Rachel Weingartner might be a fairly new resident of Mountain Brook, but her ties to the area and its schools go all the way back to her great-grandmother, who taught at Brookwood Forest Elementary. And now as her two boys are getting ready to start school here, she couldn’t be more excited to be at the helm of fundraising for grants for technology, library enhancement and professional development through the Mountain Brook Schools Foundation. We chatted with her about her what brought her back to Birmingham, and her stops in the world of country music and more in between.
Can you tell us some about your background?
I grew up in Birmingham and went to Indian Springs School, and then Washington & Lee in Virginia for college. I did a stint in New York, and got my master’s in journalism and public relations from the University of Georgia. Then I went to Nashville and worked in the music industry. I worked at a talent agency and helped manage their foundation, and then I worked at the Country Music Hall of Fame with their individual giving and fundraising. It used to be I would turn on the radio and know personally the people who would come on, and now I am behind.
Then my husband and I got pregnant. Growing up here I knew how amazing the school system is, and we thought we’d be crazy not to move back. My husband isn’t from here but now he is the biggest fan of the area. Most of my friends growing up went to Mountain Brook schools, and most of my family did too. My grandmother taught at the junior high, and my great grandmother taught at Brookwood Forest.
What drew you to this position?
Having done fundraising and development work for the last 10 years now, the opportunity to fundraise for what will be my boys’ school system was so incredibly exciting, and the opportunity to be in the executive director role was something I was thrilled to do. My oldest son will be 5 in July and will start kindergarten at Crestline in 2020, and my youngest will turn 3 in August.
The previous executive director Stephanie Maxwell did an amazing job getting the foundation to where it is today. We have so amazing campaigns and appeals we are doing right now, like Give 180. The idea is you give a dollar for every day your child is in school, and that supports all of the schools and allows us to give grants. We have a Grandparents Club where grandparents who have grandchildren in the school system can give back as well. Our elementary track meet each May is a fundraiser as well. I am excited to grow what we are doing.
How do you past experiences inform what you are doing now?
At the end of the day fundraising comes down to what people are passionate about. At the Country Music Hall of Fame, it was people who love country music and thought it was really important to preserve it and the instruments people used. At Alzheimer’s Association of Central Alabama where I was the development director, it was people whose loved ones had been affect by Alzheimer’s. When it’s fundraising for people’s children’s education, I am blown away by how engaged and involved people are to make sure they are giving back to make an impact.
What have you learned since starting in this position?
We are allowing teachers to try new ideas, and then work with the PTO to make sure if it works well it can get it to other classrooms. We are the extra funding that allows us to have technologies and innovation. For example, one math teacher at the junior high has floor to ceiling white boards and said it is one of the most important things in her classroom and makes it more collaborative.
What’s something people might not know about the foundation?
Teachers are involved in contributing to the foundation, which shows how much they appreciate the extra funding and support. We have a campaign called Every Dollar Counts, and teachers at every school can contribute the foundation.