SY2019- 2020 Begins with a Bang: Board Approves Raises!

With less than a week to go until Day One in Atlanta Public Schools, the Atlanta Board of Education on Monday, August 5, unanimously approved adjustments for the FY2020 budget, which means the APS General Fund budget now includes additional pay raises for our employees … as promised!


Ringing in a new year with a selfie with nearly 500 new (enthusiastic!) employees of Atlanta Public Schools.

As I wrote in my June 28 blog, this adjustment became possible because revenue growth in the Fulton County Tax Digest for 2019 (FY2020) came in stronger than anticipated over the summer. That enabled the District to adjust revenue assumptions for local tax revenue by about $7.5 million or 1.3%. This increase allowed us to fund a number of unfunded priorities in the FY2020 budget, including additional compensation for our employees.

I’ve written about this before, but I want to recap the following compensation changes from the original budget:

  • Teacher pay raises increase from average 3.3% (about $2,000) to average 4.85% (about $3,000)
  • Instructional support pay raises increase from average 2.3% to average 3.2%
  • One-time payment for eligible teacher and instructional support employees who are off step increases from $1,000 to $3,000
  • Non-Teacher pay grades 125-150 receive a 1% increase in addition to the step raise previously approved (total = 2.2%)
  • No changes to Non-Teacher pay grades 111-124; still receive the same step and 1% pay raise previously approved (total = 2.45%)
  • One-time payment for eligible non-teaching employees who are off step increases from $700 to $1,000
  • Teacher career pathway stipends increase for department chair (MS & HS), grade-level team lead (elementary) and cooperating teacher; new stipend added for lead campus-based mentor
  • Implement remaining pay parity recommendations for JROTC local supplement and stipend adjustments, and converting 42 hourly bus monitors and 38 special education paraprofessionals to full time with benefits

It will, however, take a little more than a month to catch all of our eligible employees up on the compensation changes. Based on our plan to phase in the raises, teachers and other non-annual employees will receive their new FY2020 compensation beginning with their first paycheck of the new school year by August 30th, as normal. Then, eligible annual duty employees will receive the additional compensation, plus retro pay, by the September 30th paycheck.

I’m so grateful that the Board and our hard-working taxpayers were able to make this happen a week before Day One! Although we were able to provide raises, we always strive to compensate and do more for our deserving employees. I hope everyone in the APS community is as excited as I am about this new year and about continuing the work of ensuring that our students have choice-filled lives!

Summer Means Fun in the Sun, Relaxation and Georgia Milestones

APS achieves its highest rates of proficiency on assessments since implementation in 2015; posts year-over-year gains in percentage of students scoring proficient and above on 21 of 24 End-of-Grade and End-of-Course assessments

It’s summer … which means the sun is out, school is out, and for the fifth year running, Georgia Milestones results are out!

So while our beautiful students and their families enjoy much-deserved time away from our schools, a team of our data experts have been gathering and crunching numbers for the past few weeks so we can assess our progress on the APS Journey of Transformation.

Given how hard I know our students, teachers and staff have worked over the past year, it’s a welcome relief from the grind (and from this heat!) to get great news from the results of the 2019 Georgia Milestones, which were released by the Georgia Department of Education today. You see, APS has achieved its highest-ever rates of proficiency on these tests since the state first implemented them in 2015!

Here’s more great news:

Figure 1: Percentage of APS Milestones Assessments with Year-Over-Year Growth
  • APS achieved year-over-year gains in the percentage of students scoring proficient and above on 21 of 24 (88%) End-of-Grade and End-of-Course assessments. The district saw gains on 75% of tests in 2018 and 52% in 2017. See Figure 1.
  • 80% of APS schools achieved increases in the percentage of students scoring proficient and above on End-of-Grade assessments.
  • 76% of APS schools achieved increases in the percentage of grade 9-12 students scoring proficient and above on End-of-Course assessments.
  • All 17 APS schools that received targeted or partnership support as part of the initial cohort of the APS Turnaround Strategy have improved their Milestones proficiency rates since 2016.

That is something to celebrate, and I am so proud of all of our students and teachers who worked hard all year to improve student achievement. We are building and improving each year, so I truly believe we are seeing significant, sustainable progress on this key assessment tool.

Let’s delve further into these results.

For the EOG tests, the district-wide percentage of students scoring proficient and above increased in all subjects compared to 2018. The largest year-over-year increases were in Science (+3.9 percentage points) and ELA (+3.3 percentage points). See Figure 2.

Figure 2: APS Milestones EOG Results Grades 3-8, Proficient and Above

By grade, the largest increases were 6th grade ELA (+6.6 percentage points), 3rd grade Math (+6.5 percentage points) and 8th grade ELA (+5.5 percentage points). Fifth grade Social Studies and 6th and 8th grade Math had slight decreases in 2019 proficiency levels compared to 2018 as shown on Table 1.

Table 1: APS 2019 Georgia Milestones End-of-Grade Results by Grade

In 2019, APS also achieved year-on-year gains in the percentage of students scoring proficient and above on all eight EOC tests. The largest year-over-year increases were in Physical Science (+9.7 percentage points), Algebra I (+8.6 percentage points), and Ninth Grade Literature & Composition (+7.9 percentage points). See Figure 3.

Figure 3: APS 2019 Georgia Milestones End-of-Course Results, Proficient and Above

Our Turnaround Strategy, launched in 2016 with a focus on the lowest-performing schools, has also seen achievement. Since the Turnaround Strategy was fully implemented, the initial cohort of 17 targeted and partnership schools have all achieved increases in the percentage of students scoring proficient and above on the Georgia Milestones. Three schools have achieved double-digit increases when comparing the 2019 results to spring 2016. See Table 2.

Table 2: Turnaround Schools, Georgia Milestones EOG Results, All Subjects / Grades, Proficient and Above* (*These 17 schools represent the initial cohort of targeted & partnership schools. The strategy has evolved since 2016 to include some additional schools and the phase-out of supports for some schools on this list.)

Here are some other highlights of note:

  • Ten schools had at least 50 percent of students perform at or above proficient when averaged across all subjects in elementary grades. These schools are Morningside (81.0%), W. T. Jackson (80.4%), Springdale Park (80.3%), Mary Lin (78.6%), Morris Brandon (77.2%), Drew Charter (K-5) (71.0%), Atlanta Classical Academy (K-5) (64.5%), Sarah Smith (64.5%), Atlanta Neighborhood Charter (K-5) (64.0%) and E. Rivers (54.2%).
  • Five schools had at least 50 percent of students perform at or above proficient when averaged across all subjects in middle school grades. They are Inman (65.7%), Drew Charter JR/SR (57.2%), Sutton (57.0%), Atlanta Classical Academy (6-8) (54.2%) and Atlanta Neighborhood Charter (6-8) (53.7%).
  • Four schools had at least 50 percent of students perform at or above proficient when averaged across all subjects in grades 9-12. They are Atlanta Classical Academy (64.6%), Grady (61.4%), Drew Charter JR/SR (55.9%) and North Atlanta (55.0%).
  • The six 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 2018 are KIPP WAYS Primary (K-4) (+13.1), KIPP Vision Academy (5-8) (+12.8), Coretta Scott King Young Women’s Leadership Academy (6-8) (+12.0), Hutchinson Elementary (+11.3), Bolton Academy (+8.7) and M. Agnes Jones (+8.7).
  • 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 2018 are Atlanta Classical Academy (+14.3), Maynard H. Jackson (+7.2), Coretta Scott King Young Women’s Leadership (+6.3), North Atlanta (+5.9) and South Atlanta (+4.7).
  • All 17 APS schools serving students in grades 9-12 achieved increases from 2018 to 2019 in the percentage of students scoring proficient and above on the Ninth Grade Literature & Composition EOC test.

While we have a lot to celebrate, there is still much work to be done. For example, the District reports lower rates of proficiency than the state in all subjects on EOG and EOC tests. APS, however, narrowed the gap on EOG tests for both Science and Social Studies but remained relatively flat in ELA and Math. For EOC tests, the District narrowed the gap for six of eight assessments. See Tables 3 and 4.

Table 3: Milestones EOG Change in State Proficiency Gap, 2018 to 2019
Table 4: Milestones EOC Change in State Proficiency Gap, 2018 to 2019

For more information and analysis on all APS’ Georgia Milestones scores, click here for our EOG brief, here for our EOC brief and here for the APS Insights data blog.To view detailed reports for the state and every public school district in Georgia, visit the GaDOE Georgia Milestones page.

I want to thank all of our principals, teachers and staff for doing the hard work all year long to prepare our students for these tests. I also want to recognize Deputy Superintendent David Jernigan; Assistant Superintendent for Teaching and Learning Dr. Olivine Roberts; our Student Services Division, which is now headed by Dr. Katika D. Lovett; our Associate Superintendents, including Dr. Danielle Battle, Yolonda Brown, Dr. Emily Massey, Dr. Dan Sims and Tommy Usher, who work with our principals on a daily basis. I also appreciate Chief Accountability and Information Officer Bill Caritj, and Executive Director of our Data Information Group Michael LaMont and his team for providing us with a full analysis of these results and for helping us keep these results in perspective as we look holistically at all the academic experiences of our students.

And I want to thank the Atlanta Board of Education, led by Chair Jason Esteves and Vice Chair Eshe’ Collins, for approvals of budgets, turnaround strategies and other initiatives that contribute to the work every day.

While we have seen improvement, all of us in Atlanta Public Schools pledge to stay the course and remain focused on the academic success of every child. It’s going to take that kind of steadfast commitment to put our students first in everything we do and equip them with the skills they need to graduate ready for college and career.

To Ensure Full Transparency and Accuracy to our Students, our Staff, our Taxpayers and Residents, Below are the Two Official Statements APS Released to the Media Regarding the Most Recent Go Bond Lawsuit Filed by the City of Atlanta

Issued Tuesday, July 9, 2019 at 5:00 pm

“The City’s statement that Atlanta Public Schools (“APS”) has refused to come to the table is inaccurate.  APS has tried time and again, over two different mayoral administrations, to resolve issues relating to the GO bonds.  On April 25th, representatives from the Departments of Finance for the City and APS, together with counsel, met to discuss the issue.  At that meeting, APS requested that the City provide APS with documents and information that would enable APS to evaluate  the City’s contention that APS owes certain amounts to the City in connection with the GO bonds.” 

“Most recently, on June 21st, APS renewed its request for this information and served an Open Records Act request on the City.  The City has indicated it will provide the documents to APS by July 12, 2019.  The GO bond issue is unrelated to the TAD intergovernmental agreement negotiations, although the City has attempted to link the two.  The Superintendent reached out directly to the Mayor on June 14th and again on June 19th requesting a meeting to resolve the TAD and any other related issues but received no response from the Mayor’s office.”

About Atlanta Public Schools

Atlanta Public Schools is one of the largest school districts in the state of Georgia, serving approximately 52,000 students across 89 schools. The district is organized into nine K-12 clusters with 61 neighborhood schools, five partner schools, 18 charter schools, two citywide single-gender academies, three alternative schools and four alternative programs.

# # #

Issued Tuesday, July 9, 2019 at 10:00 am

“APS has learned that the City of Atlanta has filed suit demanding payment related to general obligation bonds.  APS has not yet been served with a copy of the City’s filed complaint.  As background, we have previously been in talks with the City about the issue to understand it from their perspective but to date the City has provided us no information that shows that APS owes the City for these bonds. Moving forward, as this is now a litigation matter, APS will not comment any further.”

“Please note, however, that while this new lawsuit regarding the Go Bonds is not related to the Gulch development or the intergovernmental agreement reached between APS and the City in January of 2019, the City still has not made the $10 million payment to APS required under that agreement. APS continues to do what’s best for our 50,000 students, 6,000 employees, and 158,000 taxpayers in support of our city’s future.”

About Atlanta Public Schools

Atlanta Public Schools is one of the largest school districts in the state of Georgia, serving approximately 52,000 students across 89 schools. The district is organized into nine K-12 clusters with 61 neighborhood schools, five partner schools, 18 charter schools, two citywide single-gender academies, three alternative schools and four alternative programs.

# # #




**June 28, 2019 UPDATE: I am so excited to share the great news! **

I want to let you know that we received the Fulton County Tax Digest for 2019 (FY2020), and revenue growth is a bit stronger than anticipated! This means I am comfortable recommending to our Board adjusting the revenue assumptions for local tax revenue up by about $7.5 million or 1.3%, allowing us to fund teacher raises and our other remaining budget priorities!

This adjustment is pending Board approval, but I want to thank you, our taxpayers and this community, for making this possible for our hardworking educators. We couldn’t do this without you, and we are so grateful for this community’s support and commitment to our district and the City.

This adjustment is great news because it means we don’t have to wait on the payment from the City on our tax allocation district settlement agreement to get started on giving the full raises to teachers. This increase would allow us to fund most of the unfunded priorities of the FY20 budget, including the full compensation package that was recommended.

The compensation recommendations, if approved by the Board, are highlighted here:

  • Teacher pay raises increase from average 3.3% (about $2,000) to average 4.85% (about $3,000);
  • Instructional support pay raises increase from average 2.3% to average 3.2%;
  • One-time payment for eligible teacher and instructional support employees who are off step increases from $1,000 to $3,000;
  • Non-Teacher pay grades 125-150 receive a 1% increase in addition the step raise previously approved (total = 2.2%);
  • Non-Teacher pay grades 111-124 still receive the same step and 1% pay raise previously approved (total = $2.45%);
  • One-time payment for eligible non-teaching employees who are off step increases from $700 to $1,000;
  • Teacher career pathway stipends increase for department chair (middle school and high school), grade level team lead (elementary) and cooperating teacher, new stipend for lead campus-based mentor;
  • Implement remaining pay parity recommendations for JROTC local supplement and stipend adjustments and converting 42 hourly bus monitors and 38 special education paraprofessionals to full time with benefits.

Although we are all excited about this, there is still a lot of work to do including holding three public hearings related to the tax digest. APS is required to advertise a tax increase of 1.54% even though the millage rate will STAY THE SAME. That’s right! The millage rate will NOT increase. We hope you will participate in those! Because of this process, catching everyone up to the full compensation proposal will have to come in phases.

First, teachers and other non-annual employees would receive their new FY20 compensation beginning with their first paycheck of the new school year on August 30th, as normal. Then, annual duty employees would receive the additional compensation, plus retro pay, by the September 30th paycheck. Other components, like stipends and conversion to full time with benefits, would come at a later date.

Again, thank you for your support of the work of APS, and I ask for your continued patience and understanding as we work through this process. I will be sure to keep you fully informed about our timeline and public hearing dates as we move through the July and August steps.

I am so excited about the school year to come and look forward to continuing to work with this community to realize our vision of becoming a high performing school district where students love to learn, educators inspire, families engage and the community trust the system! **

 

Training new principals and assistant principals of Atlanta Public Schools this morning for a new school year.

FY2020 Budget Approval and Ongoing Effort to Fully Fund Teacher Raises

After months of hard work and extensive community input, the Atlanta Board of Education last night approved FY2020 budgets for Atlanta Public Schools, which includes an $854 million operating budget. The budget, as approved, provides for equity and transparency, autonomy and flexibility, quality and efficiency, and, most importantly, compensation investments in our teachers and staff and programming for students.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t yet include the full teacher pay raises at the levels as approved by the General Assembly and the Governor earlier this year because the City of Atlanta has not honored its Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) with APS. We continue to urge the City of Atlanta to pay the $10 million IGA settlement payment due to APS back in January 2019 and to honor the rest of the settlement agreement which includes funds for the recurring costs related to salary increases. Because we are also waiting for tax digest information from Fulton County, we assumed a conservative 4% growth rate for budgeting purposes. My May 7 blog provides considerable details about all of this.

Although we maintained a conservative approach, this budget includes:

  • $281 million to continue the District’s commitment to increase equity throughout the system through developing school budgets using the Student Success Funding (SSF) formula, which bases school funding on student attributes such as poverty, English language learners (ELL), Early Intervention Programs (EIP) and Remedial Education Programs (REP).
  • $46.9 million in support of investments in quality early childhood education, leadership development, whole-child development (including the arts, athletics and behavior supports), and investments in pre-K through third grade to ensure all students are reading by the end of third grade.
  • More than $10.2 million to provide targeted academic and wraparound support for targeted-tier schools, as well as schools transitioning from targeted-tier to intensive-tier, due to demonstrated gains on the state accountability metric.
  • $12 million in salary raises for all employees and keeps in alignment our pay scales and initiatives as set forth in the pay parity plan from 2015.
  • Non-teacher pay raises, which include a step and a 1% increase for pay grades 111-124 (total 2.45%), a step only for pay grades 125-140 (total 1.2%), and a $700 one-time payment for eligible employees who are off-step. 
  • Pay parity adjustments that include increasing school resource officer holidays equivalent to other employees, adjusting the JROTC instructor work schedule and supporting some position reclassifications.

The FY2020 budget continues to support site-based autonomy and flexibility by pushing an additional $3.5 million into schools for textbook adoptions, including $23.7 million of EIP/REP in SSF formula, allowing additional flexibility with turnaround funds, pushing $2.7 million of stipends from CLL to school budgets and continuing to invest $12.4 million in signature programs.

Tracey Pendley, Georgia Teacher of the Year

As we move into FY2020, we will do all we can to invest more in our teachers, staff and our schools. For example, as soon as we receive confirmation that the city has honored the IGA, it is our plan to fully fund an average raise of $3,000 per teacher, retroactively if necessary.

We fight hard for money due to APS so that, in part, we can compensate our teachers and staff for their tireless work to provide for our students so that they may have choice-filled lives. Let me shine a spotlight on some of our incredible APS colleagues who have recently received local, state and national recognition:

Kandice Mitchell, Assistant Director of Athletics for APS
  • Our own Tracey Pendley, fourth grade teacher at Burgess-Peterson Academy and most recent winner of the district’s Excellence in Teaching Award, was named the 2020 Georgia Teacher of the Year by State School Superintendent Richard Woods. That was the first time in almost four decades!
  • We are so proud of Kandice Mitchell, the district’s Assistant Director of Athletics, for being named State of Georgia Athletic Director of the Year by the Georgia Athletic Director’s Association. Kandice’s commitment to our student athletes, their families and this district is commendable. Kandice is a proud graduate of Benjamin E. Mays High School. She makes history as the first African-American woman selected for this prestigious honor. Along with Tracey Pendley, Kandice received a well-earned proclamation from the Atlanta City Council just yesterday.
  • Dr. Terrilyn Rivers-Cannon, who works with students and families at Washington High and Fickett Elementary, was named this year’s National School Social Worker of the Year by the School Social Workers Association of America.
  • The district had two honorees this year for Atlanta Families’ Awards for Excellence in Education. Both Dr. Andrew Lovett, principal of Benteen Elementary School, and Ashleigh Spatz, music teacher at Burgess-Peterson Academy, were surprised last month with $7,500 Teach On Project awards. The award includes $3,500 toward a school project of the winner’s choice, $1,500 for professional development and a $2,500 personal stipend. Dr. Lovett plans to use his award to fund a Building Brilliant Biliterate Readers project at Benteen. Ms. Spatz will use her grant to create the Composing for Community project at Burgess-Peterson.

In addition to these highlights, APS achieved a number of benchmarks and honors in improving human resources over this past school year, which makes our system stronger and working conditions better. Here are just a few:

  • We began the 2018-2019 school year with all principal positions filled and only seven teaching vacancies. This is the fifth consecutive year where APS had fewer than ten teacher vacancies on Day One.
  • APS has expanded training for principals on hiring for teacher quality and increased principal satisfaction with quality of applicants from 52% in the first year of the survey in 2016 to 71% in 2019.
  • APS has reached a record-high ability to provide a substitute when teachers are absent, increasing the substitute fill rate from 88% in 2014 to 98% in 2018.
  • The Georgia Association of School Personnel Administrators (GASPA) presented APS with a Platinum award for recruitment process/materials, a Gold award for strategic partnerships and retention practices and a Best in Class award for employee handbooks.
Last night, the Board and I celebrated Don Doran, one of the longest-serving and respected educators in APS who retired as Head of Schools for Drew Charter.

I want to thank Lisa Bracken, our chief financial officer, and Skye Duckett, chief human resources officer, and their teams for all of their hard work during the past school year. And I appreciate everyone in the APS family – students, families, teachers, support staff and all of our partners and supporters. We couldn’t have achieved our many successes without each and every one of you. I hope everyone has a wonderful summer break and comes back ready for more success and progress for the 2019-2020 school year!

Congratulations, Grad Nation APS Class of 2019!

It’s late on Friday at Georgia Tech’s McCamish Pavilion, and for the first time in five days, there’s almost complete silence.

Starting with graduation rehearsals about 108 hours ago, cheers, congratulatory shouts and celebratory music and songs began filling the arena and never let up until literally just moments ago. But now all of the members of Atlanta Public Schools’ Class of 2019 — nearly 2,500 of them cheered on by happy, teary-eyed parents, caregivers and other family members, as well as teachers, principals and friends — have left the building to begin their lives as graduates of Atlanta Public Schools.

Soon-to-be KIPP graduates demonstrating their “Work Hard. Be Nice!” motto as they prepare to walk.

This class amassed more than $154 million and counting in scholarship dollars, which includes the more than $17 million earned by more than 1,000 Achieve Atlanta Scholars to qualify each of them for up to $20,000 for four years of college. They are on track to complete more than 10,222 AP/IB/Dual Enrollment credits, which is 1,300 more than the Class of 2018 and nearly twice as many as the Class of 2015! And they scored in athletics with 18 region championships, 65 teams advancing to the state playoffs and six individuals and teams coming back with state championship trophies!

I am already starting to miss them, but I am so proud of each and every one of them. And I am bursting with pride because Operation Grad Nation, once again, was a huge success! #APSGrad19

The “dreamy” Nathaniel Ward of Grady High who raised us up with his beautiful singing voice

During Graduation Week, we truly live the mission of Atlanta Public Schools: Graduating students ready for college and career. And as those who have ever attended or viewed one of our ceremonies … NO ONE puts on graduation 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.

As we all came 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 with some persevering against incredible challenges. No matter the circumstances or individual stories – and yes, there are more than 2,500 of them – they made it to the stage for graduation this week.

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

But their work and their lives, have only begun. Indeed, the word “commencement” is a beginning, a start. Most members of the Class of 2019 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.

Whatever paths these graduates choose, 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.

We salute the Class of 2019 for a job well done! And thanks to our graduation team including Dr. Isaac Sparks, our graduation coaches, the high school principals, our student resource officers, the communications team and all of the volunteers for putting on another great program. And thank you to the members of the Atlanta Board of Education for their support.

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 2019.

Atlanta Classical Academy, Saturday, May 18, 2019, Trinity Presbyterian Church

Charles R. Drew Charter, Saturday, May 18, Drew School Gymnasium

Coretta Scott King Young Women’s Leadership Academy/BEST Academy, Tuesday, May 21

KIPP Atlanta Collegiate, Tuesday, May 21

Schools of Carver, Wednesday, May 22

South Atlanta High School, Wednesday, May 22

Frederick Douglass High School, Wednesday, May 22

Grady High School, Thursday, May 23

Therrell High School, Thursday, May 23

Booker T. Washington High School, Friday, May 24

Alonzo A. Crim High School, Friday, May 24

Benjamin E. Mays High School, Friday, May 24

Maynard H. Jackson High School, May 24

North Atlanta High School, May 24

Commencement Week for APS Is Here!

Operation Grad Nation 2019 officially kicks off tomorrow at Georgia Tech’s McCamish Pavilion, 965 Fowler St. NW, Atlanta 30318

We are nearly there! Only a day away from kicking off the official Operation Grad Nation 2019 ceremonies! I am overwhelmed in anticipation as I cannot wait to celebrate with our families, teachers and staff as Atlanta Public Schools hands out diplomas to graduating seniors.

Our ceremonies kick off at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, May 21, with soon-to-be graduates from Coretta Scott King Young Women’s Leadership Academy and B.E.S.T. Academy gathering at the McCamish Pavilion. We will host ceremonies though Friday, May 24. All details are available at www.atlantapublicschools.us/gradnation.

The move to Georgia Tech from the Georgia World Congress Center stands as the most obvious change from graduation ceremonies of the past. We had to move the venue because the Georgia World Congress Center was already booked for years in advance during our usual graduation times. We are so grateful to Georgia Tech to have such a beautiful arena available for our graduations this year.

As this is a new venue for us, we have a number arrival details to share with you. Here are four things everyone must know upon arriving at graduation.

No. 1 – Clear Bag Policy

Guests of the McCamish Pavilion must adhere to Georgia Tech’s Clear Bag Policy. Please bring a small bag (no larger than 4.5 X 6.5) or clear bag to the facility. A complimentary clear bag valet will be available for guests. Note: medical bags will be permitted.

No. 2 – Parking Map

A detailed parking map is available for guests. You’ll find it on our GradNation webpage. The map includes an area layout, deck pricing, and shuttle service locations for Georgia Tech campus parking decks.

No. 3 – MARTA and Parking Deck Shuttle Bus

A shuttle bus for MARTA riders will be located at the Midtown MARTA station. A route will be released at a later date.

No. 4 – Security Check Points

Upon arrival, guests are required to enter through security check points. Outside food and beverage and weapons, including those carried with a permit are not permitted.

In anticipation of heavy traffic, we strongly encourage guests to arrive one hour in advance of their respective ceremonies. For your convenience, the Ken Byers Tennis Complex has been identified as an inside holding area for early arrivals.

Again, you may view and download the APS commencement schedule, rehearsal dates, clear bag policy and parking map at our official commencement website: www.atlantapublicschools.us/gradnation. Be sure to reference the website for updated information as we approach commencement week.

Should you have any questions concerning this year’s commencement week, please email apsgradnation@atlanta.k12.ga.us. We look forward to seeing everyone at Operation GradNation 2019! Congratulations to all our seniors!

Our Very Own Tracey Pendley is the State TOTY! First Time for APS in Nearly Four Decades!

I’m just beside myself right now and am beyond thrilled to share the news that our very own Tracey Pendley, fourth grade teacher at Burgess-Peterson Academy who is also our reigning winner of the district’s Excellence in Teaching Award, was just named the 2020 Georgia Teacher of the Year by State School Superintendent Richard Woods!

Woohoo! Congratulations, Tracey, on achieving this amazing honor! It is so well deserved.

The state of Georgia sees in you what we’ve seen in you from the very first time you stepped into an APS classroom, and that is how much love and passion you have for our students and for teaching, and the tremendous impact you’re having on our students’ lives and on their future.

Tracey once said, “I believe all students should have some magic in the classroom.” I just love that statement because it speaks so clearly to Tracey’s approach to teaching her students.

Tracey truly is an all-around winner because she is also the recipient of the 2018 Atlanta Families Award for Excellence in Education. Anyone who knows Tracey knows that she believes in the power of education and is deeply committed to social justice and educational equity.

Ms. Pendley’s personal commitment to and belief in our students is palpable, and it really shines through every day in the way she teaches.  We’re so proud of you, Tracey, and can’t thank you enough for being a part of our APS family!

Here’s a little known fact that speaks to how huge this honor is….APS has had only one state TOTY winner and that was in 1981. So, Tracey’s award tonight literally represents the first time in decades (38 years by my count!) that an APS teacher has nabbed this award. That’s one of the reasons why I’m so elated and so excited for Tracey.

As I mentioned, in addition to this state recognition, Tracey is APS’ reigning winner of our Excellence in Teaching Award. She received this recognition in October 2018, which highlights the District’s best, brightest and most accomplished classroom educators. Winning this recognition is no easy feat! Tracey was selected from the best of the best after a very rigorous process.

First, she won the excellence in teaching award at her school and then applied to be nominated for the District award. A nominating panel reviewed the nominees and narrowed the list down to nine semi-finalists and then selected a winner for each grade band:  elementary school, middle school and high school. Tracey won the elementary grade level and then she took home the big prize, winning the Excellence in Teaching award for the whole District!

Ms. Pendley began her teaching career with APS seven years ago as a 4th grade teacher and interventionist at Toomer Elementary. In 2013 she became a 4th grade teacher and mentor teacher for the CREATE teacher residency program where she has the opportunity to prepare future teachers and magnify the power of education at Burgess Peterson Academy.

Prior to coming to APS, Tracey was a 3rd grade teacher at Dodge Renaissance Academy in Chicago Public Schools from 2009 to 2012, and she was also the Director/Tutor of a ministry-based afterschool program in Greenville, South Carolina from 2002 to 2006. She earned her Master of Arts in Teaching from the University of Chicago, Urban Teacher Education Program and her Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and Religion from Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina.

In applying to teach at APS, Tracey said, “Every child is deserving of an education that challenges, fosters responsibility, and teaches about the world and the many possibilities for their own lives. In my classroom these beliefs translate into a literacy and numeracy rich environment in which daily differentiated instruction, relationship building, and critical thinking are key. I challenge students to think critically about important historical events and to draw connections between themselves and people of different races, cultures, and beliefs.”

Tracey, we love you and celebrate you for being a shining example of what teaching excellence is and should be not just in APS, but in the state of Georgia!

#StrongStaff