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

ColdWeatherKids

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are the options:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

APS Wants Your Thoughts on Make Up Days

ColdWeatherKids

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are the options:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We Honor MLK by Continuing Our Journey of Transformation

MLK - Selma to Montgomery, 1965 (2018)

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

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

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

APS Day 1 of school.

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

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

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

Happy Birthday, Dr. King!

#MLKday #JohnLewisFreedomRunners #Selma

APS Cancels School on Monday, January 8th Due to Inclement Weather. We Will Welcome Students Back to School on Tuesday, January 9th!

1/7/2018 (UPDATE) As you know, the safety and security of all our students and staff at Atlanta Public Schools is among our top priorities. While we were looking forward to welcoming our students back after the holidays to kick off the second half of our school year, out of an abundance of caution, APS is cancelling school for Monday, January 8th and all afterschool activities.

This decision to cancel school is in alignment with Governor Deal’s decision to close state offices (statement here) and the City of Atlanta’s closure due to weather (city statement here).

The Atlanta Board of Education (ABOE) swearing in ceremony and the election of board officers will proceed as planned tomorrow, however, the work session, community and legislative meeting will be postponed for a later date.  

APS has been monitoring the weather forecast closely and recent weather forecasts indicate possible winter weather including light freezing rain in the morning hours for the Atlanta metro area.  We want all of you to be safe, and we ask that parents and families be mindful of the weather conditions and to exercise caution when traveling throughout the metropolitan area. 

Monday is going to be a busy day as our city prepares for the activities surrounding the College Football National Championship game. It’s also important that parents and families exercise caution on the roads due to the anticipated traffic congestion especially in the afternoon hours as a result of the game, the potential arrival of the President into downtown Atlanta, and the resulting road closures.

For those parents and guardians with students at APS charter schools, we encourage you to contact your schools directly for scheduling information.

Remember to be safe and stay warm and we will welcome our students back on Tuesday, January 9, 2018!

__________________________________________________________________________________________

1/5/2018  Happy New Year! After our holiday break, Atlanta Public Schools (APS) is ready to welcome all students back to kick off the second half of our school year!  We are looking forward to a great start to the year and a great day of learning on Monday, January 8th.

It is going to be a busy weekend in metro Atlanta as we prepare to welcome our students back and as the events and activities surrounding the College Football National Championship game get underway. This promises to be an exciting event for our city, and APS is thrilled about the spotlight and opportunity this event brings to our area.

Equally, we are fortunate to have a partnership with the College Football Playoff Foundation which will make a direct impact on our teachers and students through the Foundation’s support of our literacy initiatives, classroom makeovers, training for teachers and much more.

Because of all the fanfare and excitement around the championship game, I wanted to share our operational plans for Monday, January 8th.

Our plan is to be open and operate on our normal schedule on Monday, January 8th, and the Atlanta Board of Education meeting will proceed as scheduled on Monday as well.

We have been working in close coordination with city, county, and state officials and are aware that those agencies are closing early on Monday to stagger traffic. With this in mind, APS is deliberately operating our normal schedule on Monday to ensure that caregivers and adults are home before our students are released. Additionally, we acknowledge that the President’s visit may affect travel patterns in the Metropolitan area, and students and families should be aware that those traffic delays might affect afternoon bus routes.

 

In addition to the big game, my team and I are also closely monitoring the weather forecast for possible inclement weather. As we prepare to come back to school after our winter break, I want to remind all families to ensure the little ones are bundled up. Additionally, I encourage everyone to be mindful of the conditions and exercise caution when traveling throughout the metropolitan area.

We appreciate your continued engagement in our work across the District, and we will always do our best to communicate these latest developments with you. Have a wonderful weekend and we look forward to seeing you on Monday! Stay safe and warm!

 

Please Enjoy A Safe, Warm, Relaxing Winter Break!

It’s hard to fathom, but Semester Break and the New Year is already upon us! The season certainly gives us all a chance to take a much-deserved break, relax and connect with family and friends. I also encourage everyone to also take a few moments of reflection to consider the differences our public schools make in the lives of Atlanta’s children. It’s never perfect but is so very important!

1-First_Place-sml

1st Place – Michah Moreland, 11th Grade, BEST Academy Teacher: Felicia Coleman

A personal joy for me of being a part of APS is that I have opportunities to work with our students and observe and interact with them as they learn and grow. They give us hope for the future and have amazing talents and gifts of their own as shown by the winners of my annual Winter Card Contest (please watch the beautiful video montage of their collective work!) Thanks to all of the students and teachers who made this happen!

I also have much pleasure in working work with some of the hardest-working educators, administrators and professional support staff in public education. Our district benefits from a community of educators and staff blessed with many gifts along with the hearts to share them with our students and their families and with each other.

As we go into our break, we have some great news to share …

 

First, 52 of our schools appear on the Beating the Odds list released yesterday by the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement. Beating the Odds shows how a school’s performance compares to similar schools across the state, using a statistical analysis of each school’s College and Career Ready Performance Index (CCRPI) based on student characteristics outside the school’s control.

 

Next, I am pleased to share that according to the Georgia Department of Education, APS has successfully exited disproportionality status for the over-suspension of African-American students with disabilities, based on final SY17 discipline data verified by the state. APS has been disproportionate since 2009, resulting in significant financial impact to our special education funding.

Finally, some cash flow news that will offer my colleagues more peace over the break!

Thanks to Atlanta taxpayers and the hard work in the district to monitor cash flow issues involving Fulton County property taxes, we are set to repay our $100 million TAN next week and will have no issue with making the December 29 payroll! (Whew!)

Also, we are in great shape to start the new year without financial drama. In the first payroll of January, employees will receive the $500 one-time supplement for those who are eligible plus two days’ worth of salary for those impacted by the November furloughs. We will also be lifting the spending freezes for travel, new hires and large expenditures.

For the new year, we are also looking forward to working with a new Atlanta Board of Education, including our incumbents – Byron Amos, Cynthia Briscoe Brown, Eshe’ Collins, Jason Esteves, Leslie Grant and Nancy Meister – as well as our newly elected members – Michelle Olympiadis,  Kandis Wood Jackson and Erika Mitchell. Thank you to our families and voters for continuing to support public education!

Now is a time for sharing, but it is also a time of reflection and relaxation. So please take time for yourselves over the next two weeks to really enjoy the time off. Then come back in 2018 with a renewed spirit and energy!

In the meantime, I wish you all the best of the season and a safe and Happy New Year with friends and family!

Reflections of 2017

As 2017 comes to a close and we reach the halfway point of another amazing school year in Atlanta Public Schools, I wanted to share some of my favorite images of the school year so far. I will certainly miss all of our wonderful teachers, staff and students over the Winter Break, but I’ll be back tweeting and blogging again in the New Year on Monday, January 8, 2018!

Back to School Bash/Day One

 

Eclipse

 

State of the District

 

Battle at Mercedes-Benz

 

Teachers of the Year

 

Other Favorites!

 

Honorable_sml

 

When Inclement Weather Threatens APS

Update (4:50 p.m., Sunday, December 10): Atlanta Public Schools is resuming normal school operations tomorrow, Monday, Dec. 11. After a review of our buildings, power, staffing, roads and weather, including information from city and state officials as well as neighboring school districts, APS will operate its normal school schedule tomorrow. 

Ensuring the safety of our students and staff continues to be among our top priorities, and we encourage everyone to exercise caution when traveling throughout the metropolitan area.

Update (2:01 p.m., Sunday, December 10): Atlanta Public Schools is anticipating resuming normal school operations tomorrow.  While there are reports that power is out and icy road conditions persist in certain parts of the metropolitan area, especially Cobb, only one APS school is currently without power (working to get restored). Based on information shared from city officials many city of Atlanta roads are clear; however, because many district staff live outside the city we are also monitoring neighboring area suburbs for potential icy road conditions, power outages, and impacts to staffing.  Currently, we are looking good on power, roads, school staffing, bus driver staffing, subs and HVAC.

We will continue to monitor these conditions throughout today and we will provide an update by 5:00pm after we have had a full report. At that time, we can consider any potential adjustments to the normal school schedule and will announce accordingly.  Please remember to exercise caution when traveling throughout the metropolitan area.

Update (12:45 p.m., Friday, December 8): In consultation with the State of Georgia and the City of Atlanta, and in order to ensure the safety of our students and staff, we are working toward a one hour early release of schools and closure of our offices. Even with an early dismissal, because of the traffic and weather conditions, we are anticipating that students, at best, will make it home at the regular time. This allows us to get all students back to school who are currently out on field trips. The State and City are keeping their offices open on a regular schedule, in order to help manage traffic flow. These are wet conditions NOT freezing conditions so we are not putting students and staff in danger.

We are canceling after school and weekend activities as well. The City of Atlanta has also canceled its after school programming.

Colder temperatures began arriving in Atlanta this week along with threats of more wintry weather such as sleet and snow. Based on the current forecast from the National Weather service, we do not anticipate inclement weather to hit our region until after classes on Friday. So we plan to be in school tomorrow, December 8. But that doesn’t mean we stop closely watching the weather.

In fact, we will continue to monitor the weather tonight, tomorrow and throughout the weekend and provide updates as appropriate should weather conditions impact after school programming or weekend activities.

ColdWeatherKidsAt this time of the year, it can be frustrating and sometimes scary not knowing how bad weather may impact you and your family, especially when our littlest ones are on buses or walking home or even while you are at work and trying to get home yourself.

That’s why Atlanta Public Schools has a set of protocols in place so we can plan in advance and during real time for pending weather. Even before we faced dangerous weather amid Hurricane Irma in September, APS had already established how the district prepares and handles school business amid such conditions and how APS will notify the school community in a timely manner so that you can plan accordingly.

Remember: Amid any threat of inclement weather, our No. 1 concern is the safety of our students and our staff.

So as winter approaches, I wanted to remind our students, families, staff and others about the APS protocol for inclement weather.

When severe weather threatens Atlanta, we diligently update our website and keep every school principal notified. Whenever you feel the need to contact APS about weather issues, please call your school first. I make certain all principals are updated in real time about our inclement weather decisions, so they will always have the information.

I also encourage you to log in to the campus portal for parents, update your preferences for emergency notifications, which include robo-calls, text messages and e-mails at http://www.atlantapublicschools.us/CPP.

I have addressed our weather procedures in considerable detail on this blog in the past, outlining the full decision process about when we close school operations should weather conditions impede a safe school day.

Here is a summary of how it works:

Before severe weather is even predicted, I analyze with our operations and human resources team as much as I can about the housing, living and travel patterns of our staff, especially the support staff who we depend on to pick up our students on school buses, safely get them across the street as crossing guards and to prepare meals at breakfast and lunch in food service, and do much more. Many of our staff live outside of the city, and it becomes important that we know how that would affect our operations during the day if they were not in attendance. Sometimes weather in another community can impact our school district by default. These are all small but important details that go into my decision-making.

So, when severe weather is predicted for our area, the next step begins where we prepare immediately by monitoring the weather and holding conversations throughout the day and, if necessary, throughout the night and early morning hours with Atlanta Fulton County Emergency Management, Georgia Emergency Management, and the National Weather Service to help us make the best decisions for our students’ safety.

We then launch our severe Core Weather Team, which includes representatives from APS Operations, Transportation, Safety & Security, Facilities Services, Communications, Curriculum and Instruction, Nutrition and Information Technology departments. We conduct information calls with area superintendents, the City of Atlanta’s chief operating officer’s team, the Atlanta-Fulton County Emergency Management Agency and others. In these conference calls, we rely heavily on information provided by the National Weather Service and local meteorologists to provide the best and most reliable information. The meteorologists often want to wait as late as possible, when better data allows for more accurate forecasts and precise solutions. Sometimes, this wait can conflict with the district’s need to notify families early as possible.

Once we make a decision about school operations during bad weather, we will begin notifying parents and caregivers as soon as possible.

In the end, the superintendent does make the final call as to whether schools close for inclement weather. However, it is important that the district coordinates with outside agencies so that these decisions are not made in a vacuum.

We understand our school community’s desire for timely information, and we do our very best to balance this desire with the need for coordinated community-wide emergency planning in these situations. In the meantime … stay warm and stay safe!

 

Even amid the Tumult … So Many Reasons for APS Thankfulness

thanksgivingbanner

When you constantly face the fire in public education, you don’t always have time for reflection and appreciation. All of us in Atlanta Public Schools – with the difficult charge of turning around our district and schools – know this all too well.

We can come out of announcements about encouraging news about progress and gains with our kids and schools (see my recent CCRPI blog, our Georgia Milestones results and my blog about graduation rates) and then immediately turn right into gut-wrenching news about delayed tax receipts and the need for two days of furloughs (see here, here, here and here).

But then we get some fantastic news when the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement TODAY announced its Single Statewide Accountability System Award (SSAS), which honored seven of our schools for greatest gains and highest performance on the CCRPI. These schools are:

  • Carver Early College, Bronze for Highest Performance
  • Cleveland Avenue Elementary, Gold for Greatest Gain
  • Jackson Elementary, Bronze for Greatest Gain/Gold for Highest Performance
  • Mary Lin Elementary, Bronze for Greatest Gain/Gold for Highest Performance
  • Morningside Elementary, Platinum for Highest Performance
  • Morris Brandon Elementary, Bronze for Greatest Gain/Gold for Highest Performance
  • Springdale Park Elementary, Gold for Highest Performance

That’s the rollercoaster existence of working within APS. Amid the tumult, it is hard to even think about the blessings in our lives, much less express thanks. Thus, one of the reasons of the season: Taking time to truly be thankful.

When I count my blessings at the start of this holiday season, I will start with saying I’m thankful for our parents, our caregivers, our grandparents, our families and friends who do everything they can to get our children to school each day ready to learn. I am thankful for them trying to find teachable moments in every day.

ThanksgivingDeltaI am thankful to our amazing partners, who have joined the APS Journey of Transformation to make game-changing forays into literacy, early childhood education and college and career  readiness. Our partners have also come through for us in light of the furloughs as well—Family First Credit Union is providing relief loans to staff members and the Atlanta Community Food Bank which will provide pre-packaged bags for food items for 400 impacted employees in December for the holidays to make their season a little brighter. Publix will also be donating holiday goodies for these staff members. Another one of many examples that warms my heart involves Delta Airlines preparing and delivering more than 1,200 bags of food for the families of students at Dobbs and Hutchinson elementary schools in South Atlanta.

I am thankful that we are doing more and more for our families with new care centers, vision screenings and mobile medical opportunities!

I am always thankful that I follow the wisdom of Aristotle – “Where your talents and the needs of the world cross, there lies your vocation” – and found my way to Atlanta more than three years ago. This has been both the most challenging and most rewarding part of my career, and I have zero regrets coming to Atlanta to be a part of our community and this school district.

I am thankful to my APS colleagues, from our teachers at the frontlines to the folks in our central office working behind the scenes, who strive every day to help APS become a high-performing district where students love to learn, educators inspire, families engage and the community trusts the system. They have truly faced adversity over the years – most recently, these budget challenges and the furloughs next week. Without my colleagues’ patience and generosity, our current cash flow woes could have felt worse. I have learned that I can depend on them to put these uncontrollable distractions into perspective and work through it professionally.

But most of all this season, I am thankful for Atlanta taxpayers who have heeded the call to pay their delayed Fulton County tax bills as soon as possible. Based on our typical collection trends, we had anticipated $2.5 million in this first week. As of this afternoon, we learned that we had collected … drumroll, please  … $3.7 million! As long as we stay ahead of the trend on our collection of future revenues, we will be good to repay our Tax Anticipation Note and other December obligations, including payroll!

Thank you all for being #APSimIN. And most of all, have a Happy Thanksgiving!

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