District announces second annual edition of district fundraiser for Saturday, May 2, at Brown Middle School to kick off National Teacher Appreciation Week
Atlanta Public Schools will be off to the races again in May as it will sponsor its own 5K and fun run event for a second year!
With the success of APS Rocks and Runs last spring – more than 900 runners took to the streets of Historic West End for that inaugural race – the district today announces that it will hold the second annual edition of the 5K on Saturday, May 2, at Brown Middle School, 765 Peeples Street SW.
The event celebrates our schools and especially our teachers as a fundraiser event to kickoff National Teacher Appreciation Week. All proceeds will go towards APS teachers.
The race will feature a fun run for ages 4-11 yrs., special pricing for students, vendors and giveaways! Registration for both the 5K and fun run will include a race bib, commemorative T-shirt and finishers medal. Teachers and Instructional Paraprofessionals run for FREE. The race will begin at 8:30 a.m. The event hashtag is: #APSrocks5K
The race also serves as the final leg of the John Lewis Freedom Runners effort to raise $55,555 as part of the “Five 5Ks in Five Months in Congressional District 5” in honor of Congressman John Lewis to support those who are battling pancreatic cancer. I wrote about that effort here.
So get your jogging and walking teams together now and start training. APS participants are encouraged to wear school spirit gear, district apparel or the APS Rocks and Runs 5K T-shirt! The district also recently launched the official APS apparel store, so get decked out for the race! All proceeds go to APS!
Every race begins with a few steps. Here are a few tips to help you transition from the couch to knocking out your first 5K!
The words and lessons from Dr. King are invariably and reliably universal. They are profound. They always quoted.
Everybody can be great, because everybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve… You only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love.
As we celebrate Martin Luther King Day 2020, we will be recognizing the 25th MLK Day of Service. Soon after the day became a federal holiday back in the 1980s, many observers noted that not working on this day would not be a true celebration of the man and his endeavors. They quickly rectified that by calling for the day to be one for service as much as it was for celebration. Thus, the motto for MLK Day has become: “Make it a day on, not a day off.”
And has been evidenced across Atlanta Public Schools, we are a community that has an abundance of love and grace. So at the advent of this 25th MLK Day of Service, let’s celebrate the day with service.
Thanks to our partnership with Hands on Atlanta, we have several opportunities to participate in projects at our schools. On Saturday, the Hands on Atlanta Discovery program visited Harper-Archer, Scott and Usher-Collier Heights elementary schools to provide tutoring and enrichment. The program reinforces weekday learning through academic assistance, educational games, field trips, service-learning projects, and other enrichment activities. There are opportunities throughout the year to volunteer with this effort.
Today, volunteers with Learning in Color will transform elementary classrooms at Harper Archer into color-rich and inspiring learning environments. Other volunteers will work on beautification projects at Scott, including landscaping, school garden cultivation and interior painting.
But this dedication to service cannot end on Monday, January 20. It must continue throughout the year.
Within our own schools, we have students who need to be better served by our district and supported by our community. They are unable to keep up because their families are struggling without resources, facing intergenerational poverty and needing quality educational services from birth to high school graduation to college.
We have a lot of work ahead, but I believe we have the right people with the right attitudes and the right plans to give every child in Atlanta a fighting chance at a choice-filled life. While it starts with heart and soul and love and grace, it can be best achieved through service!
In support for Congressman John Lewis’ battle against pancreatic cancer, “Five 5Ks in Five Months in Congressional District 5” starts Monday with MLK Drum Run in Piedmont Park.
As we neared the end of 2019, we learned sad news: Congressman John Lewis had been diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer. He would spend the new year undergoing treatment for one of the most invasive types of the disease. A man who valiantly fought for most of his life in some of the toughest fights in history for freedom, equality and basic human rights would be literally fighting for his own life in 2020.
As we started the new year, I made a pledge that I would be among those fighting for John Lewis. About two years ago, the APS running club rebranded itself as the John Lewis Freedom Runners in his honor. Over the past couple of weeks, we have come up with plans to do more. Because he marched for us, we would run for him!
A bit of background: An APS running club first began five years ago as we worked our way up to run the East Atlanta Village RunFest. Since then, we have run dozens of races across the district! We hit a running milestone on March 24, 2018, when the newly rebranded John Lewis Freedom Runners completed the inaugural run of the 51-mile Selma to Montgomery Relay Race in a time of 10 hours and 22 minutes.
At that time, we were inspired by John Lewis and the events of Bloody Sunday as we “ran” tribute to the brave marchers who walked that course 54 years earlier for civil rights. We took the tribute to Lewis and fitness to another level when we finally introduced our own run. Staying true to the theme of the 2018 State of the District, we called our race – APS Rocks and Runs.
Leading up to the race this year, we wanted to pay further tribute to the man who has done so much for all of us. We decided we would run a 5K for every month leading up to the next APS Rocks and Runs and, thus, “Five 5Ks in 5 Months in Congressional District 5” was created!
Here’s our race schedule:
January 20 – MLK Drum Run, Piedmont Park, Atlanta, GA February 1 – Hearts & Soles 5K, Decatur, GA March 14 – 2020 Shamrock ‘N Roll Road Race, Junior League of Atlanta, Atlanta, GA April 18 – South Atlanta High School 5K, Atlanta, GA May 2 – APS Rocks and Runs, Atlanta, GA
Alternate Races: April 25 – The Sun Run/Walk, College Park, GA June 13 – Purple Stride, Washington, D.C.
But you don’t have to run to support John Lewis.
Please visit http://gf.me/u/xcdbhj and donate to our campaign to support our beloved American hero and others to help raise awareness and end pancreatic cancer. We encourage you to donate in any increment of 5 that you are able (i.e. $5, $15, $25…$55…$155…$555…$5,555, etc.)! Our goal is $55,555!
All proceeds from your generous gift will go toward well-deserving nonprofits: the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network’s research and programs, the John Lewis Invictus Academy in Atlanta, and the Winship Cancer Institute at Emory University.
It breaks my heart to share that our beloved friend and colleague, Alvah Hardy, passed away Friday, January 10, 2020. Alvah has been a pillar in the APS family for close to a decade, serving as our Executive Director of Facilities Services since joining APS in November 2010.
From 2010 to now, Alvah has had an impact on the lives of so many of us in his role in Facilities, making the sad news of his passing reverberate across the halls of every school and office building in our district.
In addition to working closely with staff in every school or building in APS, Alvah’s work kept him in close contact with people and organizations throughout the community. It was not uncommon for Alvah to be engaging with elected officials, neighborhood associations, community groups and everyday citizens who had questions about our schools and facilities. No question would go unanswered.
For those of you who may not have known him, Alvah spearheaded our most beautiful and recent renovations and construction through the SPLOST work in the district. I’m sure you’ve seen the new Walden Field, or the renovation of Howard and the new construction of Tuskegee Airman Global Academy, which just opened this school year.
He was also behind the renovations at Hollis and Gideons. Those projects were all led by Alvah, beginning as ideas on paper and evolving into gorgeous facilities that serve our students and staff. His hands helped guide those structures through to completion.
You can rest assured that everything Alvah touched, he touched with great care and attention to detail, from the repair of wobbly steps, wonky fences, and rickety handrails, to the large-scale school renovations and new construction. No project was too small or unimportant to him.
Alvah helped give APS the lift we needed as part of our transformational work in our schools and facilities.
And, most recently, he played a major role in our facilities master plan process. This is our comprehensive five to 10-year look at population growth and school enrollment projections to help guide our decision making and spending around the need to expand existing schools or build new ones.
We are currently in the community engagement process of the facilities master plan of which Alvah was a key part.
I know that for many of us, Alvah was not just a colleague, but he truly was a member of our family. That makes his passing even more difficult to process.
We will never forget his determination, grit and his passion and commitment to APS. At the end of the day, everything he did was done with fidelity and grace. For that, we are all eternally grateful.
To Alvah’s beloved family, I offer my deepest condolences during this difficult time and I’m sorry for your loss. To Alvah’s APS family, especially our operations, schools and facilities teams who worked the closest with him and his direct reports Jere Smith, Director of Capital Improvements; Robert Palmer, Director of Maintenance and Operations; Herb Joseph, Director of Administration Management; and Tanya Cooper, Administrative Assistant; I offer my sincere condolences and my shoulder to lean on. We stand with you during this difficult time, and we will get through this together. Much love to all of you, and please take care of each other and your families.
Alvah, you will truly be missed, but we will hold on to the great memories in APS and we’ll never forget how you touched our buildings and our lives.
As we move into 2020 – a new decade – it amazes me that we are 20 years into the new millennium and experiencing advances in technology and innovations involving the Internet, social media and smartphones that truly connect the world. And yet, we still see intense cruelty and degradation in society, such as child abuse and human trafficking.
The numbers are nothing less than shocking.
Research studies show that 25 percent of females and l6 percent of males experience sexual abuse as children, and an estimated 325,000 children are at risk for becoming victims of commercial sexual exploitation each year.
Statistics show that traffickers are targeting minors more often and the entry age is getting younger. And, while we often think of sex trafficking happening to young girls, it’s happening to young boys as well.
Most startlingly to Atlanta is the fact that as home to the largest international airport in the country and host to multiple large sporting and entertainment events, Atlanta is a magnet – not just for tourism – but for human traffickers as well. These events often create opportunities for traffickers of commercial sex and human exploitation to take advantage of our vulnerable children and teens. The proximity of our school communities to these activities can put our students at greater risk of exploitation.
More numbers related to Atlanta:
Atlanta has been identified as one of the cities with the highest incidences of child sex trafficking (FBI, 2005; Urban Institute, 2014)
Between 200 – 400 adolescent girls are sold online per month (The Schapiro Group, 2010)
Approximately 65% of men who purchase sex with female children in Atlanta live in suburban areas outside the I-285 perimeter (The Schapiro Group, 2010)
Traffickers in Atlanta make an average of $33,000 per week (Urban Institute, 2014)
7,200 men purchase sex from a minor every month in Georgia accounting for 8,700 sex acts (The Schapiro Group, 2010)
91% of Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking victims in Georgia were enrolled in school at the time of their exploitation (Georgia Cares, 2016)
That’s why we recognize today, Jan. 10, as Human Trafficking Awareness Day, to raise more awareness across our District about the seriousness of this issue. But it goes throughout the month of January as part of National Human Trafficking Awareness Month. Our middle and high school counselors, psychologists, social workers, nurses and health teachers are hosting sessions across the District to raise the issue, cover risks, and alert students to the potential indicators of commercial sexual exploitation and trafficking.
Our students are also taking an active role in stopping human trafficking by designing Public Service Announcement posters using the hashtag #stophumantraffickingAPS. We are also showing solidarity against trafficking by wearing blue and supporting the Blue Campaign, which was launched in 2010 by the Department of Homeland Security, as a unified initiative to raise public awareness about human trafficking, combat human trafficking, and help protect victims.
As a part of our professional development offerings, we have online courses for staff. All of our counselors, social workers, psychologists and nurses have received training on sexual abuse and exploitation. The executive director of the Atlanta-based International Human Trafficking Institute, Deborah Richardson, spoke to our central office staff during a lunch session today and has trained all of our health teachers, school police officers and bus drivers. For 2020, we are working in closer partnership with Richardson and the Institute to further educate our students, teachers, staff and community.
At the state level, I am proud to serve as a member of the GRACE Commission, created to combat the threat of human trafficking in Georgia. First Lady Marty Kemp launched GRACE (which stands for Georgians for Refuge, Action, Compassion and Education) last year after learning that the FBI had named Atlanta as one of the Top 14 cities with abnormally high rates of human trafficking. The commission meets on Monday, Jan. 13, at the State Capitol building. We will hear from representatives from Gigi’s House, the House of Hope Refuge of Love and Wellspring Living. We also expect to be making some important announcements about the work in advance of the next state legislative session.
So as we move into a new decade, let’s all do our part to eradicate this modern form of slavery. Let’s make a commitment as a school district and as a city to traffick-proof Atlanta for the 2020s. Educate yourself and become aware. Learn more at https://www.ihtinstitute.org/.
Signs Student May Be Trafficked
Unexplained school absences
Abrupt change in attire, behavior, or relationships
The presence of an older “boyfriend” or “girlfriend”
Travel with an older male who is not a guardian
Sudden presence of expensive material possessions
Chronic running away
Signs of psychological coercion, such as depression, anxiety, and/or an overly submissive attitude
Lack of control over his/her schedule, money, and/or proof of identification
Signs of physical trauma, including bruises, cuts, burns, and/or scars
Tattoos or other branding marks
Poor health, as evidenced by sexually transmitted diseases, malnutrition, and/or serious dental problems
Substance abuse or addictions, or selling drugs
Coached/rehearsed responses to questions
Uncharacteristically promiscuous behavior and/or references to sexual situations or terminology that are beyond age-specific norms
[UPDATE: January 13, 2019: And then there were eight! Two more APS students have been added to the latest class of Posse Scholars. Congratulations to Payton Gunner (Brandeis University) and Connor Mason (College of Wooster), both from Drew Charter!]
It’s great when we can start a new year – and a new decade – with an announcement that illustrates a wonderful example of preparing our students for college and career. I am so proud of our eight seniors who were awarded four-year, full-tuition leadership scholarships by the Posse Foundation.
The Posse Foundation is a college access and youth leadership development program that identifies, recruits and selects leaders from public high schools. These student leaders are then placed in supportive multicultural teams called “Posses” to attend partnering colleges and universities.
I cannot say enough great things about this program, but here are a few:
Posse Scholars graduate from college at a rate of 90 percent.
Since 1989, Posse’s partner colleges have awarded $1.4 billion in scholarships to Scholars. The Atlanta branch, established in 2007 with a grant from the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation, has awarded nearly $100 million of that.
The Posse network of scholars and alumni stands at 9,200 strong, so that’s a lot of support!
This year, 60 students from Metro Atlanta will be awarded $12 million in full-tuition scholarships to six institutions of higher education – Bard College, Boston University, Brandeis University, The College of Wooster, George Washington University and Texas A&M University. Posse Atlanta celebrated these students during a special program last night at the Fox Theatre’s Egyptian Ballroom.
The 2020 APS Posse Foundation Scholars are:
High School Name
Posse Finalist University
North Atlanta High School
Maynard H. Jackson High School
Texas A&M University
North Atlanta High School
George Washington University
College of Wooster
North Atlanta High School
George Washington University
Henry W. Grady High School
George Washington University
Maria Nino Suastegui
North Atlanta High School
APS School Counseling Coordinator Maria Grovner coordinated the multi-step Posse Scholars nomination process with students, which includes educating them about the application process and encouraging them to apply, maintaining the required GPA and coaching them on their scholarship interviews. Thank you so much!
Congratulations to these students and families who are living the APS mission!
In time for semester break, my true love gave to me …
Here we are: The end of the first semester of the 2019-2020. Hard to believe the New Year is nearly here! Not only is this time of year for celebration, it’s time for everyone in the Atlanta Public Schools community to rest, reflect and rejuvenate. I hope everyone enjoys time with friends and family.
But don’t forget! Students return on Monday, January 6, 2020!
Reflections of 2019
With 2019 coming to a close, I continue to count the ways I am #APSthankful and for how grateful and inspired I am to be working with such an amazing team of professionals all focused on one important goal: Preparing every one of our students to graduate ready for college and career. Special hugs and thanks to all of our 6,000 APS employees, who are so committed to our EPIC educational mission and are working hard every day to achieve it.
In reflecting upon the year so far, I cannot help but remember the “12 Days of APS!”
On the First Day of APS, my true love gave to me …
“Day One. Be There.” Campaign
We kicked off the year strong on August 12, 2019, with our perennial “Day One. Be There.” campaign. Like thousands of our students, my team and I boarded one of our school buses that morning with excitement and anticipation for a long but wonderful day ahead! As part of our Day One tradition, we visited students, teachers, administrators, support staff and the community from around the District to report on Back-to-School happenings. We could not have done it without each of you. Thank you for a fantastic Day One!
On the Second Day of APS, my true love gave to me …
Data Rollouts: Graduation Rates, CCRPI, SAT and others
Data rollouts have also become a mainstay of APS activity. No one rolls out their data – the good, the bad and the ugly – like Atlanta Public Schools. By being transparent with our data, we can cheer our progress and put our shoulders into the areas that need the most and immediate work!
On the Third Day of APS, my true love gave to me …
In September, the Georgia Department of Education released official graduation rates, which always comes with a mix of great news for some of our high schools and room for improvement on our overall district rate. Atlanta Public Schools (APS) reported a 77.9 percent graduation rate for the 2019 cohort. The rate represents an 18.8 percentage point increase over 2014, although 2.0 percentage points less than the district’s all-time high graduation rate of 79.9 percent posted in 2018.
But more students – 2,506 of them – graduated on-time from APS in 2019 than any other year since 2012, when the state adopted the cohort graduation rate as required by federal law. This is an increase of 68 students from 2018. The 2019 cohort included 3,215 students, an increase of 165 compared to 2018 and the largest cohort since 2014.
The 2019 results also show that the APS rate lags behind the state graduation rate of 82.0% by 4.1 percentage points.
On the Fourth Day of APS, my true love gave to me …
College and Career Readiness Performance Index (CCRPI)
For the 2019 CCRPI, APS achieved an overall score of 74.1, an increase from 2018. The district narrowed the gap with the state down to 1.8 points. The district narrowed the gap in both elementary and high school and surpassed the state at the middle school level. In total, 48 of 87 APS schools saw increases in their CCRPI scores compared to 2018.
On the Fifth Day of APS, my true love gave to me …
Our school system achieved its highest gains to-date in the percentage of students who scored proficient and above on all subjects on the 2018 Georgia Milestones End-of-Grade assessments, and the District narrowed the performance gap with the State on all four End-of-Grade subjects. Additionally,
APS achieved year-over-year gains in the percentage of students scoring proficient and above on 21 of 24 (88%) End-of-Grade and End-of-Course assessments. The district saw gains on 75% of tests in 2018 and 52% in 2017.
80% of APS schools achieved increases in the percentage of students scoring proficient and above on End-of-Grade assessments.
76% of APS schools achieved increases in the percentage of grade 9-12 students scoring proficient and above on End-of-Course assessments.
All 17 APS schools that received targeted or partnership support as part of the initial cohort of the APS Turnaround Strategy have improved their Milestones proficiency rates since 2016.
On the Sixth Day of APS, my true love gave to me …
SATs and ACTs
When SAT scores for APS arrived from the College Board in October, the most eye-popping statistic was this: 90% of the graduates from the Class of 2019 took the test, that’s a dramatic 33 percentage points higher than the 57% from the Class of 2018.
The reason: The APS class of 2019 was the first cohort to participate in SAT School Day, in which students had the opportunity to take the SAT in their own schools, on a school day, at no cost to them! As anticipated, due to this massive increase – nearly 900 more students took the test than the year before – the average total SAT score dropped from 997 to 944. State and national trends showed slight declines.
About a month later, the other leading college entrance exam has released its own data. According to figures released by ACT, APS 2019 graduates achieved an average composite ACT score of 19.1, a slight increase of 0.4 points from the 2018 average of 18.7 and the highest in recent history.
On the Seventh Day of APS, my true love gave to me …
Other data rollouts included the 2019 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), which is known as the National Report Card (which I wrote about here), the Turnaround Eligible List from the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement and the Georgia Department of Education’s list of comprehensive support schools (which I wrote about here) and the Beat the Odds School, which I wrote about yesterday.
We are also happy to report that for the third consecutive year, it has been determined that we remain non-disproportionate for the over-suspension of African-American students with disabilities. Furthermore, the district has NOT been found to be significantly disproportionate in either placement or identification for any racial/ethnic subgroup!
On the Eighth Day of APS, my true love gave to me …
In October, we celebrated the best of the best at our annual APyeS! Awards program held at the Delta Flight Museum. These awards recognize and honor the excellence in our teachers, education leaders and partners who are driving change through our transformation and making it possible for our students to succeed. Congrats, again, to all our winners!
District-wide Excellence in Teaching Award: Krissi Davis, Orchestra Director, Grady High School
Principal of the Year: Eulonda Washington, Coretta Scott King Young Women’s Leadership Academy
Assistant Principal of the Year: Joy Antone, Inman Middle
Students First winner: Michelle Birdsong-Walker,Family and Community Engagement Specialist at Dunbar Elementary School
Schools First winner: Sara Womack, Fine and Performing Arts Coordinator
On the Ninth Day of APS, my true love gave to me …
Over the course of the semester, the District earned a series of great awards and honors.
In October, the Charter System Foundation recognized APS for its leadership for developing our new operating model. The foundation also gave the District a $10,000 check to do more,. Each district, which included many Georgia school districts from the smallest rural district to larger districts like APS, sought flexibility under state mandates with a commitment to meet higher performance goals. APS was also up for Charter System of the Year but lost to Dublin City Schools.
Wellspring Living, one of APS’ beautiful partners, presented APS and me with its 2019 HOPE award for our work combatting sexual exploitation and human trafficking. Wellspring Living’s vision is to see a world where every victim of sexual exploitation has access to transformative care. The organization provides specialized recovery services through three residential programs and two community-based programs. The programs provide transformative care through therapeutic services, education, life skills, and personal and professional development.
The partnership with our schools represents more than 300 impacted lives.
Finally, after years of taking the coveted Golden Radish award from the Georgia Department of Education, our Nutrition Department snagged the even more prestigious PLATINUM Radish Award for its farm-to-school efforts.
On the Tenth Day of APS, my true love gave to me …
I cannot reference the spirit of giving without acknowledging that over the past five years the District has reconnected or established relationships with more than 350 partners and raised more than $72 million in special revenue.
In addition, DonorsChoose.org enlisted APS as one of 10 inaugural members of its District Partnership Program, so our teachers and principals can tap deeper into the organization’s network of 3.5 million donors. Additionally, the District gets a more streamlined process to align the donations with the APS strategy and operations.
On the Eleventh Day of APS, my true love gave to me …
State of the District
On November 7, nearly 1,000 stakeholders from the Atlanta Public Schools community gathered at Harper Archer Elementary for the State of the District. Following a ribbon-cutting launch of that school, we related an epic tale of an urban school district in Georgia, once beleaguered but re-emerging as if a Phoenix from the ashes. We told tales of transformation and of student and teacher exploration.
And we re-launched our campaign for literacy! We invited the entire APS community to become immersed in the campaign. With a $60,000 grant from the Urban League and the Hewlett Foundation, we will continue our Race 2 Read campaign, which challenges our students and community to read together at least 20 minutes each day. We have a district-wide goal to log more than 10 million minutes of reading over the course of the year.
“Glory will be ours when literacy is won!”
Experience or relive the journey.
And on the Twelfth Day of APS, my true love gave to me … OUR TALENTED STUDENTS!!!
As the State of the District displayed so well, Atlanta Public Schools has placed a renewed emphasis on the arts as we seek to take that part of a well-rounded education to an “EPIC” level!
As anyone following us over the semester knows, the district found numerous ways to showcase the talent of our amazing students which also included the Anti-Defamation League’s Concert Against Hate to the many productions at our schools all over Atlanta to the annual Winter Card Contest!
I cannot wait to see what the next semester will reveal from the talents of our students!
What a great first half of the school year! I will certainly miss all of our wonderful students, teachers, and staff over the semester break, but I’ll be back tweeting and blogging again in the New Year on Monday, January 6, 2020.
Thank you for continuing to work with integrity and grit so that every single child in Atlanta Public Schools graduates with choices in college, career and life. I can think of no greater gift for this or any other season of the year!