(UPDATED 5:15 p.m., Tuesday, January 29 –We are so glad to welcome all of our beloved students, teachers and colleagues back to school on Wednesday, January 30! Following our weather protocols and in coordination with the National Weather Service, Atlanta Public Schools will be open on Wednesday, January 30. All schools and District offices will be open and all after school programs, activities, and community meetings will continue as scheduled on Wednesday. We ask that parents, caregivers, and employees at APS charter schools contact their schools directly for scheduling information. I encourage everyone to continue to stay safe and warm and to exercise caution when traveling throughout the metro area. See you all tomorrow!) APS Closes Schools for Tuesday, Jan. 29, Due to Inclement Weather

District also cancels all school programs and activities, even Super Bowl-related events, in anticipation of unsafe conditions caused by latest winter storm.

As much as we value every single day of education, the safety and security of all our students and staff at Atlanta Public Schools remain among our top priorities. So when the latest winter storm threatened to drop snow and icy conditions in metro Atlanta, we acted with an abundance of caution. Schools will be closed on Tuesday, Jan. 29.

Our decision aligns with city and state officials’ decisions to close their offices because of the potential for snow and ice on the roadways. Additionally, all after school programs and activities and community meetings have been cancelled. These include Super Bowl-related events scheduled with our schools and students on Tuesday.

As forecasts show better weather through the rest of the week, we anticipate welcoming our students and staff back to APS on Wednesday, Jan. 30. But we will keep our families, teachers and staff informed should we need to close additional days.

Although we will be closed, I have an assignment for our students: Take home books and other materials so you can work on homework and reading assignments while you are home. Parents, please make sure they do their work!

For APS charter schools, parents, caregivers and employees are encouraged to contact their schools director for scheduling information.

APS closely monitors the weather conditions in coordination with the National Weather Service, city and state officials and other metro Atlanta school districts. We encourage everyone to exercise caution when traveling throughout the metro area tomorrow.

As inclement weather approaches, my team works extremely hard to inform parents of our decisions as far in advance as possible. We have a set of protocols in place to notify families, staff, and our community of everything we know about the conditions and forecasts.

Remember when we are making any decisions on inclement weather, the safety of our staff is a key priority.

As we enter into this season of wintry weather, I’d like to remind our students, families, staff and others about the APS protocol for inclement weather.

You can expect updates on winter weather in a variety of APS channels. We diligently update our website, our social media channels as well as stay in close contact with our schools. You can feel confident to contact your school first if you have questions about weather-related issues. It is my goal to make sure our principals are updated with the latest information regarding our inclement weather decisions.

Now is also a great time to make sure your contact information is updated. Our main way to contact parents is through our campus portal.  Here you can update your phone number, email and communication preferences. Access the campus portal here.

Every year, I update the community on our procedures, and you can read about our process in detail in prior blog posts here and here.  You can get a good overview of our decision-making process there.  

Again, we continue to monitor the weather and will report as soon as possible on any updates. Please be safe tomorrow, and we will see our beautiful students and staff back in school again soon.

External Review of Year Two of APS Turnaround Strategy: Finds Promising Early Signs

Before we began our Journey of Transformation, Atlanta Public Schools (APS) was a school district afflicted with chronic under-performance in our schools. The district was in desperate need of a comprehensive, long-term plan designed to provide remedies that addressed past issues while at the same time creating new opportunities to remove barriers for the future.

Nearly three years ago, the Atlanta Board of Education approved the APS Turnaround Strategy that built upon our mission to graduate more children ready for college and career. This strategy implemented such interventions as tutoring, math and reading specialists, school model changes and recruitment of turnaround leaders and teachers.

As part of that strategy, we put our deepest investments into some of our lowest performing schools and collaborated with educational partners

The 2017-2018 school year marked our second full year of turnaround, and we have been evaluating the work and receiving feedback from our principals and independent researchers to make real-time adjustments to the strategy. Having passed the second year of turnaround, I wanted to provide an update of some of the results.

In summary, the results have been mixed, especially those from a recent evaluation from the independent research group Mathematica Policy Research, but there are promising early signs that our investments are making a difference.

As we review, let’s consider the most positive recent news of the APS Turnaround Strategy. First, all 17 APS turnaround schools receiving targeted or partnership support have improved over the past two years. As shown in our most recent Georgia Milestones report from the state, all of these schools decreased the percent of beginning learners, with six showing double-digit decreases.

In another important indicator – the College and Career Ready Performance Index of CCRPI – 13 of the 17 targeted and partnership schools have increased their CCRPI percentile rank after two full years of implementation. (A newly redesigned CCRPI makes comparisons difficult, but the percentile rank among Georgia schools allows us to continue making direct comparisons.)

Beyond state accountability systems and the Georgia Milestones, we wanted additional and independent evaluations of our turnaround so that we could optimize our investments in this work. Thanks to the support of a philanthropic partner, the strategy is being evaluated over a three-year period.

The external evaluation conducted by Mathematica assesses implementation, impact on participating student and adult behaviors, and the overall effectiveness of the strategy on the district.

Mathematica’s evaluations have been informative and insightful. We are using their findings to inform our ongoing efforts to improve school and student outcomes and allow us to make changes in real time.

After completing our second full year of the transformation strategy, Mathematica recently delivered its second impact study, which is available on our School Turnaround page along with the Year One report.

We will present the study during the next work session of the Atlanta Board of Education at 2:30 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 4, at the Center for Learning and Leadership. I encourage the APS community and the public to attend the meeting or view it at https://livestream.com/k12aps.

In the meantime, we continue to unpack the recent findings from Mathematica. From the report, their key highlights are:

  • While our Turnaround Strategy efforts are producing improvements in math performance in targeted schools, Mathematica did not find evidence of statistically significant impacts of school-wide targeted support on other student outcomes.
  • Evaluators found little evidence that support from math and reading specialists had an impact on academic outcomes.
  • They also found no evidence that support from Communities in School improved student suspensions, attendance or academic achievement.
  • Finally, our partnership schools are also producing improvements in math performance, but other effects were mixed, varying by outcome and by partner organization.

We are pleased that the Turnaround Strategy has led to marked improvements in math performance. Mathematica noted that the limited impacts with other core subjects is a consistent result among other schools engaged in turnaround. In comparing our findings with national research and turnaround trends, they wrote:

“Despite the limited impacts of targeted supports overall, the second-year impact on math achievement is a promising sign, as many turnaround efforts fail to produce any measurable positive impacts in a comparable or even longer period. When impacts are detected, positive impacts tend to be larger in math than reading, so those measured for targeted school supports follow the trends of turnaround efforts elsewhere.”

So that offers encouragement and support for our work!

In regards to Mathematica finding little evidence of how our specialists impacted academic performance, we found from the implementation phase of their study that specialists worked with students not on their rosters and also provided curricular resources used in their small groups to teachers for classroom use. Additionally, schools reported the specialists supported teachers’ professional learning by modeling lessons and leading professional development sessions.

So it is possible that these activities could have improved student performances in both the targeted group of students and the match comparison group, causing the impacts of the specialists to be underestimated.

As part of the report, Mathematica suggested that we do a better job in capturing data to better understand which supports are most effective.

In regards to our partnership with Community in Schools (CIS), the evaluators again said the results are consistent with other recent research studies and may be partly explained by implementation challenges.

Feedback leading up to the implementation phase of the study released in June 2018 indicated the CIS site coordinators half-time presence as the main challenge to their effectiveness.  In response to this feedback targeted tier schools were each assigned a full-time CIS site coordinator for the 2018-19 school year. 

CIS is just one wraparound support provided to targeted tier schools.  Each targeted tier school is also afforded an additional wraparound position that supports students’ non-academic needs. 

Among its recommendations, they suggested that as turnaround schools show improvement, the district should plan how to extend or redirect turnaround supports so the school system can affect lasting change. Looking ahead to the 2019-2020 school year, we want to work in a smart, intentional fashion to how we can phase schools out of support when they show positive progress and how we add supports should other schools be designated as turnaround school eligible by the state.

As we move forward through the third year of School Turnaround in APS, I will continue to provide updates on our ongoing efforts to give every student in Atlanta Public Schools the educational opportunities that lead to college, careers and choice-filled lives.

With a Caring Culture, APS Develops Assistance Plan for Employees Impacted by Shutdown

Welcome back from your MLK holiday weekend! I hope you continue to be inspired by Dr. King’s commitment to social justice and the sacrifices he made to pave the way for many of us and inspire us to dedicate our lives to the service of others and in creating a “Beloved Community.”

Through his teachings of love in action, Dr. King has given us six steps to social and interpersonal change as articulated by the King Center here in Atlanta (I shared these on my previous blog), and one of those steps is direct action.

Watching developments regarding the federal shutdown over the past month, you cannot help but feel empathy for the more than 800,000 federal employees who have missed one paycheck and are on the verge of missing another one.

Your heart goes out to my colleagues wondering if they can make their mortgage and rent payments this month or even continue putting food on the table without dipping deep into savings or scurrying for short-term loans.

As our Human Resources team led by Skye Duckett, Chief Human Resources Officer, and our Deputy General Counsel, Laurance Warco, looked at the effect of the shutdown on our own employees, we found that among our more than 6,000 full-time and 1,500 part-time colleagues, as many as 500 would be directly impacted by the shutdown through the employment of their spouse, partner or household member in a federal agency that is closed due to the partial government shutdown.

As a district with a mission that starts “with a caring culture,” I knew APS had to assist. I met with our HR team and got the ball rolling but that made it become a reality.

Working with Atlanta Partners for Education, we announced today a new district initiative that identifies ways in which we can help our own. I encourage everyone to find a way to assist.

We have set a goal to raise $25,000 for the Atlanta Partners for Education to assist employees with necessities during this time. Employees, community members and partners can join me and make a tax-deductible donation to APS’ crowd funding campaign through Go Fund Me. The total amount collected will be distributed through Atlanta Partners for Education to eligible employees. 

There are other resources available to employees and ways the community can assist, for example:

  • Consider setting up Meal Train accounts for employees whose families are impacted by the shutdown.
  • Drop off food items to the Atlanta Community Food Bank. Families in need may visit the website where there is a list of Atlanta area resources and support.
  • Ask furloughed spouses to work as substitute teachers for the District, which would allow them to return to work as soon as the shutdown ends. Those interested may visit the APS substitute teaching website to learn more or contact APS Substitute Supervisor Angela Williams (Angela.Williams@atlanta.k12.ga.us).
  • Take advantage of APS’ employee discount program on goods and services, Sparkfly. Available only to APS employees, they can visit the Sparkfly Perks site to learn more.
  • Use APS’ Employee Assistance Program (EAP) which provides crisis counseling and legal/financial consultation services free of charge to APS employees.
  • Seek resources such as the Georgia Power Foundation, which recently announced a $50,000 donation to St. Vincent de Paul Georgia, a faith-based nonprofit, to help provide support to furloughed and unpaid federal workers and contractors in the state. Through the fund, impacted families can ask for assistance by submitting a request to gapowerassistancefund@svdpgeorgia.org.

Our charge is to live the APS mission every day, and so a “caring culture” starts with us. Thank you for all that you do to help our deserving colleagues affected by the shutdown bridge the gap between their paychecks.

From a Nation at Risk to a Nation at Hope: Celebrating Dr. King’s Legacy

As we commemorate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on MLK Day, I want to take this opportunity to share with you how I will celebrate his life and legacy. 

For me, it’s deeply rooted in Dr. King’s commitment to social justice and the sacrifices he made to pave the way for many of us and inspire us to dedicate our lives to the service of others and in creating a “Beloved Community.”

Martin Luther King, Jr., attended segregated schools in Atlanta and left Booker T. Washington High School at the age of 15 to study medicine and law at Morehouse College in 1944.

Through his teachings of love in action, Dr. King has given us six steps to social and interpersonal change as articulated by the King Center here in Atlanta:

1. Information Gathering — To understand and articulate an issue, problem or injustice facing a person, community, or institution you must do research. 

2. Education — It is essential to inform others, including your opposition, about your issue. This minimizes misunderstandings and gains you support and sympathy.

3. Personal Commitment — Daily check and affirm your faith in the philosophy and methods of nonviolence. 

4. Discussion/Negotiation — Using grace, humor and intelligence, confront the other party with a list of injustices and a plan for addressing and resolving these injustices. 

5. Direct Action — These are actions taken when the opponent is unwilling to enter into, or remain in, discussion/negotiation. 

6. Reconciliation — Nonviolence seeks friendship and understanding with the opponent. Nonviolence does not seek to defeat the opponent. 

These steps continue to motivate me in all levels of my work. 

In the spirit of Dr. King’s message of nonviolence, a growing movement dedicated to the social and emotional learning (SEL), and the academic well-being of children is reshaping learning and changing lives — and the foundation of education — across America. 

In fact, as a Commissioner for this national movement, I was honored to attend and participate in the final meeting and national release recently of the final report of the Aspen Institute’s National Commission on Social, Emotional, and Academic Development titled From a Nation at Risk to a Nation at Hope. At the meeting, the commission shared this culminating report on how to improve American public education. It is an impressive report that thoroughly addresses how we can better serve our young people based on brain science and whole child development theories.

From a Nation at Risk to a Nation at Hope asserts that our nation is at a turning point, understanding that social, emotional, and cognitive development underpins children’s academic learning. This breakthrough of understanding how people learn is fueling a growing movement to educate children as whole people, with social and emotional as well as academic needs.

In the report, we emphasize that helping students develop skills like collaboration, empathy, and perseverance, requires systemic change. It offers specific actions in research, practice, and policy to fundamentally shift how we teach children, with the understanding that the social, emotional, and cognitive dimensions of learning are mutually reinforcing rather than distinct.

The research also outlines evidence that confirms that supporting students’ social, emotional and academic development has a positive impact on their attendance, test scores, success in college and careers, and overall well-being. This approach also improves students’ feelings about school and makes schools safer.

Here are the key action steps recommended in the report:

  • Set a clear vision that broadens the definition of student success to prioritize the whole child.
  • Transform learning settings so they are safe and supportive for all young people.
  • Change instruction to teach students social, emotional, and cognitive skills; embed these skills in academics and school-wide practices.
  • Build adult expertise in child development.
  • Align resources and leverage partners in the community to address the whole child.
  • Forge closer connections between research and practice to generate useful, actionable information for educators.

Nearly 100 organizations have signed on in support of the report’s conclusions and recommendations as part of an ever-widening coalition committed to advancing the work. Drawing on input from more than 200 scientists, youth and parent groups, educators and policymakers, the report seeks to accelerate and strengthen efforts in local communities.

As the school district of Dr. King, APS takes very seriously our role to not only educate our students but to empower them to become part of an engaged citizenry. Our students learn about Dr. King’s legacy throughout the school year in lessons, activities, and events. From kindergarten through high school and through our Social Studies, U.S. History, and Language Arts curricula, our students explore not only the figures of the Civil Rights Movement, but they also look at the social, political, and cultural factors that contributed to the movement.

APS is using SEL to help our students better understand and manage their emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships and make responsible decisions. As we prepare our students for success in college and career, SEL is teaching the skills that Dr. King embodied.

One of the rich lessons we’ve all learned from Dr. King was about equity and the equitable treatment of all mankind. That lesson hasn’t been lost on our Atlanta Board of Education or on this APS administration. I am working with our Board of Education to better understand the equity issues we face in APS and to respond to those issues effectively.

The Board’s Equity Task Force has defined equity as strategic decision-making, with the goal of remedying opportunity and learning gaps, and creating a barrier-free environment, which enables all students to graduate ready for college and career. The community’s voice on this issue is a critical part of shaping the current definition and the future work on this issue that is happening in real time.

As part of developing an equity policy for APS, we’re seeking to understand, disrupt, and dismantle patterns and structures of institutional bias that create disparities and perpetuate achievement gaps among students.

On Friday, I attended Governor Kemp’s first proclamation ceremony which he issued in honor of Dr. King’s legacy. Dr. Bernice King, the youngest child of Dr. King, accepted the proclamation on behalf of the King family. In it, Governor Kemp reminds us that Dr. King was a man of great principle, who advocated peaceful social change throughout his life.

The proclamation states in part: Around the World, Georgia shines as a beacon of opportunity for individuals from all walks of life. Our international recognition is a source of tremendous pride, but Georgia’s greatest treasure is her people; and certainly, no Georgian is more worthy of recognition and celebration than Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

MLK Day is truly a day of service designed to empower us, strengthen our communities, and encourage us to create solutions to our social problems. It’s the time to shine a spotlight on service as a powerful force that bridges economic and social divides – today and throughout the year. 

Whether you plan on grabbing a paintbrush, mentoring a young person, helping clean up a public space, or, like me, starting or being part of a national movement, you are helping take us from a nation at risk to a nation at hope, while we celebrate and honor Dr. King’s legacy and move closer to his vision of a “Beloved Community.”

Happy MLK Day, my be❤️d APS and Atlanta! 


New Year, New TAD Deal

Happy New Year! I hope everyone is enjoying the last day of semester break and getting ready for school to start in the morning!

Update 1/7/19 at 6:10 p.m: I am pleased that the Atlanta City Council joined the Atlanta Board of Education today in unanimously approving the intergovernmental agreement regarding Atlanta Public Schools’ (APS) contribution to tax allocation districts (TADs). This agreement creates the most comprehensive reform of TADs in the decades-long history of APS’ participation. Our intervention in the bond validation proceedings in the Westside TAD will now be withdrawn.

Update 1/7/19: Atlanta School Board Approves IGA with the City of Atlanta on Tax Allocation Districts

The Atlanta Board of Education today approved an intergovernmental agreement (IGA) with the City of Atlanta and a resolution related to the Westside Tax Allocation District (TAD) that would create the most comprehensive reform of TADs in the decades-long history Atlanta Public Schools (APS) has been involved in them. Upon ratification and acceptance of the resolution and IGA by the City and APS, APS’ intervention in the bond validation proceedings in the Gulch would be withdrawn from the courts.

The IGA also would reduce APS’ exposure in the Gulch from $1.56 billion to $1.38 billion, distributes the impact of the APS increment more evenly over the lives of the TADs, limits exposure of the APS tax digest to be no more than 10% of collectable digest in any given year (based on current assumptions) and relieves immediate pressure on the APS budget. The agreement also provides a net gain of between $130 million and $180 million to APS over the life of the TADs.

I want to thank members of the Atlanta Board of Education for their unanimous vote in passing today’s IGA and resolution with the City of Atlanta, providing APS with a more predictable, manageable and sustainable way of contributing to and supporting economic development in the City, while balancing the interests of our 52,000 students, 6,000 employees and 158,000 taxpayers.

In addition, this agreement caps our financial contributions in future TADs and sparks economic development in four TADs on the Southside, where so many of our students and employees live.

I want to thank everyone who has worked tirelessly on this issue for over a year, both at APS and at the City of Atlanta, for helping us get to this point. I especially want to thank our legal team and our Chief Financial Officer, Lisa Bracken. Today’s important step could not have happened without the leadership of Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and the City’s legal team on this issue for their commitment to working with us and reaching an agreement.

January 6, 2019 — I wanted to share an important update with you regarding tax allocation districts (TADs) and their fiscal impact on APS. Over the past month, in collaboration with the City, we have worked to find alignment around APS’ longstanding concerns related to all tax allocation district agreements in which APS participates. Here is where we are with our discussions with the City of Atlanta (City): we do have an agreement between the two administrations. However, the agreement is not done until both the Board of Education (BOE) and City Council approve. The final version of the administration’s recommendation to the BOE can be found on Board Docs at http://www.boarddocs.com/ga/aps/Board.nsf/goto?open&id=B8532Z74B5ED. While the timing of the public posting is shorter than we would all prefer, and for that I apologize. The timeline was driven by court-imposed deadlines that were outside of APS’ and my control. 

For context, APS has long been a supporter of economic development for our communities since before my time as Superintendent. We are the largest contributor to five of the ten TADs in the City (Eastside, Atlantic Station, BeltLine, Perry Bolton, and Westside). Since 1999, APS has invested $434 million in those projects. We estimate that we will continue to contribute an additional $1.2 billion more over the life of those five TADs.

While you may hear varying perspectives on the value of the agreement (including some folks who are using outdated and inaccurate information or just making up stuff…SMH!), please understand that our District has its own internal goals – smoothing the impact of TADs, relieving pressure points and windfalls/shortfalls, positioning ourselves better to weather an economic downturn – which are supported by financial analysis reflected in the terms of the agreement. The District worked to achieve predictable, foreseeable, and time-bound use of its increment in TADs, which was a driver behind negotiations allowing APS to more strategically participate in existing and any new TADs. This is a key step toward APS continuing to support the City’s redevelopment initiatives while balancing the interest of economic development with the District’s educational mission and responsibilities to our 52,000 students, 6,000 employees and 158,000 taxpayers.

The APS administration will be presenting both a resolution and intergovernmental agreement to the BOE for recommended action this Monday, January 7 at 9:30 a.m. If approved, the new resolution would supersede the resolution approved by the BOE on December 7, 2018. The new resolution removes any conflicting portions from the last resolution related to the Westside Tax Allocation District bond validation proceedings. Upon ratification and acceptance of the resolution and IGA by the City and APS, APS’ intervention in the bond validation proceedings would be withdrawn from the courts.

The following are key points in the IGA settlement agreement:  

  • APS will ratify APS’ participation in the Westside TAD through 2038.
  • City will reimburse APS for capital expenditures that APS made in the Westside TAD and make additional payment in lieu of taxes (PILOTS) to APS as follows:  $10 million in 2019, $1.25 million in years 2020-2023, and 50% of APS’ increment (after debt service and certain capped fees) from 2024 until the TAD closes in 2038.
  • City will pay off bonds on the Eastside TAD in 2019 and then make annual PILOTS of APS’ portion of increment through the remaining life of the Eastside TAD. The Eastside TAD will remain open. 
  • In 2020, APS will start participating in the City’s four Corridor TADS for 30 years.  APS’ contribution to those TADs is capped. The four TADS are Campbellton Road TAD, Hollowell/M.L. King TAD, Metropolitan Parkway TAD and the Stadium TAD.
  • City will not issue any new bonds or authorize any new projects in the Atlantic Station TAD, so that the Atlantic Station TAD debt can be fully paid as soon as possible. 
  • The IGAs for the Beltline and Perry Bolton remain in place, and City agrees to fulfill its obligations under those IGAs.
  • If a TAD does not close on the agreed date, then City will use all legally available sources to pay APS 100% of its education tax increment starting the year after the TAD was supposed to have closed.
  • These new negotiations yield a net positive impact of around $130 -$180 million but more importantly distributes the impact of the APS increment more evenly over the lives of the TADs, limits the exposure of the APS Tax digest to be no more than 10% of collectible digest in any given year based on current assumptions, and relieves immediate pressure on the APS budget by $10 million.

So, that’s the skinny!

BUT, if you want to get schooled on TADs – and more! – keep reading below:

Tax Allocation Districts and why they should matter to you! 

What’s a TAD?

A TAD is a geographic region that is economically depressed, underdeveloped or blighted and would not be developed but for the designation of a TAD. That designation allows developers to build on the property through debt or bonds that are then paid off by the property taxes generated from that new development. Put simply, instead of being distributed to our school district, the City of Atlanta and Fulton County, the future tax revenues generated within the new TAD development are used to pay off the debt or bonds for that development.

The long and short of it is that a TAD is intended to spark development in areas of the City that would otherwise remain undeveloped.

From Where Does the $$ Come?

You guessed it! Tax revenues! When a TAD is established, APS, the City and Fulton County can each decide if that entity will participate by contributing any new taxes generated from the new development back into the TAD to pay off the debt and redevelopment costs. When all debt and costs are paid, APS, the City and Fulton County begin receiving those tax revenues again.

In What TADs is APS Currently Participating?

Atlanta Public School started participating in TADs in 1999 under the leadership of prior Boards and Administrations. We currently participate in five TADs: 

APS TADsInception Close Date APS Contribution
Through 6/30/2018
Atlantic Station 19992024$113,719,979
Perry Bolton20022041$20,871,475

Since 1999, APS has contributed approximately $434 million in educational taxes for re-development in Atlanta, making APS the largest investor in these TADs at 52%. If the TADs we participate in continue to operate without any additional redevelopment projects or bond issuance and each TAD ends when it supposed to, then APS will contribute another $1.2 billion toward those TADs. If you add the $434 million we’ve already contributed to the anticipated $1.2 billion, that’s a total of $1.6 billion of educational taxes we have contributed toward re-development in this city.

Granted, if, and when these TADs end, APS is supposed to get the benefit of higher tax values from those TADs. That hasn’t happened yet. We are hopeful that the proposed new agreement puts the District on a better course to achieve predictable, foreseeable, and time-bound use of our increment in TADs, which was a driver behind negotiations allowing APS to more strategically participate in existing and any new TADs.

Enjoy a Safe, Warm, & Relaxing Semester Break!

It’s hard to believe that the semester break and the New Year is already here! It’s time for us to take a break, relax and spend time with family and friends to rejuvenate! I’ll see all students back on Monday, January 7, 2019!

Reflections of 2018

As 2018 comes to a close and we reach the halfway point of another amazing school year in APS, I want to share how grateful and inspired I am to be working with such an amazing team of professionals all focused on one important goal: preparing every one of our students to graduate ready for college and career. I want to send a special thank you to our 6,000 APS employees who are committed to our educational mission and are working hard every day to achieve it.

To kick off the start of our winter break, please enjoy this video medley featuring the winners of the 2018 Superintendent’s Winter Card Contest!

In reflecting on the year so far, here are a few of my favorite and amazing moments!  

“Day One. Be There.” Campaign

We kicked off the year strong on August 1, 2018, with our “Day One. Be There.” campaign. Like thousands of our students, that morning, my team and I boarded one of our school buses with excitement and anticipation for a long but wonderful day ahead! As part of our Day One tradition, we visited students, teachers, administrators, support staff and the community from around the District to report on Back-to-School happenings. We could not have done it without each of you. Thank you for a fantastic Day One!

Graduation Rates

APS achieved its highest graduation rate ever this year at 79.9 percent (79.93 to be exact)!  In addition, our graduation rate increased by 20.8 percentage points since 2014 and this year’s rate represents a 2.9 percentage point gain over last year. WOO-HOO!

State of the District

APS ROCKS! Hundreds of our students rocked the stage at this year’s State of the District concert on Friday, October 5 at the Walden Athletic Complex. We shared our “essentials playlist”, which included our A-sides, featured hits, and B-sides (whomp whomp), along with chart-topping student performances from this year’s tour stop on our Journey of Transformation. We also celebrated the grand opening of the Walden Athletic Complex with a special ribbon-cutting event.

ACT/SAT Participation on the Rise

The number of APS students taking the ACT and SAT continues to increase. Keep up the good work!

CCRPI Scores

The newly redesigned CCRPI scores came out this year, and 34 APS schools scored above 70. Of that number, 14 schools achieved an overall score at or above 80 and five achieved an overall score above 90! APS earned a score of 73.4 out of 100 with the average CCRPI score for the state being 76.6.

APyeS! Awards

We celebrated some of our rock stars at our annual APyeS! Awards. These awards recognize and honor the excellence in our teachers, education leaders and partners who are driving change through our transformation and making it possible for our students to succeed.  Congrats, again, to all our winners!


I was delighted to host our inaugural all staff #MeriaMeetUp event on APS Xchange powered by Workplace by Facebook on November 6! It was a live, interactive chat about a number of timely topics, including a recap of the State of the District, an important budget update, and other topics raised by staff. Thank you for participating, and I look forward to doing more of these in the coming months!  

Beat the Odds

The “Beat the Odds” results came out early this month and 46 APS Schools (or 52% of our schools) “Beat the Odds” according to the analysis from the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement.  In addition, APS exceeded the State and we were second among large metro-Atlanta districts. Good job, team!

Being Prepared for Inclement Weather

Inclement weather and other unexpected issues can sometimes disrupt school operations. I want to send a shout out to our Operations team who worked diligently this year through the impacts of natural disasters like hurricanes Michael and Florence and through the impact of the most recent boil water advisory. Thank you for lessening the disruptive impacts of these events!

Volunteer Drives

Volunteering and giving back to the community is so important, and I’m thankful to all of you who have played a pivotal role in supporting our schools and community by volunteering through TutorMate, Junior Achievement Discovery Center, the American Red Cross, and the Empty Stocking Fund. Thank you!

Superintendent’s Winter Card Contest

Over 200 of our APS students showcased their talents in our 2018 Superintendent’s Winter Card Contest! We had students from elementary school through high school submit winter card designs for this year’s competition from every cluster in APS (Carver, Douglass, Grady, Jackson, Mays, North Atlanta, South Atlanta, Therrell, and Washington). Plus, students from Crim Open Campus, BEST Academy, and Coretta Scott King Young Women’s Leadership Academy submitted as well.

It was so inspiring to look at the world through our students’ eyes and take in the vast array of creativity reflected in their artwork. Great work!

Other Amazing Moments

What a great first half of the school year! I will certainly miss all of our wonderful students, teachers, and staff over the semester break, but I’ll be back tweeting and blogging again in the New Year on Monday, January 7, 2019. I can’t wait to connect with you then.

Winter Weather Overview: APS to Delay Start Times by Two Hours on Tuesday, Dec. 11

We are delaying the start of school tomorrow by two hours due to the threat of severe temperatures in the Atlanta Metro Area. The state and most metro school districts will also be delayed.  The cold and rainy weather descended upon Atlanta this week with the possibility of freezing rain, sleet, and the dreaded black ice.

Atlanta Public Schools has been closely monitoring the weather conditions in coordination with the National Weather Service, city and state officials and other Metro Atlanta school districts. Due to the forecast for temperatures to fall below freezing early Tuesday morning and the potential for black ice, and in alignment with the Governor’s Office, APS made the decision to delay opening schools by two hours tomorrow as follows (Schools that have alternative bell schedules should adhere to the two-hour delay):

•        Elementary Schools will open at 10 a.m.

•        Middle Schools will open at 11:05 a.m.

•        High Schools will open at 10:30 a.m.

Transportation pick up times will be delayed two hours from normal pick up schedules. All dismissal times will remain the same. APS Facilities staff should report at 9a.m. APS District administrative offices are also on a two-hour delay and APS employees should report two hours later than their normal reporting time. For APS charter schools, parents, caregivers and employees should contact their schools directly for scheduling information.

 We will continue to monitor the forecast and we encourage everyone to exercise caution when traveling throughout the metro area tomorrow.

The forecast predicts better weather throughout the rest of the week.

I know how frustrating it can be to delay the start of school and the impacts of bad weather on you and your family, especially when little ones need to walk to bus stops, you have to get to work, and the day is disrupted.

This is the main reason why Atlanta Public Schools works extremely hard to inform parents of our decisions as far in advance as possible.  We have a set of protocols in place to notify families, staff, and our community of everything we know about the conditions and forecasts.

Remember when we are making any decisions on inclement weather, the safety of our staff is a key priority.

As we enter into this season of wintry weather, I’d like to remind our students,families, staff and others about the APS protocol for inclement weather.

You can expect updates on winter weather in a variety of APS channels. We diligently update our website, our social media channels as well as stay in close contact with our schools. You can feel confident to contact your school first if you have questions about weather-related issues. It is my goal to make sure our principals are updated with the latest information regarding our inclement weather decisions.

Now is also a great time to make sure your contact information is updated. Our main way to contact parents is through our campus portal.  Here you can update your phone number, email, and communication preferences.  Access the campus portal here.

Every year, I update the community on our procedures and you can read about our process in detail in prior blog posts here.  You can get a good overview of our decision making process there.  

In a nutshell, this is how it works….When severe weather is predicted, our team begins monitoring the weather. We are in close contact with the National Weather Service, Atlanta Fulton County Emergency Management, and Georgia Emergency Management. This coordination helps us make the best decisions for our students’ safety. Updates regarding the conditions are provided to the Core Weather Team.

The APS Core Weather Team includes representatives from APS Operations, Transportation,Safety & Security, Facilities Services, Communications, Curriculum and Instruction, Nutrition and Information Technology departments. This team will discuss the implications of the severe weather. I make calls and am in contact with area superintendents. Our team joins conference calls with the city and the Atlanta-Fulton Emergency Management Agency and others.  After all of this information is taken into account, we make a decision and move forward with communicating. 

It is always my goal to go through this process as soon as we learn of impending inclement weather. In the end, the superintendent makes the final call as to whether schools close for inclement weather. At APS we always try our very best to coordinate with outside agencies so that our decisions are not in vacuum and are in alignment with other districts and government offices.

It seems like a couple of weeks ago we were still having 70 degree days.  The winter weather seems to have arrived.  As we move into the winter, we are committed to keeping families informed in a timely manner.

Also,very soon, we will be sending out information about the APS Weather Wise Program, which is a new digital learning platform for students during inclement weather days.  Stay tuned! This information will be coming out before our break. 

As always, stay safe and warm.