Bolting Through Black History Month (A Runner’s “Relay”)

February is the month we all get to focus on the finish line of all the African Americans who have made their mark in U.S. history. Happy Black History Month! This is the time for celebrating the achievements and the contributions of some of America’s most extraordinary people, both famous and unsung.

For me, this year’s celebration is felt through my feet as I bolt through learning more about African American athletes and train for my first ultramarathon – looking to these record-breaking competitors for inspiration! Focus on African American stars in track and field particular significance at this time because next month on Saturday, March 24, I will be back in my home town of Selma, running in the Inaugural Selma to Montgomery 51-Mile Relay, held to commemorate the historic Voting Rights March of 1965. Yes, 51 miles! (Yikes!!!)

I’ll have a team of my running buddies (thanks y’all!) with me, each one going several miles apiece to provide me with companionship and encouragement so that I can run all 51 miles! Dr. C - Running buds (2018)

But as I continue to train for the event over the next few weeks, and when I take my spot at the Brown Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church starting line, there are some big motivators running in my heart and mind:

  • Paying homage to the African American heroes and heroines who have made significant contributions in track and field
  • Honoring the legacy of all the foot soldiers and marchers in the fight for civil and voting rights, particularly Georgia State Representative John Lewis
  • Remembering my father, who passed away in March of last year
  • Modeling for our students that you can do anything if you have the will and hone the skill to achieve it

And while I’m running that long road from Selma to Montgomery, I’ll be drawing inspiration from the African American trailblazers who left their mark in the world of running.

Ted Corbitt - Black Distance Runner

Theodore “Ted” Corbitt

Theodore “Ted” Corbitt, known as the “founding father of long distance running” in the United States, the grandson of slaves was the first African American to represent our country in the Olympic Marathon in the 1952 Games in Helsinki, Finland, and the first African American to win the U.S. Marathon National Championship in 1954. He helped design the course for the world-famous New York City Marathon.

Ron Davis, Ben Tucker and Horace

San Jose State XC Team 1962

1962 San Jose State National Championship Cross Country Team

Whitehead, three African American runners on San Jose State’s five-person cross country team, who in 1962 led the team to the NCAA National Championship. It was the first time an integrated team won the national championship.

Marilyn Bevans and Ella Willis, known as the “first ladies of African American long distance running.” Bevans was the first African American female runner to finish a marathon in under three hours, and finished second in the 1977 Boston Marathon. Willis became the first African American woman to win a major marathon race when she won the Detroit Free Press-Motor City Marathon in 1975. Her winning time in 1988 was the all-time fastest marathon ever by an African American female. She held this distinction for a whopping 18 years! (And, sadly, I can’t find a single picture of her from 1975 but this is her today!)

Ella Willis - African American Long Distance Runner

Ella Willis

Marilyn Bevans - Distance Runner

Marilyn Bevans

I will be thinking of all these things and about all these great people who, as runners and as leaders and fathers and mothers, paved the way for me and for all of us. And I want our students to think about them, too – not only this month, but any time they are working on a challenging assignment in class, working on a complex project, or preparing for a rigorous test. I want them to think about from where these extraordinary people came, how they prepared themselves, how they persevered, and what they eventually accomplished.

In fact, our students can look right in their APS backyard for motivation and encouragement. I’m so proud of one of our former students to see how hard work and preparation can pay off. Our own Christian Coleman, an APS baby who attended Fickett Elementary School and was the SGA President as a fifth grader at Deerwood Academy, recently became the fastest human ever in the 60 meter dash! After setting high school records in Georgia, he went on to set every sprint record at the University of Tennessee (where he is a senior sports management major). He ran in the 2016 Summer Olympics, became a viral sensation by running the fastest 40-yard dash ever recorded (4.12 seconds!!), and last summer, after signing a professional contract with Nike, Christian

Christian Coleman - 2017 World Championships

Christian Coleman

won two silver medals at the IAAF World Championships in London, where he beat the legendary Usain Bolt … twice! Now Christian is one of the fresh, beautiful and new faces in the world of track and field. And get this: he’s giving Nikes to kids at Humphries Elementary School who had perfect attendance and good behavior first semester and he’s donating the t-shirts for the volunteers at this year’s APS Special Olympics! (Don’t you just love him?!)

There are students all over the district today making headlines and breaking barriers!

This past fall, the Grady boys and girls cross country teams swept the Atlanta Public Schools Cross Country Championships in dominating fashion.

The boys’ team finished with an average time (18 minutes, 38.36 seconds) that was nearly a full minute faster than the second-place team, North Atlanta (19:29.40). Rounding out the top five were Maynard Jackson (19:53.41), Douglass (20:08.79) and Mays (21.33.41).

And, last spring, the Maynard Jackson girls and Grady boys track and field teams continued to show their dominance as they took home bragging rights at the annual Atlanta Public Schools Championships.

Both teams won the city championship for the fourth consecutive year. For the Grady boys, the win was their sixth in the past seven years. Over the past four seasons, the Grey Knights have won two region championships as well. As for the Maynard Jackson girls, they are the two-time Georgia High School Association (GHSA) Class AAA State champs. This season the Jaguars are competing in Class AAAAA.

The top three boys teams were Grady, Mays and Carver. The top three girls teams were Maynard Jackson, Mays and South Atlanta.

I want our students to understand the greatness that is inside of them as well. I want them to realize that they are now running their own paths to future greatness and wins at the finish line!

As we all strive to be the best we can be, let’s remember and appreciate these and many other great Americans, this month and every month! Let’s all be John Lewis Freedom Runners for APS kids!

#BlackHistoryMonth2018

#JohnLewisFreedomRunners

Douglass Boys XC 2017

Celebrating Our APS Counselors During National School Counseling Week

APS High School Counselors

Every year during the first full week in February, our education community comes together to celebrate National School Counseling Week by focusing public attention on the unique contribution of school counselors within the U.S. school system.

This year is no exception, as I encourage all of us to recognize the wonderful work that our Atlanta Public Schools counselors do each and every day. That’s why National School Counseling Week, which is celebrated Feb. 5-9, is the perfect opportunity to share how much I appreciate our counselors’ service and valuable contributions to the students in our school district, ensuring that they achieve academic success and graduate ready for college and career.

For their part, APS counselors have encountered unique challenges as they help our students navigate their way through a confusing and sometimes awkward time. Nevertheless, they have done so with dignity and pride. Through our district’s Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) initiatives, counselors have provided encouragement and practical assistance for students who struggle with social problems and have trouble making friends.

National School Counselors Week

This brings to mind this year’s theme: “School Counselors: Helping Students Reach for the Stars.” Sponsored by the American School Counselor Association, National School Counseling Week highlights the tremendous impact school counselors can have in helping students achieve school success and plan for a career. The role of an APS counselor is extremely valuable, and I celebrate the work these professionals do in our schools, both day in and day out. Each of them model excellence in Core Values, and for that, I am extremely grateful.

 

So, as we work across the district to empower all students to meet the academic and career preparation demands of today’s workforce, the role of a school counselor has never been more important. Each counselor serves as the vital link between students’ aspirations for the future and tangible opportunities for post-secondary success. They also provide support for our neediest students who require expert and accessible guidance as they navigate the college admissions and career preparation landscape.

Because our school counselors are highly effective and supportive professionals, this is the ideal time to highlight the importance of  every counselor’s impact and role in our students’ academic success, social-emotional well-being, and college and career readiness.

This week, please be sure to thank an APS school counselor for their exemplary work. I certainly salute each of them for their unwavering commitment and dedication to our students!

Add’l Details on 2018 Inclement Weather Survey

i-GdGnxZX-X3

Thank you for your feedback on our makeup day plan survey! As a reminder, 30 minute extended school day starts this Monday, January 29 and will end March 30, 2018.

Many of you have expressed an interest in seeing a more detailed breakdown and cross-tabs of our survey results. Here they are! In the table below you can see how each stakeholder group – community members, employees, parents, students and principals – voted.Summary of Responses by Stakeholder_v4

The options were:

  • Option 1: Make up the days on February 21-23, during Winter Break
  • Option 2: Make up the days on February 19-21, during Winter Break
  • Option 3: Make up the days on February 19-20, during Winter Break and the March 19 professional learning day
  • Option 4: Make up the days on February 12-23, during Winter Break and the March 19 professional learning day
  • Option 5: Extend the school day by 30 minutes from January 29 to March 30
  • Option 6: Add 15 minutes to start of the day and 15 minutes to end of the day from January 29 to March 30

The data shows based on the individual options, both Option 5 or 6 were preferred by each stakeholder group. I have heard a lot of you point out that we should not just look at the individual options since you all felt they were just variations of the same thing. I assure you we looked at the numbers based on option type grouping them as ‘making up the days over winter break’ (Options 1-4) and ‘extending the school day by 30 minutes’ (Options 5-6).Summary of Responses by Option Classification

Additionally, we received a wide range and variety of comments on the survey. Out of the more than 14,000 responses to the survey, about 3,400 respondents left comments. Our Research and Evaluation team reviewed all of them (Big shout out to Executive Director Michael LaMont and his crew!).

The few high-level takeaways from the comments were:

  • Those who selected Options 1-4, which shaved days off of Winter Break and/or scheduled professional development days for teachers and staff, often said they would be okay with any of the four options. This group of respondents were against extending the school day.
  • Respondents who chose either Option 5 or 6, also said they would have been fine with either.
  • The group of respondents who choose Option 5 or 6 did not want to make up days over a break because of preplanned travel or vacation.

A quarter of all comments suggested no make-up days at all. Also, suggesting an online option was popular among community members and employees but not as much with parents and students. Let me quickly address these areas:

In reference to online and distance learning options, while we are working hard to close the digital divide, unfortunately, many of our families and students do not have digital devices and/or internet service to gain access to assignments and school work. I encourage you to read my previous blog for more details on how we are working with our corporate partners to close the digital divide.

I am proud of how our principals have already been brainstorming with their staff to develop strategies and initiatives that will maximize this extra instructional time at the end of the school day. Some schools will use the extra 30 minutes to target specific needs of specific grade levels. Some schools, particularly on the middle and high school levels, plan to use the extended time as an intervention block. This is time where students receive additional assistance from teachers on assignments and work toward mastery.

I would also like to address the comments received about fall and winter break being unnecessary. The 2017-2019 calendar was decided based on feedback from a community-wide survey and the district-wide calendar committee. Respondents on this survey, also comprised of parents, students, community and staff, had the desire to build additional options for vacation academies into the school schedule. I encourage you all to participate this spring in the survey for the 2019-2020 calendar.

Again, thank you for your participation and your responses! While we all have differing opinions, one thing we agree on is the fact that we want our students to be successful.

I ask you to work with us in being a part of the solution in the best interest of all of our children!

Read my original survey results blog post here.

Survey Results In! APS to Extend the School Day by 30 Minutes

Winter Day in Atlanta (2018 - For MJC Make Up Day Blog)

Welcome back, everyone!

Weather made for a challenging time for APS last week, causing us to cancel school from Wednesday, January 17 through Friday, January 19. And let’s not forget the Hurricane Irma days from September and bad weather on January 8 too! I explained to you that even though our charter does not require us to make up school days, we are all concerned about the amount of instructional time we have missed thus far. Remember, we have some very important assessments this spring, including the Georgia Milestones in elementary and middle school, and End of Course tests in high school.

Given the potential impact on our stakeholders’ lives, APS distributed a survey to you – our students, teachers, principals, staff, community members and others – featuring six options that APS could implement to make up some of the instructional time we have missed since the beginning of the school year. Thank you for participating!!!

I am so excited to share that 14,421 of you completed the survey by the deadline (wish it could have been open longer but we had to get moving on a decision!), which was Sunday, January 21 at 11:45 p.m., and the highest percentage of you (at 27.88%) selected Option 5 as your preferred choice. (FYI, it is not my preferred choice but your voice in this process does matter and weighed heavily on this decision.)

Here were the options and votes per option:

 

Option Number Description Number of Votes/Percentage
Option 1 Make up the days on February 21 – 23, during Winter Break

 

2,183 (15.14%)

 

Option 2 Make up the days on February 19 – 21, during Winter Break 1,188 (8.24%)
Option 3 Make up the days on February 19-20, during Winter Break and the
March 19 professional learning day
2,583 (17.91%)
Option 4 Make up the days on February 22 -23, during Winter Break and the March 19 professional learning day

 

1,066 (7.39%)
Option 5 Extend the school day by 30 minutes from January 29 to March 30 4,021 (27.88%)
Option 6 Add 15 minutes to start of the day and 15 minutes to end of the day from January 29 to March 30

 

3,380 (23.44%)

Here is a more detailed breakdown of our survey results:

Total survey responses 14,421

  • Students: 2,976 (20.64%)
  • Parents: 6,973 (48.35%)
  • Employees: 3,945 (27.36%)
  • Community: 527 (3.65%)

Total option responses

  • Opt 1: 2,183 (15.14%)
  • Opt 2: 1,188 (8.24%)
  • Opt 3: 2,583 (17.91%)
  • Opt 4: 1,066 (7.39%)
  • Opt 5: 4,021 (27.88%)
  • Opt 6: 3,380 (23.44%)

Additionally, we surveyed our principals separately and nearly half of them (49%) preferred Option 5 as well.

I want to thank everyone who took the survey! Your participation and engagement is much appreciated! Therefore, APS will move forward in implementing a plan for Option 5 by adding 30 minutes to end of the day from January 29 to March 30. This means:

  • Elementary school will release at 3 p.m.
  • High school will release at 4 p.m.
  • Middle school will release at 4:35 p.m.

(Please remember schools not operating on the APS district bell schedule will also add 30 minutes to their instructional day. You will need to contact them directly to get detailed schedule information.)

Now comes the hard part – making this work! In order for our plan to be successful, it’s going to take continued engagement and commitment from all of us:

  1. We have asked our principals to work on schedules that maximize the additional instructional time to make sure that time is used in a meaningful fashion.
  2. Employees in our Transportation Department are altering their schedules.
  3. This option poses a bit of a challenge for our athletics department and our high school coaches, athletic directors and principals. They are working with our Transportation Department to develop plans for our student athletes and teams. Golf and tennis teams will carpool to some competitions, when necessary. Also, middle school basketball teams (girls and boys) will complete their regular season schedule this Saturday. Then, next Saturday (Feb. 3), APS will host the first round of a “March Madness” style tournament where all 16 teams will participate, instead of just the top four. The quarter finals (Elite Eight) will be held Feb. 10, and the semifinals (Final Four) will be held Feb. 17. The date for the championship games will be determined later.
  4. Our Human Resources and Finance Departments are developing strategies to ensure that all of our hourly employees are treated fairly, while ensuring that the plans we implement are “cost-neutral.”
  5. Our Communications Department is working on a plan to share this information with parents and stakeholders this week.

We will continue to provide everyone with additional details about our plan in order to ensure its success. Again, I want to thank all of you who took time to engage with us and complete the survey. APS will continue to move forward in the best interest of preparing all of our students to succeed, and we look forward to your continued support in that effort.

Also, I got lots of questions about virtual learning opportunities for APS students on bad weather days. Fair enough, APS does not currently have a district-wide approach to utilizing digital learning, as many of our families and students do not have digital devices and/or internet to gain access to assignments and school work.  This is why we have made closing the digital divide a priority in our work with partners and elected officials. Many of our partners have offered extensive support in this effort:

  • Sprint 1 Million Project provides devices for high school students

https://www.google.com/amp/www.ajc.com/news/local-education/500-atlanta-high-schoolers-receive-home-internet-free-devices/vrS2xMt5wbpP22PguWk55J/amp.html

  • Connect Home provides low cost internet for Atlanta Housing Authority students

http://connecthome.atlantaga.gov/

  • Power My Learning provides devices and family workshops

https://powermylearning.org/

  • Comcast provides low cost internet at select APS schools in low income communities
  • myBackPack is platform that is accessible from any device and provides students with access to digital learning tools, 2,200 e-books, secure email, cloud storage and the complete Microsoft Office Suite. Parents and students can access myBackpack by using the following steps:
  1. Through an Internet connection –navigate to https://mybackpack.apsk12.org
  2. Students should enter their APS student computer login id.
  3. The myBackPack screen will load with your unique username and password.
  4. For questions or concerns please email:  mybackpack@apsk12.org

But even with partner support, there is more work to be done. It’s imperative, however, that on inclement weather days students and staff use the extensive resources we already have. So, don’t forget these resources in the future!

Finally, I just want to thank @Promise Youth Center, Atlanta Police Foundation, Chris 180 and Atlanta Community Food Bank for coming together with our Student Support Services and Social Work Departments to provide over 4,500 meals to our families in need during those cold winter days!

Again, welcome back and let’s get to work!

 

APS Cancels Classes on Friday, January 19; Take the Make Up Day Survey

ColdWeatherKids

(UPDATE):  Due to inclement weather, Atlanta Public Schools has cancelled classes and all school activities on Friday, January 19. The district will resume normal operations on Monday, January 22.

Here we are again! Another snow day (grimace emoji!).

As you know, we had to cancel classes and all school activities again on Friday, January 19, due to inclement weather. The sun may be out, but it is still brutally cold outside and ice is everywhere. We can’t have our students, teachers and staff members on the roads going to and from school and school activities. It’s just not safe yet.

Friday (January 19) is the seventh school day that we will have missed due to the weather since the start of the school year in August. I know many people are now starting to ask the inevitable question:  Do we have to make up these days, and if so, when and how will we do it?

First, allow me to clarify something about how many days we are required to make up. The Atlanta Public Schools charter with the Georgia Department of Education DOES NOT require us to make up days. BUT, I am concerned about the significant loss of instructional time we have suffered. So, we are looking at ways we can make up the equivalent of approximately 3 instructional days before the end of the school year.

One of the complicating factors I must consider when exploring make up days is that we have historically paid our employees even when the district is closed for inclement weather.   Many of our employees depend upon a consistent paycheck to pay their bills, which is why we do not reduce their pay when Mother Nature doesn’t cooperate.  However, if we make up days during a time that was otherwise scheduled to be a paid holiday, we will have to ask employees to come in to “make up” these days in order to ensure that the make-up options are cost-neutral.  That may seem like a logical request of our employees, but it is not something we have had to do in recent history. We haven’t been in the position of making up days for quite some time, so asking employees to “make up” paid holidays will undoubtedly cause confusion.

Having said all of that, we would like some assistance from you to help us make the best decision for everyone in APS. We have created a survey (click here) with six options for making up the time. We chose these options based on the following factors:

  • We do not want to extend the school year past Memorial Day Weekend, so as not to conflict with summer travel/vacation plans;
  • We do not want to require students and staff to come to school on Saturdays to ensure maximum attendance; and,
  • We do not want to conflict with Spring Break so as not to interfere with travel/vacation plans.

Here are the options:

Option 1 – Make up the days on February 19 – 21 during Winter Break

  • Pros: consolidates make up days; teachers are already scheduled to work February 19
  • Cons: families and staff may have already scheduled travel for the President’s Day Weekend and/or Winter Break; will require employees who are paid when school is closed for inclement weather to “make up” the days without additional pay to ensure the plan is cost neutral

Option 2 – Make up the days on February 21 – 23 during Winter Break

  • Pros: consolidates make up days; does not conflict with potential travel plans for President’s Day Weekend
  • Cons: families and staff may have already scheduled travel for Winter Break; will require employees who are paid when school is closed for inclement weather to “make up” the days without additional pay to ensure the plan is cost neutral

Option 3 – Make up the days on February 19-20 during Winter Break and March 19 professional learning day

  • Pros: spreads out make up days to minimize impact on Winter Break; teachers are already scheduled to work on February 19 and March 19
  • Cons: families and staff may have already scheduled travel for President’s Day Weekend and/or Winter Break; takes away 2 critical professional learning days for staff; will require employees who are paid when school is closed for inclement weather to “make up” the days without additional pay to ensure the plan is cost neutral

Option 4 – Make up the days on February 22 -23 during Winter Break and March 19 professional learning day

  • Pros: spreads out make up days to minimize impact on Winter Break; does not conflict with potential travel plans for President’s Day Weekend; teachers are already scheduled to work on March 19
  • Cons: families and staff may have already scheduled travel for Winter Break; takes away a critical professional learning day for staff; will require employees who are paid when school is closed for inclement weather to “make up” the days without additional pay to ensure the plan is cost neutral

Option 5 – Add 30 minutes to end of the day from January 29 to March 30

  • Pros: does not conflict with potential travel plans for families and staff; does not interfere with critical professional learning days for staff; likely to have the better attendance than Options 1 – 4 as students will already be in school; will not require employees to “make up” days without additional pay
  • Cons: will require flexibility with start times for athletics and other extracurricular events after school; will require schools to implement plans to ensure instructional time is maximized and not wasted as “extra time” added on to schedule; will require strategies to ensure the plan is cost neutral

Option 6 – Add 15 minutes to start of the day and 15 minutes to end of the day from January 29 to March 30

  • Pros: does not conflict with potential travel plans for families and staff; does not interfere with critical professional learning days for staff; likely to have better attendance than Options 1 – 4 as students will already be in school; minimizes impact on after school activities; will not require employees to “make up” days without additional pay
  • Cons: will require some flexibility (though less than option 5) with start times for athletics and other extracurricular events after school; may result in more students being tardy to school; will require schools to implement plans to ensure instructional time is maximized and not wasted as “extra time” added on to schedule; will require strategies to ensure the plan is cost neutral

Please take a minute to complete the survey. We want to hear from everyone – students, parents and staff. The survey will be taken down at 11:45 p.m., Sunday, January 21. Keep in mind that you will only be able to vote one time.

I can assure you that the results will play a significant role in the decision we make. Also, we plan to do some informal polling of our principals and other administrators. Once we have all the facts and opinions, we will be sure to announce our decision in a timely manner.

So, that’s where we are. We will also begin exploring contingency plans for any future closings due to bad weather, as we are at a point where we will need to explore options for employee pay on inclement weather closing dates. We fully expect to be back open for business, bright and early on Monday, January 22. Until then, take the survey, keep warm and stay safe. See you Monday!

APS Wants Your Thoughts on Make Up Days

ColdWeatherKids

 

(UPDATE):  Due to inclement weather, Atlanta Public Schools has cancelled classes and all school activities on Friday, January 19. The district will resume normal operations on Monday, January 22.

Here we are again! Another snow day (grimace emoji!).

As you know, we had to cancel classes and all school activities again on Friday, January 19, due to inclement weather. The sun may be out, but it is still brutally cold outside and ice is everywhere. We can’t have our students, teachers and staff members on the roads going to and from school and school activities. It’s just not safe yet.

Friday (January 19) is the seventh school day that we will have missed due to the weather since the start of the school year in August. I know many people are now starting to ask the inevitable question:  Do we have to make up these days, and if so, when and how will we do it?

First, allow me to clarify something about how many days we are required to make up. The Atlanta Public Schools charter with the Georgia Department of Education DOES NOT require us to make up days. BUT, I am concerned about the significant loss of instructional time we have suffered. So, we are looking at ways we can make up the equivalent of approximately 3 instructional days before the end of the school year.

One of the complicating factors I must consider when exploring make up days is that we have historically paid our employees even when the district is closed for inclement weather.   Many of our employees depend upon a consistent paycheck to pay their bills, which is why we do not reduce their pay when Mother Nature doesn’t cooperate.  However, if we make up days during a time that was otherwise scheduled to be a paid holiday, we will have to ask employees to come in to “make up” these days in order to ensure that the make-up options are cost-neutral.  That may seem like a logical request of our employees, but it is not something we have had to do in recent history. We haven’t been in the position of making up days for quite some time, so asking employees to “make up” paid holidays will undoubtedly cause confusion.

Having said all of that, we would like some assistance from you to help us make the best decision for everyone in APS. We have created a survey (click here) with six options for making up the time. We chose these options based on the following factors:

  • We do not want to extend the school year past Memorial Day Weekend, so as not to conflict with summer travel/vacation plans;
  • We do not want to require students and staff to come to school on Saturdays to ensure maximum attendance; and,
  • We do not want to conflict with Spring Break so as not to interfere with travel/vacation plans.

Here are the options:

Option 1 – Make up the days on February 19 – 21 during Winter Break

  • Pros: consolidates make-up days; teachers are already scheduled to work February 19
  • Cons: families and staff may have already scheduled travel for the President’s Day Weekend and/or Winter Break; will require employees who are paid when school is closed for inclement weather to “make up” the days without additional pay to ensure the plan is cost neutral

Option 2 – Make up the days on February 21 – 23 during Winter Break

  • Pros: consolidates make-up days; does not conflict with potential travel plans for President’s Day Weekend
  • Cons: families and staff may have already scheduled travel for Winter Break; will require employees who are paid when school is closed for inclement weather to “make up” the days without additional pay to ensure the plan is cost neutral

Option 3 – Make up the days on February 19-20 during Winter Break and March 19 professional learning day

  • Pros: spreads out make-up days to minimize impact on Winter Break; teachers are already scheduled to work on February 19 and March 19
  • Cons: families and staff may have already scheduled travel for President’s Day Weekend and/or Winter Break; takes away 2 critical professional learning days for staff; will require employees who are paid when school is closed for inclement weather to “make up” the days without additional pay to ensure the plan is cost neutral

Option 4 – Make up the days on February 22 -23 during Winter Break and March 19 professional learning day

  • Pros: spreads out make-up days to minimize impact on Winter Break; does not conflict with potential travel plans for President’s Day Weekend; teachers are already scheduled to work on March 19
  • Cons: families and staff may have already scheduled travel for Winter Break; takes away a critical professional learning day for staff; will require employees who are paid when school is closed for inclement weather to “make up” the days without additional pay to ensure the plan is cost neutral

Option 5 – Add 30 minutes to end of the day from January 29 to March 30

  • Pros: does not conflict with potential travel plans for families and staff; does not interfere with critical professional learning days for staff; likely to have the better attendance than Options 1 – 4 as students will already be in school; will not require employees to “make up” days without additional pay
  • Cons: will require flexibility with start times for athletics and other extracurricular events after school; will require schools to implement plans to ensure instructional time is maximized and not wasted as “extra time” added on to schedule; will require strategies to ensurethe plan is cost neutral

Option 6 – Add 15 minutes to start of the day and 15 minutes to end of the day from January 29 to March 30

  • Pros: does not conflict with potential travel plans for families and staff; does not interfere with critical professional learning days for staff; likely to have better attendance than Options 1 – 4 as students will already be in school; minimizes impact on after school activities; will not require employees to “make up” days without additional pay
  • Cons: will require some flexibility (though less than option 5) with start times for athletics and other extracurricular events after school; may result in more students being tardy to school; will require schools to implement plans to ensure instructional time is maximized and not wasted as “extra time” added on to schedule; will require strategies to ensure the plan is cost neutral

Please, take a minute to complete the survey (click here). We want to hear from everyone – students, parents and staff. The survey will be taken down at 11:45 p.m., Sunday, January 21, and keep in mind that you will only be able to vote one time.

I can assure you that the results will play a significant role in the decision we make. Also, we plan to do some informal polling of our principals and other administrators. Once we have all the facts and opinions, we will be sure to announce our decision in a timely manner.

So, that’s where we are. We will also begin exploring contingency plans for any future closings due to bad weather, as we are at a point where we will need to explore options for employee pay on inclement weather closing dates. We fully expect to be back open for business, bright and early on Friday, January 19. Until then, take the survey (click here), keep warm and stay safe. See you Friday!

We Honor MLK by Continuing Our Journey of Transformation

MLK - Selma to Montgomery, 1965 (2018)

As a native of Selma, Alabama, most of you know about my roots in and respect for the Civil Rights Movement and all of the icons – both famous and unsung – who participated in it.

Today’s 32nd celebration of the Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday has an even more special meaning for our nation, as this year we also commemorate the 50th anniversary of Dr. King’s assassination. Though he has been gone for half a century, it is even more important today that we continue to honor his name by fighting to keep his dream of respect, dignity and prosperity for all alive. And at its core, that is what our journey of transforming Atlanta Public Schools is about – treating our students with respect and dignity, and preparing them to lead productive, prosperous lives.

I am back in Selma this weekend to celebrate the legacy of my own father’s life and look forward to returning again in two months to celebrate the legacy of leaders in the Voting Rights Movement. On Saturday, March 24, I will be running in the Inaugural Selma to Montgomery 51-Mile Dr. C - Edmund Pettus Bridge Picture (2018)Relay (read more about it here), held to commemorate the historic Voting Rights March of 1965 – organized and led by Dr. King, the Southern Christian Leadership Council (SCLC), and the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). It was a seminal moment in the Civil Rights Movement, a transformational journey that was met with great resistance. But Dr. King and countless other heroes and heroines of the Movement persisted, and we must do the same even as our transformational journey encounters its share of obstacles. I am always reminded of what Dr. King once said: “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.” 

APS Day 1 of school.

And we all know that Dr. King did not lead the Movement alone. A short list of those who fought with him includes legends like Congressman John Lewis, the Honorable Andrew Young, Rev. Joseph Lowery and Rev. C.T. Vivian, as well as late, great leaders such as Rosa Parks, Hosea Williams, Fannie Lou Hamer, Rev. Ralph David Abernathy, Dorothy Height, Beyard Rustin, Maynard Jackson and the Jackson Family, and of course, the ever-graceful Coretta Scott King.

Likewise, we are not alone in our quest to make APS a consistently high-performing school system, as illustrated by several of our great partners who will be honoring the King Holiday by completing service projects at a number of our schools:  State Farm (Brown Middle School); Salesforce (Bunche Middle School); Target (Crim Open Campus); Alston & Bird (Dunbar Elementary School); Slalom (Fickett Elementary School); ADP and Leadership Atlanta (King Middle School); and Newell Brands (M. Agnes Jones Elementary School).

I am deeply humbled by the commitment of Dr. King and countless other freedom fighters who marched and paved the way toward making this a better world filled with limitless opportunities for all of us. We should reflect on that truth today and every day, and honor their efforts, struggles and sacrifices by doing our best to keep Dr. King’s dream alive. I can think of no better way to do that than continuing our transformation of Atlanta Public Schools and brightening the futures of our students by preparing them for college and career, so that they may live fruitful lives of boundless possibilities.

Happy Birthday, Dr. King!

#MLKday #JohnLewisFreedomRunners #Selma