Fed Ex Helps Hutchinson Elementary School Blow the Cover Off Reading


Hutchinson is the first school in APS to receive a READesign Reading Corner.

I spent Tuesday morning at Hutchinson Elementary School where the generous volunteers from FedEx and The Heart of America Foundation were building a reading corner filled with brand new books!  It was exciting to see the FedEx volunteers putting the finishing touches on the reading corner, hosting story time in the classrooms.  Hutchinson is the first school in APS to receive a READesign Reading Corner.  Not only did volunteers stuff their media center with 250 additional library-quality books, but each student also received two new books to take home.


Reading makes kids smart.

The folks over at The Heart of America Foundation and FedEx were great students and they did their homework on Hutchinson.  When they found out the school served more than 20% of English Language Learner students, they made sure the donation contained books written in both Spanish and English!  Research shows that one positive experience with reading can turn a child into a good reader.  If compelling, comprehensible material is available, even the most reluctant reader can develop literacy skills for a lifetime.


Time for a selfie with John Flynn, Vice President of Reading Design at The Heart of America Foundation.

Students at Hutchinson were reminded that reading makes them smart, builds their vocabulary and spelling and it connects everything – from math and social studies to science and art – reading helps kids understand all of their subjects better.  Literacy is the cornerstone of learning and everyone has a role to play.

It was important to me to remind the students that Principal Shaunta Broadway and Media Specialist Ms. Shirley Miller aren’t the only ones in charge of reading at Hutchinson.  In fact the principal and media specialist are only a small part of the reading puzzle at all of FedEXhutch2014-200our schools.  Parents, teachers and counselors as well as bus drivers, cafeteria staff and community partners need to ask kids, “What are you reading today?”   We can all work together to encourage students to read and provide them with opportunities for sustained, silent reading in all subjects on topics that interest them. That way, we can lead our students to deeper thinking, which results in higher achievement.


Thank you FedEx!

A special thank you to John Flynn, Vice President of Reading Design at The Heart of America Foundation, Board of Education member Eshe’ Collins and Instructional Technology Coordinator Warren Goetzel for joining us during the celebration.  Thanks again to our partners for their generosity!


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Eight APS Schools Named 2014 Reward Schools by the Georgia Department of Education

The Georgia Department of Education has announced the 2014 Reward Schools.  Eight APS schools earned Reward designations this year.
A Highest-Performing School is among the five percent of the state’s Title I schools with the highest absolute performance, over three years, for the “all students” group on the statewide assessments. A school may not be classified as a Highest-Performing School if it has been identified as a Priority, Focus, or Alert School.
A Highest-Progress School is among the 10 percent of the state’s Title I schools making the most progress in improving the performance of the “all students” group over three years on the statewide assessments. A school may not be classified as a High-Progress school if it has been identified as a Priority, Focus, or Alert School.
making the list this year.  
In a release earlier today, State School Superintendent Dr. John Barge said “The schools on this list represent some of the finest efforts being put forth in Georgia education.  The educators, parents, students, and communities who came together to move these schools forward should take great pride in the results.”
I agree.  The 2014 APS Reward Schools are:
Highest Performing
  • Charles Drew Charter School
  • Inman Middle School
  • KIPP Strive Academy
  • West Manor Elementary School
Highest Progress
  • North Atlanta High School
  • Perkerson Elementary School
  • Scott Elementary School
New to the list this year are KIPP VISION, North Atlanta High School, Perkerson Elementary School and Scott Elementary School.  
Former Rewards List Schools (2012 and 2013)
Highest Performing & Highest Progress
Early College High School at Carver  (2012, 2013)
Highest Progress
Booker T. Washington  – Early College Small School  (2013)
South Atlanta Law and Social Justice School   (2012)
The Best Academy at Benjamin S. Carson (2012)
Washington High School (2012)  

A Surprise for Mrs. Maria Lopez of Maynard Jackson High School

SymetraJacksonCongratulations to MHJHS Spanish Teacher Mrs. Maria Lopez! This morning Mrs. Lopez was surprised by SunTrust Bank and the Atlanta Falcons and named a Symetra Hero in the Classroom.

Chartez Bailey, a MHJHS student, nominated Mrs. Lopez for the award and today.  Mrs. Lopez received a $1,000 donation for the school, two tickets to watch the Falcons play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, VIP sideline access at the game and other prizes including game day gear from the Falcons.

Each school year, the community program Symerta Heroes in the Classroom presented by SunTrust, recognizes 16 Georgia teachers for outstanding leadership and instructional skills during the school year.  Mrs. Lopez joins a select group of APS instructors – the district had three teachers selected for this award during the 2013-2014 school year.

Congratulations Mrs Lopez, and thank you, Chartez, for thinking enough of your teacher to nominate her for this honor.

Never Forgotten: Adamsville Primary Cultivates Community

Adamsville911I am giving a virtual hug, (a great big one), to the first grade team at Adamsville Primary School on this National Day of Service!  They took the difficult topic of 9/11 and created a meaningful, age-appropriate lesson for their first graders on the importance of communities, families, history and safety. 
Students were engaged in conversations about remembering heroes and honoring the past.  Each student created a paper ribbon that said “Never forgotten, September 11, 2001.”
Thank you Ms. Sims, Mrs. Watkins, Ms. Fears, first grade teachers and Principal Manboard for fostering global learning at an early age.

G3 and their award winning UAV

IMG_1488Three Henry W. Grady High School students were recently selected as finalists for Intel’s 2014 Drone Prize.  The team traveled all the way to Portland, Oregon to present their project as a part of Innovation Day and compete for a $10,000 award.

Congratulations to Isabelle Carson, Sajjad Ali, and Gabriel Kupersmith of the G3 Robotics team who worked with mentor Gardner Chambliss over the summer to develop a project proposal for MARTA to use UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles or “drones”) as part of their safety, security, and maintenance programs. (Did I say they were super smart?!?!) The IMG_1780team presented their proposal to MARTA officials in July and brainstormed possible uses for UAVs with members of the MARTA police force.  Their work with MARTA inspired the team to create their video submission to the 2014 Drone Prize.

The team recently returned with two awards – the People’s Choice Award (audience selection) and the 2nd Place 2014 Drone Prize!  The team successfully operated the UAV on an obstacle course, competing against college and adult teams.  The 2nd place prize package included UAV and camera hardware valued at approximately $3,000.

To learn more about the 2014 Drone Prize or view the finalists’ video submissions, visit http://www.droneprize.com/finalists/

Congratulations to our brainiac students and their mentor on this awesome accomplishment!


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Summer Commencement: My message to our graduates


“I urge you to listen to that little voice inside, that intuition that says this is what I truly want and love to do,” Dr. Meria Carstarphen told graduates.

Tonight I was honored to address our students who completed their high school careers over the summer.  I am very proud of these students!  Below are my remarks and a few photos from the event.
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Congratulations to the Atlanta Public Schools class of 2014! You made it. You set graduation as a goal, and you have achieved it!
My name is Meria Carstarphen, and I’m honored to be your superintendent. Today is full of a lot of activity and excitement for you, so this program may be a blur to you years from now. But I hope you’ll remember what I call Dr. Cs three Cs: courage, calling and commitment. These three words have guided me throughout my life.
Some of you are the first in your families to graduate from high school. Some will be the first in your families to go on to college. As you leave us to start a job, to join the military, to attend college or to take your next big step in life, I hope you will carry with you the three Cs. What are they again?
The First C: Courage
First, courage: Your generation will have to face a “flat” world. You will need courage to thrive in the world you are about to enter. You will be vying for jobs that students around the world could easily snap up: China will soon be the #1 English-speaking country, and India has more honor students than the U.S. has students. You’re preparing for jobs that don’t yet exist, using technologies that haven’t been invented yet in order to solve problems that haven’t surfaced yet.  In order to make it, you will absolutely need courage.
Tonight, I’d like to honor your schools and you for showing the courage to persevere as students. I can’t name all of you, but I’d like to recognize each school campus and as many students as possible.
School/Student Recognition
·       The men of B.E.S.T Academy have made history; B.E.S.T. (as well as its sister academy) started with sixth-grade classes in 2007 and have grown a grade level every year to get to their first class of seniors in 2014. Every graduate this year can stand proudly as a lifelong, card-carrying member of the legacy class of B.E.S.T. Academy!
·       Raiders from Mays have established themselves as educators, doctors, engineers, athletes and more – and now establishing their own path are William Robinson, who’s enrolled at Atlanta Metropolitan State College; Justin Ridley, a Mays Rifle Team member, who’s headed to the Marines; and Isaiah Tookes, who will be pursuing a degree in broadcasting and graphic design at Atlanta Metropolitan State College!
·       Crim is known as a second-chance high school, and students have proved time and time again that they won’t give up. Several students will enter college during the winter quarter of 2015, and many students are holding down jobs while still pursuing their college dreams!
·       Graduates from Douglass stand firmly on the foundation set by the school’s namesake and a long list of notable alumni, who continue to give back to their school and community.
·       Three schools made The Washington Post 2014 list of America’s most challenging high schools:
o   Grady High School
o   South Atlanta School of Law and Social Justice
o   North Atlanta High School
·       The legacy class of Coretta Scott King has set the bar high: 100 percent of its 2014 graduates—including all of the academy’s summer graduates—have been accepted into a college or university!
·       Jackson is a school that’s represented on the graduation roster as well. Jackson is an IB World Authorized School and an Advanced Placement Challenge School, and has an award-winning fine arts department.
·       The panthers at Therrell are on the prowl, as Gi’Marko Brooks plans to study animation and welding at Atlanta Metropolitan State College, Jeremia Green plans to attend Georgia Perimeter College, and Brandon Hinton plans to enlist in the Navy!
·       The graduates of Washington know that their school “is more than a legend; it’s a tradition,” as this year their school celebrates 90 years of history, excellence, scholarship and leadership.
·       And Carver’s campus is celebrating 10 years as a transformed campus of small schools, and their own Malcolm Hollingsworth has a plan for what he’ll accomplish in the next 10 years: “own his own clothing line, business brand, music label and cartoon series”!
Congratulations to all of our graduates from every APS high school!
The Second C: Calling
Next, I’d like to talk about the second of the Dr. C’s three Cs: Calling. At this very moment, as you graduate from high school, you may not have a clear idea about what you were put on this earth to do. But in the years ahead, I urge you to listen to that little voice inside, that intuition that says this is what I truly want and love to do. According to a Gallup survey, only three out of every 10 workers in America are engaged in their work. The other seven either are not connected to or actively dislike their job. Don’t be those people. As I did, find your calling and be happy!
Education is a calling for many people who find happiness in serving and supporting students. You’ve been surrounded by a team of professionals that helped make this day possible. Will all of the teachers, counselors, media specialists, assistant principals, academy leaders, principals and other educators please stand so that we can give you a big clap heard ‘round the world!
They had help—from cafeteria workers, custodians, bus drivers, crossing guards, school secretaries, registrars, hall monitors and more. Most aren’t here tonight, but let’s still honor the people who worked behind the scenes to get you to this day. Let’s give them an air hug!
The Third C: Commitment
Finally, my third C is commitment. Dream big dreams, and then don’t give up trying to achieve them. At times, you will need to rely on the support of positive people around you. 
Think back to pre-K, elementary and middle school. Who was there with you over all those years? Your family! Students, will you stand up now and thank your families, friends and loved ones who helped you reach this graduation day. Wave to them, and blow them big kisses.
Now, take your seats and close your eyes. Take a mental Instagram of your family or other supporters. Keep that snapshot in your mind and remember this moment. When your dreams are most vulnerable, think of the mental Instagram you just took. Remember that you have the power to do anything you wish, and it’s okay to ask for support from your family and friends.
In the years ahead, demonstrate courage, answer your calling and maintain your commitment in everything you do. Enjoy this moment, everyone. You deserve it. Again, congratulations to the Atlanta Public Schools class of 2014!!! Blessings and best wishes to each of you!

APS Celebrates the Arts

Today, the Cultural Experience Project turned 10 and APS was in the house – at the Rialto Center for the Arts – to celebrate!

Cultural2This program gives the gift of art, music, dance and theater to every APS student.  All students ages Pre-K to 12th Grade have the opportunity to visit at least one arts or cultural event every school year. Today I met Grady High School senior Nia Nkosi, who has been involved in the Cultural Experience Project since its inception 10 years ago.  Nia plans to study graphic design, art or computer animation and design after high school.

I also spent time with Camille Russell Love, executive director of the Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs and Atlanta City Council President Ceasar Mitchell, and we talked about the research on how the arts impacts student achievement.  I let them know that they can expect to see more fine arts across the school district.

cultural8To date, the program has provided more than 300,000 admissions to plays, concerts, dance performances and trips to museums and area attractions.  Eight hundred students were invited to attend today’s event including students from Booker T. Washington High School – Health, Sciences and Nutrition Small School; Carver School of the Arts; Coretta Scott King Young Women’s Academy High School; Maynard H. Jackson, Jr. High School; Mays High School; North Atlanta High School; South Atlanta School of Computer Animation and Design; South Atlanta School of Health and Medical Science and Therrell School of Law, Government and Public Policy.

We are grateful to the Cultural Experience Project sponsors: Turner Broadcasting Inc., Kendeda Fund, Loridans Foundation, Trammell Foundation, Zeist Foundation, JW Foundation Fund of The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta, PNC Bank and Macy’s for providing this opportunity for our students.



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