It wasn’t until late last Monday evening that it was brought to my attention that today is my official one year anniversary. I was totally unprepared. I feel like I’m still closing out the last school year – this milestone anniversary, it snuck up on me!
So of course I hardly got any sleep last night replaying the entire school year, (seriously, frame by frame), in my mind. I wanted to jump up in the middle of the night and begin working, fixing things I felt were unfinished in the spring…but I forced myself to stay still and reflect on things that were strong.
We graduated more than 2,250 students this school year. That’s compared to 1,775 last year, and we will see increases in the years to come. 2015, which includes 17 Gates Scholars and 14 Posse Scholars, earned more than $106 million in scholarships and that number continues to grow. That’s pretty strong.
In Special Education we addressed all 29 original audit recommendations and continue to build upon those recommendations. For the first time in a long time data for students with disabilities is trending upward in APS! That’s really strong.
And our Board of Education approved a strategic, forward-thinking General Fund budget that puts APS on a more efficient, quality-focused course especially as we move to a charter system operating model. The budget features more flexible spending and more decision-making closer to our schools, which is a hallmark of the new operating model and cluster planning. That’s extremely strong.
We had a strong year. Like any journey it had twists and turns, but we ended strong. And while my recent Peachtree Road Race blog spoke to the symbolism between the exhaustive work it took to prepare for the race and the hard work our teachers and leaders put in over last school year, as I write this blog, I realize that I’m not tired – in fact it’s the exact opposite.
I was out there in the rain this weekend with my colleagues, soaked to the bone and cold, but by the time I got home I was rejuvenated. I met my goal of running the entire race, of doing it in less than 1.5 hours (my time was 1:20:47), of running up Cardiac Hill and learning healthier habits, and at the end I wasn’t sore, I wasn’t tired…I was ready for the next school year!
And it’s not just me, our entire team is re-energized and ready for a fantastic 2015-2016 school year and we have some big lifting ahead of us. Here is a sneak peek at our work this summer:
- We are stepping up back-to-school preparations with the first annual APS Back to School Bash! This free event includes health screenings, a free backpack stuffed with school supplies (while supplies last) and more! Join us Saturday, July 25, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Atlanta Metropolitan State College. Visit apsbacktoschool.com to learn more.
- Team members are finalizing the work around our signature programming and cluster planning needed for our new operating model. We are meeting with school leaders and exploring shared accountability for teaching and learning around coherence, flexibility and autonomy, especially in budgeting. Click here to learn more about what becoming a charter district means for APS.
- New for 2015-2016 is our partnership with the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL) to implement a district-wide, evidenced-based social and emotional learning initiative that will enhance instructional models.
- The heart of our academic focus this school year is the K-2 literacy, K-5 math, secondary-level balanced literacy, (the balance between whole language and phonics), and math and the shift of high schools to Discrete Mathematics.
- We’ve identified students impacted by CRCT cheating who remain in the system and are beginning implementation for support that includes developing Individual Learning Plans to meet individual needs.
- Last month I blogged about our new partnership with Achieve Atlanta. Achieve will provide additional college counseling support to our students, dramatically increasing the number of students entering and successfully graduating from colleges.
- The facilities department is kicking into high gear to make ensure schools are spotless this fall. A sixth grade academy has been created for Sutton Middle School and schools such as Sylvan Hills Middle School and Bunche Middle School return to their home sites. Click here to see a full facilities update.
- Some schools will notice new playgrounds this fall and several will notice a cool(er) breeze! We are honoring our promise of playgrounds for all APS elementary schools and moving forward with HVAC system upgrades on multiple campuses.
- Day One APS, our first day of school, is Wednesday, August 5 and we encourage everyone to take advantage of all of our registration and enrollment opportunities. So far 44,000 students are registered and we anticipate another 6,000 by August.
- To help you ‘Be There’ on ‘Day One,’ I encourage you to take advantage of our brand new online new student enrollment tool which launched this week.
- We have several new principals joining us this year and a few seasoned principals moving to new schools. All of our principals and teachers are preparing for the districtwide Open House, Monday, Aug. 3. Check out the schedule HERE.
- Bus arm cameras will help keep students safe traveling to and from school, parents will be able to follow the journey with our brand new bus tracker app and a new electronic field trip service request form will allow more children to participate in field trips.
- And of course senior leaders are focused on corrections that must be made to schools before the Georgia Opportunity District (OSD) attempts to assume control of under-performing schools. I’m not in support of this state plan for several reasons, including the fact that we are amid an operating model change that may take years to implement. APS needs time to make corrections.
It’s our anniversary, (yes, you and I), and I’m telling you now, I’m fired up for the new school year! Being surrounded by colleagues who are also committed to building a district of strong students, strong staff and strong schools is an awesome feeling and I can’t wait for August 5. Ready, set, go!