APS Rocks: APS’ 2018 Grad Rate is Highest Ever at 79.9% (Up 2.9 percentage points)!

We’ve Increased 20.8 Percentage Points Since 2014

(Drumroll, please!) I want to be the first to share with you that APS has achieved its highest graduation rate ever (WOO HOO!) at 79.9 percent (79.93 to be exact). While we missed our goal of 80 percent by one student, know that I’m really proud of the work of our cohort of 2018 students and our colleagues on the front lines!

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In addition, our graduation rate has increased by 20.8 percentage points since 2014 from 59.1 percent in 2014 to 79.9 percent in 2018. This year’s rate represents a 2.9 percentage point gain over last year.

APS’ graduation rate over the past five years.

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AND, we cut the gap with the state in half from 3.6 percentage points in 2017 to 1.7 percentage points this year (Yay!). The state’s 2018 graduation rate is 81.6 percent. The Georgia Department of Education released this data today.


APS cuts the gap with the State in half.

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Our number of on-time graduates hit a new high at 2,438, which is 82 more graduates than the previous year. Notable gains were achieved by students with disabilities, up 5.0 percentage points to 60.5 percent (Great job Executive Director Katika Lovett, Assistant Superintendent Tammie Workman and our special educators across the district!) AND, the graduation rate for our African-American students, our largest group, is up 3.7 percentage points to 78.2 percent. On a related note…for the first time in seven years, APS is no longer disproportionate for the over suspension of African-American students with disabilities. Woohoo!

The graduation rate for white students remains high at 95.4 percent, although there was a slight decline (-0.5) compared to last year, and the rate for Hispanic students is 73.0 percent a decrease of 4.6 percentage points from 2017. Keep in mind that the cohort 2018 Hispanic subgroup was 148 students; the change in graduation rate reflects six fewer graduates in 2018 than in 2017.

I am so excited about the academic achievements of our students, and it’s important that we celebrate these gains. Our grad rate is as much about the achievement of our students as it is about the commitment of so many APS leaders, teachers, staff and community partners who are working hard every single day to ensure our students graduate ready for college and career.

Now…for a little more perspective on the numbers…

The 20.8 percentage point increase since 2014 speaks to the positive effect of our district-wide transformation strategy, including improved data tracking, an audit of students’ transcripts, alternative approaches to earning and recovering credits, and alternative options for students to show mastery in courses.

But wait…there’s more!

 I would like to highlight the six schools that had graduation rates over 90 percent: Drew Secondary (98.7%), CSK (93.5%), North Atlanta (92.5%), Grady (92.0%), Carver Early College (91.8%), and KIPP Collegiate (90.2%).


And, I also want to call out the eight schools that increased their graduation rates compared to 2017: B.E.S.T. Academy (11.1 percentage points), Jackson (7.9), South Atlanta (6.9), Therrell (6.7), Washington (6.2), Grady (3.6), Douglass (0.8), and Mays (0.2).


 Percentage point change in graduation rate for all schools between 2017 & 2018.

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Congratulations to all teachers and staff at these schools and a big shout out to principals Betsy Bockman, Adam Danser, Curtis Douglass, Ellis Duncan, Patricia Ford, Richard Fowler, Timothy Jones, Peter McKnight, Chanika Perry, Shelly Powell, Marcene Thornton, Eulonda Washington, and Tasharah Wilson!

I also want to thank West End Academy principal Evelyn Mobley for addressing the needs of our at-risk and credit-deficient 11th and 12th grade students and helping them get back on the path to graduation.

We couldn’t make these gains without all of the hard working people at APS who believe in our students.

I want to thank our teachers, school leaders, graduation coaches and counselors and administration teams and support staff for everything they’ve done to help our students succeed. And, please help me thank and recognize Deputy Superintendent David Jernigan and Associate Superintendent Dan Sims, and his team in our Office of High Schools, Chief Accountability and Information Officer Bill Caritj, Executive Director Michael LaMont and his Data and Information Group for creating the dashboards and tracking tools we needed, especially Mary Hartigan (who is leaving her role as Director of Research and Evaluation here at APS on September 21 but not before she did the yeomen’s work of cleaning up the graduation data to ensure the accuracy and integrity that we strive for to rebuild trust with our community. We’re going to miss you, Mary!), and Elise Lenthe our High School Data Strategist.

We know that social and emotional learning (SEL) has a positive effect on student performance. That’s why we have been focused on creating a supportive school climate in every APS classroom and on improving learning environments through positive behavior supports. When our students feel safe, welcomed, respected and challenged by quality educators, they engage and get excited about learning.

We need every parent and every caregiver to continue to work with us to get our students to the finish line. EVERY student matters!

I’ll be reporting on these and other gains across the district at the upcoming 2018 State of the District on Friday, October 5 at 11 a.m. at the new Walden Sports Complex at 320 Irwin St NE. Our theme this year is APS Rocks, and I’d love to see you there! RSVP here.

For now, it’s on to increasing next year’s graduation rate! Let’s stay the course and remain focused on our mission to prepare EVERY student for college and career. Thank you Atlanta for your support! APS ROCKS!!!

For more information and charts on our 2018 graduation rate, click here.





Rolling Through the District for Day One

Welcome to SY18-19!

This morning, like thousands of students within Atlanta Public Schools, my team and I boarded one of our school buses (shout out to our driver, Mr. Rapley!) with excitement and anticipation for a long but wonderful day ahead! It’s Day One of the 2018-2019 school year!

As part of our DAY ONE tradition, we will visit students, teachers, administrators, support staff and the community to report on Back-to-School happenings across the district. Throughout Day One, we will share our journey in real time on this blog and on twitter (@CarstarphenMJ and @APSUpdate). Follow along with the #APSFIRSTDAY hashtag.

4:40 p.m. – Mays High School Football Practice (Mays Cluster)

This fall, hundreds of our student athletes will finish their school day at practice. So what better way to end our DAY ONE tour than with one of our amazing sports teams!

The #aMAYSing football players of Mays High School let me spend a little time with them as they prepared for a grueling season to bring home the W — their seniors want to secure a THIRD consecutive region championship for the school and beloved coaches, especially Coach Resty Beadles!

The Raiders are getting ready for a big season! They are the first APS team EVER to compete in the famous Corky Kell Classic. They’ll compete against Norcross High School on Saturday, August 18 at 8:45 pm at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. BE THERE! They’ll also compete in the first annual Cam Newton C1N Georgia vs. Alabama Showcase against Phenix City on Saturday, August 25 at 8:00 pm at Lakewood Stadium.

Last year, 22 seniors from the class of 2018 earned college football scholarships. I can’t wait to see what happens this season on and off of the field!

It’s been a long day, but one full of excitement and hopefulness that the DAY ONE joy for learning that I witnessed from students and educators will continue throughout the  school year.

In the words of Robert Frost, “We have promises to keep, and miles to go before we sleep.”

Thank you APS for a fantastic Day One! #APSFIRSTDAY

3:45 p.m. – Bunche Middle School (Therrell Cluster)


As we neared the end of the day, I made a quick stop at Bunche Middle School to say hello to its new principal, Octavius Harris. Mr. Harris is a longtime member of the Charger family, having taught mathematics at Bunche from 2006 to 2012.

 For the past four academic years, Mr. Harris served as assistant principal at APS’ D.M. Therrell High School, where he decreased freshman cohort suspensions by 11 percent, developed a mathematics program to increase student enrollment in accelerated mathematics, and created an after-school program to engage Athletes in Technology and Mathematics (ATM).

I made it just in time to say a quick hello before school let out…and get a few hugs from my favorite autism teachers on site!

I look forward to seeing the implementation of his vision at Bunche Middle!


2:50 p.m. – Crawford W. Long Middle School (South Atlanta Cluster)

Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) is the signature program in the South Atlanta Cluster, and Long Middle School was the perfect place to see STEM curriculum in action! We visited the school’s science lab, and we stopped by the new 21st Century Media Center, where we saw STEM interactive kits.DjiiDqcU0AAMtgL

However, technology isn’t reserved for the classroom.  At Long Middle School, technology is also used to collect data to create effective action plans for the betterment of our students.

In a first for Atlanta Public Schools, the American School Counselor Association recognized Long Middle School for delivering a comprehensive, data-driven school counseling program in an exemplary educational environment. It was my honor to take a selfie with the award-winning counselors of Long Middle School.

Principal Lisa Hill, a proud product of APS, has her building pumped for the new year!


2:00 p.m. – Perkerson Elementary School (Carver Cluster) 

1Our eighth stop of the day is a school where all the educators are  superheroes: Perkerson Elementary School. Together, students and parents, are going to put Perkerson on the map!

According to the recent Georgia Milestones results, 4th grade ELA is up 10 percentage points in proficient and above since last year.

As we toured the school with Principal Tony Ford,  I was able to see so many wonderful changes! The media center has gone from terrible to terrific! Now it’s more bright and spacious! A great place to read and learn especially on the new “oodle” stools! The cafeteria has been redone as well! It even has curtains with cute little bows made by the recently retired Ms. Huey, a former teacher of the year in APS! She woke up early this morning to come back to Perkerson to volunteer and help with Day One! Now that’s Perkerson Pride!

After walking through the renovation sites, we spent time with Ms. Burchfield’s 5th grade class where I saw one of my favorite students, Ralphie Long! His cool classmates are the top cats of the school – Jaguars! These wildcats are smart and focused! I can tell that they’re going to have a great year!

I’m so excited about what’s happening at Perkerson!



1:00 p.m. – Benteen Elementary School (Jackson Cluster)

We were greeted at Benteen by the Dazzling Divas cheerleading squad! Even on a rainy day they had big time Benteen spirit! Such a fun way to start the visit!

After getting energized with the cheerleaders, we dropped in on the school’s first dual immersion class. This year, Principal Andrew Lovett and the Benteen team are launching the Dual Language Immersion program, where students will spend half of their day learning in Spanish. APS has the distinction of being the only school district in Georgia to offer world language opportunities in ALL schools. The kindergartners I met today will be fluent readers and writers in Spanish in 5 years! How cool is that?!DjiEXt0VAAAFV5a.jpg

I was happy to see bilingualism displayed throughout the building, as we made our rounds to the various DAY ONE selfie stations.

According to the recent Georgia Milestones results, 5th grade science is up 8 percentage points in proficient and above since last year. ELA achievement across grades 3-5 increased over 6 percentage points in proficient and above since last year.

Dr. Andrew Lovett is an absolute gem, and his school, staff and students are reflections of that!

The Bulldogs are ready for the year ahead!


Noon – Mary Lin Elementary School (Grady Cluster)

We headed over to Mary Lin Elementary School for our midday DAY ONE visit, and we were captivated by the school’s new outdoor murals.  That play space has come a looooooong way since my first-year post renovation. We laughed (but I really wanted to cry) recalling all the trauma and drama getting school open that year and all the work that still needed to be done. BUT, TODAY you would never know how far the school facility has come! IT’S GORGEOUS and just keeps getting more beautiful as more finishing touches are added.

6For example, acclaimed Atlanta-based muralist Kyle Brooks created the colorful display of rockets, birds, a crooked smiling tree, a janky-legged cat and giant chicken totems in just 7 short days during the summer. He said he wanted to paint characters that would inspire Mary Lin students to create funny names and stories. I think Mr. Brooks would be pleased to see just how creative and brilliant our Mary Lin students are. According to recent Georgia Milestones results, 56% of 5th graders scored distinguished (THE highest achievement level) in math.

I also enjoyed the space mural in the hall courtesy of Hands on Atlanta! It’s sooooooo beautiful!!

Principal Sharyn Briscoe took us on her annual post-lunch snack tour to distribute goodies to teachers. This also involved me trying to explain my job, our district, and how it all works with various grade levels. I even got in a few selfies with students and staff, saw familiar faces (Hey! Coach Hicks!) and met 41 year old Cecil, a turtle, in Mrs. Guthrie’s 1st grade class. Cecil was a gift to Mrs. Guthrie from her dad (a former science teacher) when she was 10! So cool!

Under the leadership of Principal Briscoe, Mary Lin will be taking off to the stars again this year!



10:40 a.m. – E. Rivers Elementary School (North Atlanta Cluster)

When you visit the Georgia Department of Education Healthy Schools Award recipient, E. Rivers Elementary School, be prepared to exercise your body and mind!

Outside the school, the scuttle centered around new STEM lab but that had to wait so we could meet the newbies! Pre-K was lining up for lunch so we kicked off the visit by giving Day One stickers to the adorable pre-K babies and checking in on how they were feeling. First day of school for them can have a few tears but not today…all smiles from these new students!

Next, we went to the media center to check out the adorable layout of the library and the LEGO Wall. It’s super cool! Media Specialist Ms. Paula Boston surprised us with a LEGO #APSFIRSTDAY in honor of us trending on Twitter!

We continued to Ms. Arango’s 1st grade dual immersion class, and brushed up on our Spanish! Muchas Gracias, Sra. Arango’s class!

Principal John Waller is very excited about the new STEM LAB. The learning continued as Ms. Sanders explained how students will cycle through and learn more about the scientific process in the lab. I got a crash course learning about the scientific method, the inquiry process, and variables. They’re definitely going to learn a lot and have fun doing so!

Several students across the campus were putting their brains to action via Tab2Read – an  APS initiative where first and second graders receive tablets loaded with literary learning-based apps and e-books . Although, I didn’t get the chance to actually join in on the fun, I know the students will enjoy brushing up on their sight words using the tablets.

According to recent Georgia Milestones results, over half (51%) of  the 5th graders scored proficient and above in social studies last year, which is up over 17 percentage points since last year. ROAR!

I’m amped to see what’s ahead for the Lions this year!

We refueled with a hot, nutritious meal. On the elementary menu today: Back-2-School BBQ! I joined some of my  new 5th grade BFFs to eat baked beans, corn on the cob, broccoli cheese casserole, BBQ chicken, apple slices and chocolate milk. My lunch companions from Mr. Hulsing’s 5th were great conversationalists!

I met a student, Isaiah Inyang, in the lunch line. He read 27 books over the summer and each book had over 100 pages. Now that makes THIS superintendent very happy! Just one example of the amazing students at E. Rivers.

Shout out to principal Dr. John Waller and new business manager Kimberly Bowser (she’s been promoted) and their team for being such gracious hosts!



9:35 a.m. – Booker T. Washington High School (Washington Cluster)

Can’t go to Booker T. Washington High School without getting a picture of the iconic statue  of the school’s namesake out front!MC photo.jpg

“Those who are happiest are those who do the most for others.” – Booker T. Washington

Rich in history, under the leadership of Principal Dr. Tasharah Wilson, Washington High School has an equally rich legacy of outstanding graduates such as Martin Luther King, Jr. and Lena Horne. Alumni who go above and beyond for their communities and inspire those following behind them including our own school board member, Byron Amos. Today’s students are also proud to be Bulldogs. Proud to call a school with 94 years of history their own.

DjhWKyQUwAAtpsyThese new student faces grace the halls. For instance, the new ESOL students met with their teacher to go over supports and schedules for the new school year. There’s also a new dedicated 9th grade hall to help with bridging from middle school to high school.

As we visited the Fine Arts department,  we saw a gorgeous mural created for the National Black Arts Festival by students and visual art instructor, Sachi Richardson. So talented!

Next we visited Sean Freeman’s dance class. He had students doing a creative ice breaker to help teach communication, concentration,  and focus…of which I apparently have none because I messed up every time! LOL!

I’m proud of the the Bulldogs for the achievements made over the last four school years. According to recent Georgia Milestones results, for example, American Literature increased 14 percentage points in proficient and above. I’m excited to see what’s ahead.

The Bulldogs are already off to a great start! They showed up and showed out!


8:45 a.m. – Boyd Elementary School (Douglass Cluster)

Joi Kilpatrick, a second year principal, welcomed us with open arms and pump up music with help from V103’s DJ and star Greg Street at our second school stop for DAY ONE – Boyd Elementary School – located in the Douglass Cluster.

The Boyd Bobcats are clearly ready to start the year right!

IMG_2755.JPGWe got a firsthand look at Boyd’s new STEM garden and renovated facility. I am excited about the new STEM program launching this year!

We also stopped by the Parent Orientation to greet families and saw V103’s Greg Street,  help Boyd get the year started right!

Then we visited Ms. Cohen’s third grade class. She’s a ballet dancer and the school’s teacher of the year! Almost all students said that they were always happy…that’s gotta be a blessing for her!DjhKIefV4AEKYVO.jpg

Mrs. Forte’s and Mr. McKinney’s combined 4th grade class was learning about routines and expectations for behavior. She teaches ELA and he covers science and math.  Their students taught us how to proudly read the Bobcat Pledge. This school year will be about being your “Boyd Best” — Be Brilliant, Be Exceptional, Be Studious, Be Timely! I think they’re ready!

Way to go Boyd!


7:30 a.m. – Peyton Forest Elementary School (Mays Cluster)

What a way to start the school year! Celebrating 50 years of educating elementary students in southwest Atlanta, Peyton Forest Elementary School showed us why they are the “Greatest School on Earth!”

Principal Cynthia Gunner sent a personal invitation to the Peyton Forest school community, and they came through big time in The Big Top! Alumni returned to the school to help us greet students as they exited buses and cars and entered their circus-themed school building – complete with the ringmaster, magician, lion tamer, carnival games and clowns on stilts and more!  Djg1iMjU8AAtWtq

However, the Peyton Forest Tigers have reasons to roar on their first day. According to the recent Georgia Milestones results, their ELA achievement across grades 3-5 is up 5.8 percentage points in proficient and above since last year, and their 4th grade ELA is up over 15 percentage points in proficient and above in the past two years.

In addition to student achievement, Principal Gunner is also elated that her daughter, Payton Gunner, is a member of the winning high school team that participated in the Harvard Debate Competition this summer.

As we entered the school through bubbles, music and a circus tent, we could feel the energy parading throughout the building. Every class was thrilled to start their school year off.


(I had a yummy breakfast of chicken nuggets and waffles with chocolate milk and new Kindergarten friends! All other students had breakfast in the classroom — chicken sandwiches and bananas with juice or milk! The highlight of my morning meal was the freshly popped popcorn from a real concession stand machine!)

Peyton Forest will be a tough “act” to follow! Wow! Happy 50th Anniversary!





5:30 a.m. – APS Metropolitan Bus Depot


Welcome back to school!

We started Day One at the Metropolitan Bus Depot to meet members of our transportation team. Our transportation department, lead by Mr. John Franklin, is the “venous” system of our district, carrying our students through a network of roads, streets, and interstates of veins to deliver them back and forth to the APS heart – our schools and teachers!

Our bus operators, a.k.a. our “transportation educators,” are often the first adults to greet students as they begin each school day. So, it seemed quite fitting to start our day by greeting them.

Over 400 school buses will depart from here, Lakewood Stadium and North Atlanta High School, and will travel 21,215 miles across the city to safely transport 28,000 of our beautiful students. When you think about it, that’s an amazing feat our transportation team accomplishes every single day!

Research studies from the Brookins Institute and others tell us that there are great benefits associated with students riding the bus – including the following:

  • Students who ride the bus have fewer absences. 
  • Students are 50 times more likely to arrive at school safely on a school bus than if they drive themselves or ride with friends.
  • Students who ride the bus are more confident and have higher self-esteem and social skills.
  • Students who take the bus are contributing to cleaner air by doing their part to reduce pollution.
  • And students who take the bus are benefiting the community! Fewer cars means less Atlanta traffic, lower emissions, and safer roads! 

And who makes this possible for APS students  each day? 

Our safe drivin’, school supportin’, rule followin’, kid lovin’ school bus drivers!!! 

Drivers like those celebrated yesterday for being among the APS Elite Bus Drivers – drivers who have perfect attendance and remain accident free. Whether it’s 1 of the 7 drivers with over twenty years of experience or a rising star just beginning their career, we are so thankful for the work they do each day.

As a small token of appreciation, we sent them off with good wishes, healthy snacks, and Chick-Fil-A biscuits.

Now, we’re ready to visit our first school of the day! Let’s keep rollin’!

#YellowTogether #APSFIRSTDAY


Powering Down Power Up!

A Summary of our New Sizzling Summer School Programs

As we prepare for Day One tomorrow, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on summer 2018.  In summers past, our summer school model primarily focused on remediation for students needing additional supports. Meaning, if students weren’t going to school during the summer to receive academic intervention, then there were not many places for them to go within the district to further their education.

However, this summer we launched, Power Up!, the district’s redesign of the traditional summer school model to move towards a more dynamic, engaging, and enriching opportunity for all our students.

Atlanta Public Schools’ Power Up! summer program allowed students of all levels, from elementary to high school, to take their creativity and learning abilities above and beyond.

 For instance, the Xanadu summer program doubled in size, and included a variety of differentiated summer enrichment programs for gifted students in grades K-12 from across the district. We also worked with the Flying Classroom, STE(A)M Truck, Emmaus House Freedom School, Teach for America, and many others. Furthermore, we scaled up key summer partnerships – such as Odyssey and Horizons.  screen-shot-2018-06-13-at-3-25-29-pm-1

We also saw a plethora of engaging lessons, that included coding, wood workshop, theater, art and music classes, at sites across the district. This summer, our schools had autonomy to use their allotment in accordance with their school’s remediation and enrichment needs as opposed to only being provided the option of sending their students to the traditional APS summer school — as done in previous years.

As the Power Up! program concluded, surveys were given to students, parents, staff, and site administrators to assess their perception of the new model. Feedback was overwhelmingly positive, with majority of respondents indicating they would like for the program to continue.

Here’s an overview of those survey results:

  • 99% of parents would consider sending their students to a Power Up! program again
  • 78% of students said their program and the activities they did were either “Really good” or “Fantastic”
  • 75% of Site Administrators were either “Very Satisfied” or “Extremely Satisfied” with the program overall.
  • 86% of staff enjoyed the design of Power Up!

APS_Spring2018_EEE1043-X3Although I am elated that students were able to stay engaged during the summer months, I know that there is room for growth with our revamped summer model. For instance, we want to recruit more for enrollment. We could’ve served twice as many students that showed up each day.

With the program design in place and many of the kinks worked out, the district will be in a much better position to start planning for the summer of 2019, allowing schools to enroll students in the early spring before families make other commitments. We’ll also encourage our schools to have a more streamlined schedule to avoid confusion among parents and guardians.

Furthermore, to alleviate running into the same concerns in the years to come, the team has committed to implementing earlier planning, marketing, and enrollment strategies that will both boost attendance and prevent stress on school-based staff.

I wholeheartedly believe that summer should be an opportunity to accelerate and learn in a fun-filled way, and I want more students to benefit from summer enrichment.

I am appreciative of the work that was done to launch this initiative for our students this summer, and I look forward to expanding our Power Up! program next year.

I look forward to what’s ahead and cannot wait to kick off the first day of school (tomorrow)!

2018 #GaMilestones Results Are Blossoming! Gains on All End-of-Grade Subjects Take Root

APS Trims the Gap with State in Elementary and Middle Grades

It’s the end of summer and APS is still blooming! 2018 Milestones Results show our roots are stronger and we are still growing. As our summer season transitions into fall, it seems like it was just yesterday when we were celebrating our 2018 graduating class at our commencement ceremonies back in May. Now, it’s the end of July, signaling the end of our Power Up summer enrichment program, the launch of our 4th Annual Back to School Bash, and our Districtwide preparation for Day One on August 1.

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It’s data harvesting time and out first “milestone” (no pun intended) is the release of the 2018 Georgia Milestones results! The Georgia Department of Education (GaDOE) released those results earlier this morning.


The long and short of it is that our students’ performance on End-of-Grade (EOG) Assessments is encouraging and that really matters because long-term progress can’t be achieved without building the foundation at the elementary and middle school levels. We’re proud of this progress, however, as our End-of-Course (EOC) results show, there is still a lot of work ahead for us in ensuring that all of our students are prepared to succeed in and beyond high school.

Here are my key takeaways on the 2018 Georgia Milestones:

–APS achieved its highest gains to-date in the percentage of students who scored proficient and above across all subjects on the 2018 EOG Assessments.

–In addition, compared to the State, we made progress in narrowing the performance gap in all four EOG subjects, and we achieved year-over-year gains in the percentage of students scoring proficient and above on 18 of 24 (or 75%) EOG and End-of-Course (EOC) assessments (compared to gains in just over half, 52%, in the previous year).


–At the school-level, 64 of our schools saw gains overall in the percentage of students scoring proficient and above. All 17 of the District’s Turnaround schools receiving targeted or partnership support  – that is, those schools among the lowest performing – have improved since the implementation of the initiative two years ago.

I’m proud of the hard work of our APS school community, especially our teachers and school leaders who have embraced our mission and worked hard to improve our performance on Milestones.It speaks to our continued movement forward on our Journey of Transformation.

 Elementary School End-of-Grade Level Results (Grades 3-5)

I’m excited to share that at the elementary school level, APS has achieved its highest proficiency rates since the tests were implemented by the State in 2015. The biggest year-over-year increases were in social studies (+3.6) and math (+3.4). See Figure 1 below.

Figure 1: APS Milestones End-of-Grade Results: Elementary Grades, Proficient and Above

Figure 1

Middle School End-of-Grade Level Results (Grades 6-8)

At the middle school level, the District also achieved its highest proficiency rates since the tests were implemented by the State in 2015. The biggest year-over-year increases were in science (+4.5) and social studies (+3.4).  See Figure 2 below.

Figure 2: APS Milestones End-of-Grade Results: Middle Grades, Proficient and Above


Turnaround Schools

Seventeen of the District’s lowest performing schools receive resources for implementing academic and nonacademic supports that can include additional reading and math specialists, high-impact tutoring, and additional wraparound supports designed to improve academic performance. In addition to District-run schools, as part of the Turnaround strategy, APS has launched four Partnership schools to date; their daily operations and instructional programs are currently overseen by the nonprofit organizations Purpose Built and Kindezi.

When the Turnaround Strategy was fully implemented in 2016, the majority of our students at the 17 schools were performing at the beginning learner level. Over the two years of this initiative, all targeted and partnership schools (17 of 17) have seen a decrease in the percentage of students performing at this lowest level. Six of these schools saw a double-digit decrease!

Table 1 shows the change in the percentage of beginning learners using spring 2016 (the year prior to implementation) as the baseline. School year 2017-18 was the first year of partnerships for Gideons ES, Price MS, and Slater ES.

Table 1: APS Milestones End-of-Grade Results:  Turnaround Schools, Beginning Learners in All Subject Areas and Change

School Beginning Learners
Beginning Learners
Beginning Learners
(2016 to 2018)
Targeted Supports Barack and Michelle Obama Academy 68.4% 56.6% 52.6% -15.8
Boyd 74.3% 65.7% 57.9% -16.3
F.L. Stanton 59.8% 60.0% 50.7% -9.1
Fain 72.0% 73.6% 68.6% -3.4
Finch 63.2% 62.1% 56.8% -6.4
Hollis Innovation Academy (K-6) 69.8% 62.2% 56.2% -13.6
Kimberly 59.2% 53.1% 51.2% -8.0
Perkerson 57.1% 62.5% 53.1% -4.1
Scott 60.3% 53.8% 53.1% -7.2
Towns 64.4% 50.5% 53.1% -11.3
Tuskegee Airmen Global Academy 52.8% 50.0% 45.3% -7.6
Usher-Collier Heights 51.6% 47.3% 46.7% -4.9
Woodson Park Academy 60.4% 63.5% 57.4% -3.0
Partnership Model Gideons 64.7% 59.3% 53.2% -11.5
Price 63.6% 70.3% 63.5% -0.1
Slater 57.5% 50.9% 53.7% -3.9
Thomasville Heights 77.5% 66.6% 67.0% -10.5

End-of-Course Assessments

When it comes to our EOC assessments, the picture is not so rosy. On the eight EOC assessments tested in 2018, U.S. History shows the highest gain when compared to 2017 with a 2.5 percentage point increase in students scoring proficient and above. Algebra I (+1.8) and Biology (+1.7) also showed gains. Compared to the previous year’s results, the District saw a decline in proficiency in five of the eight EOC assessments. Geometry saw the largest decline (-2.5).  The 2018 data show that we must continue to focus on our high school performance.


Although this year’s EOC results are mixed, I am encouraged by the longitudinal data we’re seeing coming out of our high schools. We’ve seen an 18 percentage point increase in graduation rates, a 10 percentage point gain in college enrollment and gains in the six EOC subjects we have administered since the 2015 baseline year. There is still a lot of work ahead for us and we remain committed to that work.

 Here are a number of school highlights from our 2018 Milestones Assessments:

  • Nine schools had at least 50 percent of students perform at or above proficient learner when averaged across all subjects in elementary grades. These schools are W. T. Jackson (83.9%), Mary Lin (80.6%), Morris Brandon (78.9%), Morningside (78.2%), Springdale Park (77.1%), Drew Charter (K-5) (65.1%), Sarah Smith (64.1%), Atlanta Neighborhood Charter (K-5) (59.5%), and Wesley International Academy (K-5) (54.6%).
  • Five schools had at least 50 percent of students perform at or above proficient learner level when averaged across all subjects in middle school grades. They are Inman (65.2%), Atlanta Classical Academy (6-8) (57.9%), Drew Charter JR/SR (53.3%), Sutton (53.3%), and Atlanta Neighborhood Charter (6-8) (50.0%).
  • Four schools had at least 50 percent of tested students score proficient and above in Ninth Grade Literature. They are Atlanta Classical Academy (70.5%), Drew Charter JR/SR (68.0%), Grady (67.0%), and North Atlanta (60.6%).
  • Three schools had at least 50 percent of tested students score proficient and above in Biology. They are Drew Charter JR/SR (72.2%), Grady (61.2%), and North Atlanta (51.6%).
  • The five schools with the largest increases in the percentage of students scoring proficient and above on the EOG assessments when averaged across all grades and subjects compared to 2017 are Hope-Hill (+13.0), Wesley International Academy (K-8) (+11.8), B.E.S.T. Academy (6-12) (+9.8), KIPP STRIVE Primary (K-4) (+7.9), and Drew Charter JR/SR (+7.3).
  • The five schools with the largest increases in the percentage of 9-12th graders scoring proficient and above on the EOC assessments when averaged across all subjects compared to 2017 are Drew Charter JR/SR (+11.8), Carver Tech (+7.7), Grady (+4.5), South Atlanta (+3.3), and Therrell (+1.4).
  • The six Turnaround schools with double digit decreases in beginning learners across all subject areas are Boyd (-16.3), Barack and Michelle Obama Academy (-15.8), Hollis Innovation Academy (-13.6), Gideons (-11.5), Towns (-11.3), Thomasville Heights (-10.5).

Over the last four years, we have worked strategically to address academic challenges across the District. In addition to targeted strategies in the classroom, we have prioritized our resources based on student needs and have aligned school leadership and school culture, wraparound supports, and other programs and initiatives to focus on increasing student achievement in all schools. In addition, APS continues to work to ensure that a larger share of our expenditures go directly to classroom instruction. In fact, from 2014 to 2017, the per-pupil investment in classroom instruction increased by an additional $894.19.


Keep in mind that GaDOE assesses student learning along four levels of performance: beginning learner, developing learner, proficient learner, and distinguished learner, and that this is the fourth year of administration.

Also, EOG Milestones are administered in grades 3 through 8. ELA and Math exams are given in each of those grades. Beginning in 2016-2017, only grades 5 and 8 take the Science and Social Studies assessments. This is in contrast to previous Milestones administrations in which grades 3 through 8 tested in all four subjects. EOC Milestones are administered to high school students at the end of eight courses designated by the State Board of Education.

We previously reported results using the percentage of students scoring developing and above. This year, in alignment with the state, APS is focusing on the two highest levels of performance: proficient and distinguished.

We will need you to help us till the soil and dig in! With your nourishment and loving care, we can cultivate together students to succeed in and beyond high school.  I remain hopeful for Atlanta Public Schools and am looking forward to more sprouting and flourishing growth from our blossoming students in our cornucopia of data: AP, SAT/ACT, graduation rate, College and Career Ready Performance Index (CCRPI), and college enrollment. These combined with the Milestones results will give us a more complete crop of our student performance last year.

If you hold a seed, and make a wish, and plant it in the ground
Something magical can happen.
And if there is some sun, and some ran, it will begin to sprout.
And if you wait and wait you will see some little buds and some tender leaves.
When summer comes there might be a bee or perhaps a butterfly and they will spread some magic.
But when autumn comes all its leaves will fall and then you will have to wait through all the winter days until spring.
The tree will grow with buds of gold and green.

Birds will come to perch and perhaps to sing.
The tree will soak in the summer sun and dream,
And then when autumn comes again it will lean into the wind.
And if you wait and wait…season by season…and year by year…that tree will grow so large it will hold you.
If you wait some more one day your wish will come true.

If You Hold A Seed by Elly Mackay

UPDATED (Additional Public Hearing Added! Remaining Hearings are Monday, July 23, at 6 p.m. and Monday, Aug. 6 at 6:30 p.m. at APS Center for Learning & Leadership): With Tax Digest in Hand, What Happens Next To Help Homeowners AND To Support and Invest in Our Children


“So be sure when you step, Step with care and great tact. And remember that life’s A Great Balancing Act. And will you succeed? Yes! You will, indeed! (98 and ¾ percent guaranteed)”

— Dr. Seuss in Oh, The Places You’ll Go

(UPDATE – July 21, 2018)  Atlanta Public Schools (APS) will hold its third public hearing on the proposed millage rate on Monday, July 23 as scheduled, but will add an additional public hearing on Monday, August 6 at 6:30 p.m. to allow citizens an opportunity to express their opinions on the district’s proposed tax rates. Both hearings are being held at the Atlanta Public Schools Center for Learning and Leadership (CLL) at 130 Trinity Avenue SW. The Atlanta Board of Education will postpone its vote on the millage rate until its August 6th Board Meeting.

Read below for more information.

(UPDATE – July 2, 2018) Check out our video message to see how APS is stepping with great care to support and invest in our students while also helping homeowners as we finalize the FY2019 Budget.

(UPDATE – June 22, 2018) Today, the Atlanta Board of Education Budget Commission met  to discuss the recommendation of Atlanta Public Schools administration to roll back the school millage rate by one mill, thereby providing tax relief for Atlanta homeowners. This action demonstrates the District’s continuing effort to honor its commitment to helping homeowners with tax relief and still supporting APS students.  In total, APS has taken two specific actions: 1) supporting Senate Bill 485 homestead exemption and 2) giving the one mill rollback. The one mill rollback returns 80% of that increase to homeowners, and when added to SB 485 homestead exemption, we anticipate that APS will return approximately $200 million dollars over the next four years to homeowners.

I encourage you to get involved in the upcoming public hearings. All three will be held at the APS Center for Learning and Leadership (CLL), 130 Trinity Avenue. The schedule is  as follows:

· Monday, July 16 Public Hearings 1 and 2,  at 11am and 6pm, respectively

· Monday, July 23 Public Hearing 3, at 6pm

Given that all of this can be really confusing as a homeowner, we’ve created a back-of-the-napkin calculator (shout out to Budget Chair Nancy Meister…this was her brain child!) to help you analyze for yourself how a decrease in the millage rate and an increase in the homestead exemption could affect you. The screenshot below will walk you through how to use it. The tool will show you the percent increase in your values due to reassessments/ revaluations, the savings on the taxes you pay with a one mill roll-back and how Senate Bill 485 could provide additional relief if passed in November and applied to next year’s tax bills. While the tool isn’t perfect (remember, these are just estimates and may not be exactly what you will experience), we hope that it can offer some insight on the impacts of different scenarios!

Tax Rate CalculatorBlog

Click here for the calculator.

Thank you ABOE and ATL community! “Kid, you moved mountains!”

“You’re off to Great Places!”

-Dr. Seuss in Oh, The Places You’ll Go

-Dr. C. in atlsuper.com

(June 21, 2018) Every year we build our budget with care. We want it to express that we value our students, our current and former employees, our taxpayers and our communities, and we aspire to stay on the path to becoming a more efficient, quality-driven school district. This year, it also requires something else, and as the wise, beloved children’s author says: tact.

Therefore we must also work even harder to be respectful to our homeowners and taxpayers. The FY2019 APS budget, like life, is a balancing act that must both help our homeowners and support and invest in our children. Here’s how we have been working to do that and what comes next to achieve our goal.

Earlier this month, the Atlanta Board of Education adopted our proposed $818.4 million general fund budget for the 2018-2019 school year (Fiscal Year 2019) with average growth in revenue, in part, to continue to rightsize the APS budget while strategically investing in schools and programs but with a mindful eye on the looming tax digest. Further, it continued to support our new operating model philosophy of pushing more dollars directly to schools and students. A new component of that work for FY2019 includes allowing schools access to more than $9 million in textbooks and substitute funds in support of site-based decision-making.


We have now received the 2018 tax digest from the Fulton County Board of Tax Assessors with the preliminary net digest showing a 24.7% increase. That local revenue accounts for approximately 73% of the District’s General Fund revenue.

Since last school year, Atlanta Board of Education and school officials have been aware of the high property assessments homeowners would inevitably receive and committed immediately to helping homeowners with some tax relief.

Here’s what we did: First, APS joined its local legislative delegation in passing Senate Bill 485, a homestead exemption bill increasing the exemption from $30,000 to $50,000 resulting in significant property tax reductions to homeowners beginning with the 2019 tax digest. Second, I will be recommending that the district continues to honor that commitment by offering homeowners additional tax relief in the form of a reduction in the millage rate. Those two actions combined will reduce the pressure on the tax bills. The exact amount of the millage roll-back recommendation will be made on Friday at the upcoming budget commission meeting.

And, yes, there is some backfilling that the District will need to do so we won’t be able to do a full roll back, and here’s why:

  1. The increase in property assessment values takes into account a decade of failing to keep up with rising property values in Fulton County, including the 2017 assessments that were frozen at 2016 levels by the Fulton County Board of Commissioners. That frozen digest resulted in a permanent revenue loss to the District of $56 million.
  2. Subsequently, cash flow issues resulted in immediate budget cuts last year, including furloughing employees. In a commitment to employees, we want to ensure a multi-year plan that will earmark reserves that can build up the fund balance for job and pay stability.

Therefore, I will also recommend that the Board restore some of the District’s fund balance, bringing it closer to the average fund balance recommended by rating agencies for a district of our size; consider some previous service level cuts for district and classroom initiatives; plan for future stability, or some combination of these. The point is that we have to correct a little of the past and be more thoughtful about future pressures.


[Further, real talk for those who want to be in the APS money weeds, keep reading. I think it’s important to call out all of the exciting growth in the City of Atlanta related to the Tax Allocation Districts (TADs) in which APS participates. They are indeed working. TADs are a great development tool when designed and managed properly. The five TADs in which APS participates are showing roughly $800 million in growth. But, wait for it…

HOWEVER, it is important to point out the school district DOES NOT receive any money from the growth collected in TADs, under the current structure, which went into effect from 1996 to 2006. An easy way to understand the implication on APS is by looking at the Atlantic Station TAD. The 2017 numbers reflect $11 million of residential property tax collection. How much of that $11 million did we receive? Slightly over $150,000. Further, the debt on this TAD is not being paid down, so there is no end in sight for it to ever be properly managed which is out of the district’s control. Now, I’m done with that.]


Meanwhile back at the ranch with the tax digest in hand, APS can now continue the process of finalizing our FY2019 budget. We are proud of the fact that our annual budget adoption process is transparent and allows opportunities for community input. The next step is for the Board to set the millage rate. It will host three public hearings in the coming weeks to allow the community to provide input and feedback as we finalize the budget. Stay tuned for those dates and locations to be announced soon. I will make that recommendation at the Budget Commission meeting too at its meeting on Friday, June 22 at 2 p.m. at the Center for Learning and Leadership at 130 Trinity Avenue SW.

As a reminder, some key highlights of the FY2019 budget include:

  • Approximately $256 million toward ensuring a more equitable distribution of funds to schools, with a particular emphasis on poverty.
  • Over $45 million for investment in the Atlanta Public Schools Turnaround Strategy.
  • Nearly $21 million toward innovative programs and initiatives in the primary grades (Pre-K through Third), as well as greater autonomy and accountability for principals to ensure all students are reading by the end of third grade.
  • More than $55 million to continue funding an annual 3% increase of pension obligations.
  • An investment of an additional $12 million in the district’s compensation strategy that includes a step increase and a 1% salary increase for all eligible employees.
  • A little over $11 million for the district’s signature programs.

Most of the district’s budget is dedicated to staff salaries and benefits (a total of $550.5 million).  This includes mandatory costs such as the unfunded pension ($55 million and increasing by 3% every year) and TRS, the state’s Teacher Retirement System ($66.5 million, an increase of $16 million over last year).  Another $118 million goes to supporting district charter schools.  Also, APS is largely an organization of instructional staffing costs with approximately 82% of the total FY2019 budget dedicated to salaries, benefits, pensions, and charters.


I want to send a shout out to our Chief Financial Officer, Lisa Bracken, and the rest of our Finance Department for all of the work they’ve done to manage our budget effectively and to help us build a strong budget for the future.

And I want to thank the Board’s Budget Commission, especially its Chair, Board Member Nancy Meister, for its hard work as well.

I also want to thank you for participating with us in this process! Keep coming to meetings and the public hearings. Help us stay true to our mission and remain focused on our core value of putting students and schools first (while also offering some help to our homeowners). We are on this Journey of Transformation together, and each year it may still have bumps in the road, but I feel we are getting closer and closer to our destination. I appreciate all your support!

OK, that’s enough reading for now. (I’ll send a quick update after the Budget Commission to keep you up to speed. Refresh this link to see latest Budget Commission materials when they are posted later this afternoon.)

Get back to enjoying your summer…we got you on this tax digest!

Congratulations, Grad Nation APS Class of 2018


Congratulations 2018 Grads!

It’s late on Friday at the Georgia World Congress Center, and all of the Atlanta Public Schools’ Classes of 2018 — cheered on by happy, teary-eyed parents, caregivers and other family members, as well as teachers, principals and friends — have left the building to start the next chapter in their lives.

Once again, Operation Grad Nation was a huge success! #APSGrad18

This week – Graduation Week 2018 – we truly live the Atlanta Public Schools Mission: Graduating students ready for college and career. And as the world knows, NO ONE does graduations like APS! All 14 ceremonies were filled with so many beautiful moments when we saw our students – our community’s sons and daughters, grandchildren and godchildren, brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews, neighbors and friends – walk across the stage in their splendid school colors.Operation Grad Nation 2018 1

As we all come together as family to cheer our children – our newly minted graduates – into the future, it is rewarding to know that so many of these students worked so hard against some unbelievable odds. No matter the circumstances or individual stories – and yes, there are approximately 2,500 of them – they made it to the stage for graduation this week.

And these students in the Class of 2018 truly did their thing!

Operation Grad Nation 2018 2 (MJJ Dancers)They amassed more than $132 million and counting in scholarship dollars. They took over 3,400 AP/IB/Dual Enrollment courses! They increased the number of credits earned in AP/IB/Dual Enrollment courses! They, for the first time in more than 10 years, restored district level arts events such as the APS Dance Showcase, Honor Band, Honors Orchestra, Band Jamboree, and the CLL Art Gallery!  They brought home a ton of Ws with 20 region championships and 60 teams advancing to the state playoffs!

They represented everything we want to stand for at APS, and I couldn’t be more proud of them.

I have to admit that this class holds a special place in my heart, because I remember them when they first started high school four years ago, which was also my first year as Superintendent of Atlanta Public Schools. So they are my founding and inaugural four-year graduating cohort!  These are my brave baby 9th graders who began the APS Journey of Transformation with me, persevering in a time when APS was at a historic crossroads. The Class of 2018 STARTED the transformation that proves we are reclaiming APS’ proud legacy of excellence!Operation Grad Nation 2018 3 (Dr. C with Carver EC)

But their work and their lives, have only begun. Indeed, the word “commencement” is a beginning, a start. Most members of the Class of 2018 have decided to continue their education in college or technical schools. I have no doubt they will excel there as they did in high school. Some students, with their high school diplomas in hand, are off to the workforce prepared to start their careers. Others have stepped up to the challenge of protecting our nation by joining the armed services, and we are so proud of their commitment to our country.  This is truly a beginning of the next chapter of the rest of their lives and I am so proud.

Whichever paths these graduates have chosen, I can only hope that they will take all of their lessons, experiences and friendships with them. But for now, I want them to take a moment to celebrate in the works and honors they have achieved.

Well done, Class of 2018! Well done!

For all of us, APS has provided many ways to relive the spirit of graduation. Of course, the first stop is to visit our main page at www.atlantapublicschools.us/GradNation for archived video and media galleries of every ceremony. My APS colleagues and I have posted hundreds of images and videos on FacebookInstagram and Twitter. My handle is @carstarphenmj; the district’s is @apsupdate.

Also, I’ve collected a sampling of my favorite new memories and have shared them in the galleries below. Enjoy! Again, congratulations to the graduates of the Class of 2018.

Charles Drew Charter School, Saturday, May 19

KIPP Atlanta Collegiate, Tuesday, May 22

Daniel McLaughlin Therrell, Tuesday, May 22

Maynard Holbrook Jackson, Tuesday, May 22

Frederick Douglass High School, Wednesday, May 23

Booker T. Washington High School, Wednesday, May 23

George Washington Carver High School /Early College/School of Technology, Thursday, May 24

Henry W. Grady High School, Thursday, May 24

North Atlanta High SchoolThursday, May 24

Alonzo Crim High School, Friday, May 25

Coretta Scott King Young Women’s Leadership Academy/ B.E.S.T. Academy, Friday, May 25

South Atlanta High School, Friday, May 25

Benjamin E. Mays High School, Friday, May 25

Putting Students and Schools First:

Proposed Budget for the 2018-19 School Year

This time of year brings with it one of the best things about being superintendent of Atlanta Public Schools, as well as one of the job’s most difficult tasks.

Right now, the air is filled with excitement and anticipation as graduation ceremonies and summer break are just a couple of weeks away. However, this is also the time of year that we must finalize the year- long process and hard work of crafting a budget for the next school year. This is all anchored in the Board-approved guidance and budget revenue and expenditure parameters developed at the beginning of the school year.

This FY2019 budget is built on the following parameters:

Resource Parameters:

  1. The District will implement the expenditure parameters using the current millage rate or the Board’s Guiding Principles for Revenue Consideration to support the mission and vision.
  2. The District will continue to identify grant generating opportunities, assess the required millage rate, and/or seek additional business, philanthropic and community partnerships in an effort to support the ongoing transformation of APS.
  3. The District will maintain a fund balance between 7.5% and the statutory limit of 15% projected.
  4. The District will analyze and explore all funding sources including grants and special revenue to maximize resources and supplement the general fund.
  5. The District, with support and collaboration from other stakeholders, will continue to identify and encourage grant generating opportunities, especially through our Partnerships Office.
  6. The District will identify and sunset ineffective programs to redirect human resources and funding where possible.

Expenditure Parameters:

  1. The District will allocate resources pursuant to the District’s definition of equity.
  2. The District will continue investing in the Turnaround Strategy, providing additional support and interventions for schools that have been chronically struggling on the state accountability metric (in support of the District’s mission that every student will graduate ready for college and career, and the vision of being a high-performing school District).
  3. The District will recruit, develop, retain, and promote high-quality staff by investing in a robust talent strategy that includes a multi-year compensation model, pipeline development work, professional development, and coaching and career pathways (in support of the Talent component in the District’s Strategic Plan).
  4. The District will continue implementing its charter system operating model and core components of signature programming, cluster and flexibility funds, investments in a College and Career Academy, and a community engagement strategy (in support of the District’s mission that every student will graduate ready for college and career, and the vision of engaged families).
  5. The District will fund pension obligations in accordance with State statute and actuarial standards.
  6. In support of the charter system model, the District will modify the current school allotment plan to increase transparency, equity, innovation, and autonomy with accountability so that Principals and local GoTeams can make decisions aligned with their specific needs with a focus on:
    • Investments in Pre-K through 3rd grade to ensure all students are reading by the end of 3rd grade.
    • Whole-child development, including positive behavior supports, arts and athletics. leadership development.
    • Access to quality Early Childhood Education.

Seventy three (73) percent of our budget is derived from local tax revenue. It is incumbent upon us to be responsible stewards of those tax dollars as we remain committed to our mission of ensuring that every student graduates ready for college and career. In order for us to fulfill that mission, it is vital that we continue to focus on putting our students and our schools first in every decision we make.

Budget Photo

On Monday, May 7th, the Atlanta Board of Education tentatively adopted our proposed General Fund Budget for the 2018-2019 school year. And, just as we have done in the past, we work with the Board in Budget Commission meetings and we involve the community in our budget process through the Budget and Finance Advisory Committee (BFAC), public hearings and regional community meetings throughout the nearly year-long process, culminating in May and early June.

Our last Budget Commission meeting is Thursday, May 17th from 8:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. in the Mays Conference Room of our district office at 130 Trinity Avenue, S.W., Atlanta, GA 30303

Here is the schedule for Regional Community Meetings (all 6-7 p.m.):

  • Grady High School (929 Charles Allen Drive, NE), Thursday, May 10
  • Bunche Middle School (1925 Niskey Lake Road, SW), Monday, May 14
  • Brown Middle School (765 Peeples Street, SW), Thursday, May 17
  • Garden Hills Elementary School (285 Sheridan Drive, NE), Monday, May 21

Here is the schedule for the Public Hearing:

  • APS Center for Learning and Leadership (CLL – 130 Trinity Avenue, SW), Monday, June 4, 6 p.m.

Changes to the proposed budget may be made before the Board votes to adopt a final budget at its meeting on June 4, 2018.

We are committed to being open and transparent with you, so I want to bring you up to speed on where things stand, provide details about what’s in the proposed budget and share the impact we expect it will have across the district if approved. The tentative FY2019 General Fund Budget is about $815 million, roughly $38 million more than our current budget.

Even with many budget constraints and challenges that require us to balance several competing priorities, this budget still distributes more funds out to the school sites. Some constraints include an additional $16 million in mandatory costs related to the Teachers Retirement System (TRS), $1.6 million towards unfunded pension, bringing the total investment in this effort to $55 million, and additional investments in healthcare benefits.

Our central office continues to work with schools to balance the Principals capacity with the operational management of certain initiatives.  For FY2019, $9 million was decentralized, shifting the authority and decision making for $5 million in textbooks and $4 million in substitutes to the individual schools.

The FY2019 budget invests an additional $250,000 towards completing the refresh of all high school weight rooms, and another $250,000 towards the continued support of the cultural experience program and continues investments in both social and emotional learning and positive behavioral interventions and supports at previous year levels. The FY2019 budget continues investments and adds $350,000 towards funding the district Pre-K teachers on the APS salary scale, bringing the total supplement for this effort to $1.3 million

As I have stated before, we have also found ways to slim down our costs, including about $4 million in reductions from our Central Office budgets. Over the past four years, we have reduced our central office expenditures by more than $25 million and more than 100 fulltime positions.

Because of that, we have been able to create more investments in our proposed spending plan. This includes:

  • $10.7 million in our long-term, over-arching Turnaround Strategy to improve our lowest-performing schools, including supplemental and critical support and partnerships with educational organizations with expertise in turnaround strategies.
  • $11.1 million for signature programming such as STEM, International Baccalaureate and College and Career Prep, up $1 million from the previous year.
  • Well over $40 million for whole-child development programs and initiatives like athletics, arts, social and emotional learning, foreign languages, physical education and more.
  • $12 million for a compensation strategy that represents a shift away from across-the-board percentage increases and makes strategic investments in remaining pay parity issues.
    • The plan includes both a step increase AND a 1% salary increase for all eligible instructional and non-instructional employees, plus increased supplemental duty stipends for teachers and market adjustments for specific positions, like bus drivers, LPN nurses and HVAC technicians. For the first time in years, pay rates for hourly employees are being increased as well.
    • To continue to right-size our budget and be able to make these pay increases, cell phone stipends and bereavement leave pay will be eliminated, and annual duty salaries are being reduced from 254 days to 252 days.
    • $800,000 in continued support for our leadership development initiative; offering training, support and leadership development for our Teacher Leaders, Aspiring AP and Principal programs and new School Business Managers.

We right size our district every year to manage against available resources and our priorities for increased savings, efficiency, and redirection to programs and schools.

So, this proposed budget also includes a staff reduction plan that would remove 299 positions (269 school-based, 30 in central office) and create another 133 positions (121 school-based, 12 in central office) to better meet the needs of our students. These reductions fall within three primary categories:

  • Downsizing of central office to ensure that we maximize the resources provided directly to schools
  • Phased transition of schools to turnaround partners as part of our larger turnaround strategy, or
  • Support for individual needs or programming of schools, including master schedules, course requests, and cluster plans.

Once the budget is approved, we will continue to implement the Student Success Funding model that moves us closer towards ensuring a more equitable and stable distribution of funds and allows Principals and GoTeams to allocate funds in a way that better meets the specific needs of their students. This keeps us on the path to becoming a more efficient, quality-driven school district.

Budget TeamI want to send a shout out to our Chief Financial Officer, Lisa Bracken, and the rest of our Budget Department for all of the work they’ve done to manage our budget effectively and to help us build a strong budget for the future. A special thanks to Nancy Meister, Chair of the Budget Commission, and Budget Commission members Michelle Olympiadis, and Byron Amos. Also, thank you to the members of the Budget Finance Advisory Committee. I also want to encourage you to participate with us in this process by attending the public regional community meetings.

Help us stay true to our mission of remaining focused on our core value of putting students and schools first. We are on a Journey of Transformation together, and each year I feel we are getting closer and closer to our destination.