptist Health who could talk to the students about health care. It’s “exciting” to have someone who can talk to the students and their parents and “explain some of the things they can do differently in their day-to-day life,” Starr said.

Although Starr does have a business background working with a student loan program, she appreciates being able to “bounce ideas around and have them look at things from a different perspective and make suggestions of how we can accomplish (things), especially when we’re trying to accomplish more with less. I think it will allow us to build more capacity in our building to do things for children.”

McMillian and Goldsby have discussed mentoring and partnering with other businesses to allow their employees a two-hour lunch break to visit the school and tutor/mentor students. The goal is having some ICS employees mentor, but turning to businesses along Highway 80 to get involved.

The partnership with ICS is changing the culture at Martin Luther King Elementary School, according to McMillian. The ultimate goal is changing “that mindset that our parents have. We want (parents) to understand they’re an integral part of what we do every day and we won’t be successful as we could be.”

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