As we near big holiday seasons, we often spend time counting the days, then the hours and then the minutes until we can leave APS for a while and spend extended time elsewhere. Our teachers, staff and students have worked hard so far this semester, and they need this much-deserved break. But for a moment, I encourage all of us to count our blessings and the many reasons we should be thankful to be a part of Atlanta Public Schools.
First of all, I am thankful for our many teachers, who serve at the frontlines of our schools. They have spent many days (and nights and, often, weekends) in service to our students. We have a specific mission to graduate every student ready for college and career, and they are dedicated to giving them the smarts … and the hearts … to be better people than we could ever be. I really do not think I could be thankful enough for them.
I am thankful for our parents, our caregivers, our grandparents, our families and friends who do everything they can to get our children to school each day ready to learn. I am thankful for them trying to find teachable in every day.
I am thankful to our school board members and the entire APS staff for doing the work in support of our teachers, families and students, especially as we do the difficult lifting required to create the kind of transformation that is so desperately needed in Atlanta Public Schools.
I’m thankful for the voters in Atlanta, who overwhelmingly reinvested in Atlanta’s kids with the renewal of the E-SPLOST, a penny sales tax that goes toward much-needed renovations of our schools, technology, buses, athletic facilities and school security enhancements. It will make a huge difference in every cluster and every school in the district.
I’m thankful for our new GO Teams, which empowers our school communities to become more engaged in the operations and budgets of their home schools.
I’m thankful for our new Safety and Security Department, which includes a new police department designed in alignment with a national TRIAD model where officers police, counsel and teach. Working with the support of Georgia State University and WestEd, these officers are trained in social emotional learning, positive behavior supports and restorative justice.
I am thankful for our district priority of social emotional learning, where all students can be taught skills like self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills and responsible decision making, to reach their hopes and dreams. And I am thankful that Atlanta is at the forefront of this burgeoning national movement.
I am thankful for our many partners – nearly 200 of them! – who have found their way back to APS through donations, expertise or sweat equity and joined us for an amazing State of the District based on the popular Hamilton musical. I am especially thankful for Achieve Atlanta for the college advisement and last-dollar financial support that has enabled more than 700 seniors last year to go to college.
I am thankful for the expertise of our new operating partners for giving us the additional capacity, resources and culture to help even more kids have choice-filled lives. And I am thankful for the communities where we came together to create dynamic new learning environments that are the Tuskegee Airmen Global Academy, the Hollis Innovation Academy, Woodson Park Academy and Thomasville Heights Elementary School.
I am thankful for our new wraparound initiatives such as the new care centers at Dobbs and Miles elementary school and the new Ronald McDonald Care Mobile for schools in the Therrell Cluster.
But, most of all, I am thankful for the opportunity to work every day with our students. The best part of this job comes when I spend time with these beautiful children, from the classroom to the recital rooms to the theaters to the labs to the playing fields.
For that, I thank all of you from the bottom of my heart, and I wish you a Happy Thanksgiving.