Taking Further Steps in School Event Security

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Over the last two school years, I have already seen more shooting incidents around our Atlanta school community involving children than the rest of my other two superintendency tenures combined. It’s so disheartening but it also means we have to be more proactive to protect our students, parents and staff.

As a school district, we responded last year with the “APS United We Play” education campaign, an enhanced game management for sporting events at both Grady and Lakewood stadiums. This campaign, which continues through this football season, was designed to improve safety as well as game day experiences for the participants and the fans.

Another shooting incident this past weekend in a school parking lot while innocent athletes, band students and parents were trying to make their way home after a game raised enough concern for the board and me that we are increasing our safety and security measures for the rest of the season.

Throughout the district, our kids and families should never worry about being safe at school or at a school-sponsored event … during the school day or at any time. Further, our children shouldn’t have to look over their shoulder when they are in their communities.

I cannot express enough my gratitude to the staff and parents who rallied around the kids at Mays to ensure that they were protected and safe. But these incidents show that we must be a school district that stretches harder to be leaders who will protect its children. Because of the world we live in, we must take even more precautions.

We only have so much in resources, so we have created a real-time, stop-gap approach for more security until we complete budgeting for Fiscal Year 2018. These are our additional steps:

  1. We will assign security to our teams and bands to and from games both at our own stadiums and outside of the district for away games.
  2. We will provide security coverage at school parking lots for when the teams and bands return. The officers will remain until everyone has left the property safely.
  3. We will provide coverage for parents and caregivers waiting for their children at the school parking lots.

We will find a way to manage the costs of the additional security to support the real-time adjustments necessary to cover the costs.

There are many community ills that extend beyond our school properties and spill onto our schools. As such, we could, indeed, work to prevent these incidents through proactive efforts. We may have the opportunity to be so when we have our budget conversations on unfunded components of transformation.

It’s something we must consider, and I look forward to identifying ways to ensure stronger safety and security investments as we prepare for FY18.

#APSUnitedWePlay

 

Time to “Max the Vote” for Toomer Elementary School!

Kindergarten students are incredibly curious. Whenever I visit kinder classrooms you notice two things – they love to ask questions and they love to move!

Toomer Elementary School kindergarten teacher Emily Max is a finalist in the $100K Farmers Insurance Dream Big Teacher Challenge grant contest.

Toomer Elementary School kindergarten teacher Emily Max is a finalist in the $100K Farmers Insurance Dream Big Teacher Challenge grant contest.

Emily Max and her kindergarten students at Toomer Elementary School are no different. When Emily decided to apply for a $100,000 grant through the Farmers Insurance Dream Big Teacher Challenge contest, it was no surprise that her entry would involve – what else – movement. But Emily takes it a step further. She wants EVERYBODY, not just her kindergarten students, moving. That includes those students who have mobility issues that may keep them from joining in on all the fun activities inside and outside of the school.

Emily’s entry into the contest calls for a total remake of the playground at Toomer, located in the historic Kirkwood community. It would include a rubberized floor, ramps, lower stairs, more equipment – both large and small – and a much larger play area, all to make the playground more inclusive for not only Toomer students, but for the every child in the Kirkwood community.

She says replacing mulch with a rubberized floor and adding ramps and lower stairs will allow children in wheelchairs or who use walkers greatly improved access to the playground. Also, adding smaller equipment will give the little kids more options, as most of the current equipment is for the bigger kids. And of course, an overall larger play area means more room for more kids! Check out these video features on Emily’s dream:

http://www.fox5atlanta.com/good-day/33784148-story

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_yL1bJArwO8

Emily Max is interviewed by FOX5 Atlanta reporter/anchor Ron Gant for a story that aired on "Good Day Atlanta."

Emily Max is interviewed by FOX5 Atlanta reporter/anchor Ron Gant for a story that aired on “Good Day Atlanta.”

Last month, Emily was notified that her entry was selected as one of 15 nationwide finalists – out of more than 3,500 applicants – for the grant. Now that she has done the hard part, it’s time for us to do ours!

Emily needs us to vote for her entry – once a day, every day – by going to this link, http://tinyurl.com/q7fwkmf, and following the instructions at the top of the page. As you will see, you have to be logged in to Facebook in order to vote. When voting ends on Oct. 31, the entry with the most votes will win the $100,000 grant. Emily expects the winning entry to be announced sometime in November.

Emily Max  needs us to vote for her grant proposal to expand and enhance the playground at Toomer Elementary School, so that it is more accessible and fun for all children in the community,.

Emily Max needs us to vote for her grant proposal to expand and enhance the playground at Toomer Elementary School, so that it is more accessible and fun for all children in the community.

So let’s make sure Emily, Toomer Elementary, the Kirkwood community and APS come out winners! Remember, vote once a day, every day! Let’s all #MaxtheVote!

Emily Max - Farmers Insurance banner

I See You: Social-Emotional Learning at Fain ES, Boyd ES, West End Academy and Crim Open Campus HS

Checking in on the progress of our schools doesn’t stop after Day One or even week one. I love visiting schools as often as possible and seeing first-hand how the decisions we make as leaders impact the day-to-day learning of students. It was great to see the beginnings of our social-emotional learning (SEL) work taking root in schools as early as the first week of the school year. In my opinion, social-emotional learning skills are the foundation of the academic success of our students.

New Fain Elementary School principal Mr. Rasheen Booker works with students on a writing assignment during my visit.

New Fain Elementary School principal Mr. Rasheen Booker works with students on a writing assignment during my visit.

You may remember that this spring the district entered into a partnership with The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) to administer its social-emotional learning program within Atlanta Public Schools. Our belief is that if students can develop healthy relationships with their peers and the adults in their lives, we know they will be more successful in school, work and in life.

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I heard lots of great stories at West End Academy.

Over at Crim Open Campus High School, one of the first things Principal Parker did was to introduce me to her students and encourage them to tell their stories of success. Each student led me through their journey to this non-traditional high school and spoke enthusiastically about their futures.

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Beautiful message over at Boyd Elementary School!

When Dr. Alonzo A. Crim, the school’s namesake held my job back in 1973 as the first African American to become schools superintendent in the South, he sought to build a system “where students would know that we care about them.”

And I really do care about our students at Crim. This is a non-traditional high school where students must interview to be accepted. Students here have chosen to attend this high school that values individuality, provides alternative scheduling and courses and offers innovative delivery to obtain class credits that can be used towards graduation.

Crim Open Campus students are SO awesome.

Crim Open Campus students are SO awesome.

Principal Parker leads a diverse group of students and had great accomplishments with her recently graduated class of 2015, of which 36 fully completed Career, Technical and Agricultural Education or CTAE program requirements in graphic arts, culinary arts, engineering and technology, early childhood education, small business and construction.

And this is a very vocal group of students with plenty on their mind! I ran into a young lady who emailed me earlier this year with concerns about her education. We were able to get her issues resolved and it was great to see she was in school and ready to learn when I gave her a big hug during my visit.

I See You. I Am Here. Inspiration at West End Academy.

I See You. I Am Here. Inspiration at West End Academy.

I met another student today for the first time who told me about his journey to Crim. He says he was an academically strong student and a pretty good athlete at his previous high school, but didn’t like going to class and knew he wasn’t living up to his potential. He chose Crim as an alternative to his traditional high school and not only is he on track to graduate on time, he has dreams of enrolling at my alma mater, Auburn.

Another student, Jamie Simon, who I met last school year, has really grown up over the summer! He’s a great guy and it was so good to see him. He’s headed to AIU after this school year to study audio engineering and video production. I’m so proud of him!

That’s what I love about Crim.  Every student is truly focused on the mission of our district, to graduate ready for college and career and they show a profound amount of respect for one another and their teachers.

Few things say love like a good grilled cheese sandwich! A special hug for this staff member who serves daily at the West End Academy.

Few things say love like a good grilled cheese sandwich! A special hug for this staff member who serves daily at the West End Academy.

While our students don’t always come in to school with the skills necessary to navigate academics and social situations, the good news is that research has shown us that SEL skills – which include the ability to develop good relationships, and make good decisions – can be taught.

I also visited Fain Elementary, Boyd Elementary and West End Academy, where the early implementation of SEL practices could be seen. At Fain, new principal Mr. Rasheen Booker had each teacher to post information about his or her education, accomplishments and interests outside their classroom door – allowing students and parents to know a little bit more about them before entering the room. There were also bulletin boards that told little known facts about the teachers, once again laying the groundwork for great conversations between teachers and their students which builds healthy relationships.

At Boyd, the bulletin board in one of the hallways says “We are here to be seen and heard,” a tenant of SEL in the district. Boyd has relocated this year and although they are in a temporary space while their campus undergoes renovations, there is evidence that new principal Mr. Marcus Jackson understands the importance of self-awareness and encourages teachers to listen deeply to the needs and desires of their students.

Crim Open Campus students have the flexibility to complete courses utilizing day and evening classes.

Crim Open Campus students have the flexibility to complete courses utilizing day and evening classes.

Over at West End Academy students were also eager to talk to me about how the supportive staff – from the front office to school leaders – were the reason they were seeing such success in the program. I wrote about West End Academy last October. The Academy offers online courses to juniors and seniors and allows students to work at their own pace. Principal Mobley proudly displays her success stories on almost every wall of the school and although she has been practicing the components of SEL for years at the school, she is looking forward to formally embracing the model.

This move toward changing the culture in the district is being infused into not only our schools, but our district offices as well. APS established board policies and administrative norms for the organization to abide to include practices such as putting students and schools first, respect for others, drive and embrace change, and accountability.

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I met Jamie Simon last school year – what a great young man. Headed to AIU after this school year to study audio engineering and video production.

Hopefully our communities are already seeing the evidence of the changing culture through the collaborative work between the Board and myself as well as the emphasis on stakeholder input when we go out into neighborhoods and hold meetings around topics that affect our students and our schools.

As we continue our culture lift in the district, with the help of SEL, every child and every adult in our district will be seen…and heard.

Donyall Dickey, our new Chief of Schools Officer, helps a Boyd kindergarten student tie shoelaces. SEL in action!

Donyall Dickey, our new Chief of Schools Officer, helps a Boyd kindergarten student tie shoelaces and asks questions about their first week of school. SEL in action!

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At West End Academy I previewed online learning and tested out a Spanish lesson.

At West End Academy I previewed online learning and tested out a Spanish lesson.

Hearing more stories from Crim students!

Hearing more stories from Crim students!

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Teachers at Fain Elementary have detailed bios posted outside each of their classrooms.

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Great conversation starter. Way to go Fain!

M. Agnes Jones Elementary is Serious about S.T.E.M.

20150806_091057I was looking forward to my trip to visit principal Woolfolk and her students and staff at M. Agnes Jones Elementary School today. I had heard about their new Innovation Station inspired by Georgia Tech, which included robotics, tinkering and 3D printers.

The Washington High School cluster of schools, of which Jones is a part, has chosen a S.T.E.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) theme for all of the schools that feed into Washington High.

Poised to implement STEM in 2015-2016, Ms. Woolfolk and the principals of the Washington Cluster attended Georgia Tech Innovation Studio with the Westside Parent Group in June of 2015.  Ms. Woolfolk was thoroughly inspired by the possibilities for M. Agnes Jones.  Using flexible spending dollars allocated during the most recent APS budgeting season, she launched a science lab, tinkering lab, and purchased a true robot, Ramsey.

She has also garnered support of Georgia State University and was recently awarded a $10,000 Innovation Planning Grant by the Georgia Office Student Achievement.

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The trip was everything I hoped for, (actually I would have been happy seeing this level of learning on day 22 of school as opposed to day 2)! I watched students demonstrate their knowledge in the area of robotics and engineering, all in the first 15 minutes I was in the building. It was incredible! If they are working at this level on day two – the rest of the school year is filled with so much hope and promise.

Take a look at the photos below – these students are finding the fun in S.T.E.M.

Happy new school year Jones Elementary!

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Ramsey the Robot is coming…stay tuned!

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Jones now has a full-time, dedicated S.T.E.M. teacher!

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Teacher Appreciation Day at the High Museum of Art – Saturday, March 21, 2015

APS Teachers, join fellow educators for Teacher Appreciation Day at the High Museum of Art – Saturday, March 21, 2015!

This Saturday from 10:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m.,  the High Museum of Art is celebrating educators with their annual Teacher Appreciation Day.  Teacher Appreciation Day is the High’s “Thank you!” to all of our APS teachers.  I am a new member of the Woodruff board of trustees, and I am so pleased to see this kind of outreach to our educators.

There are a few exhibits that I hope you check out:

Gordon Parks, Segregation Story:  View over 40 color photographs taken by Gordon Parks, one of America’s most influential photographers.  Many of the photos are on exhibit for the very first time and all feature the people and places of my home state of Alabama.

Black in White America by Leonard Freed is featured alongside the Gordon Parks exhibition. It includes 38 black and white photos featuring African Americans during the civil rights era.

Folk Art is the heartbeat of visual artistry in the south. The High is the first general museum in North America to have a curator dedicated to the work of folk artists.  Check out cool pieces from artists such as Howard Finster, Mattie Lou O’Kelley and other self-taught sculptors and painters.

Don’t forget to bring your school I.D. or proof of educator status and a guest. Yes, every teacher can also bring a guest!  I look forward to our teachers bringing their experiences back to the classroom.

Thanks again to our friends at the High!

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Benjamin E. Mays Raiders brings GHSA state quarterfinal football contest to Lakewood Stadium

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Coach Jarvis and players from the Mays Raiders football team at the 2014 APS Media Day event.

Congratulations are in order AGAIN for our Benjamin E. Mays Raiders football team! They pulled off a spectacular upset last Friday with a 21-18 victory over the number one ranked Ware County Gators in Waycross, Ga.

The Raiders now advance to the Georgia High School Association state quarterfinals for the first time in school history and host the Jones County Greyhounds at 7:30 p.m., Friday, Nov. 28 at Lakewood Stadium. This is the first time in four years that APS has hosted a quarterfinal football contest. The Grady Knights were the last to accomplish this in 2010.

Come show your Raider and APS pride! Tickets to the game this Friday are $12.

Congratulations to Coach Jarvis and his football team. The entire district is cheering for you and supporting our students this weekend as they compete to advance to the semi-finals of the GHSA state playoffs.

 

Our Three New Stakeholder Committees

I am pleased to announce the members of our three new stakeholder advisory and oversight committees: Finance and Budget Advisory Committee, Special Education Advisory Committee, and SPLOST Oversight Committee.

Last month, I announced that we were creating the committees as part of our broader community engagement work in Atlanta Public Schools. We asked individuals who are interested in committee service to submit their nominations to the associate superintendent of their local school and apply online. We received huge interest from parents and community members and took our time to verify all of the nominations and make a final determination in a fair and transparent manner.

The Budget & Finance Stakeholder Advisory Committee consists of 19 members and is chaired by Chuck Burbridge, chief financial officer, Atlanta Public Schools. The Special Education Stakeholder Advisory Committee has 24 members and is led by Tammie Workman, assistant superintendent for Student Services.  The SPLOST Oversight Committee is led by Larry Hoskins, chief operating officer for the district and has 15 members.  Thank you to everyone who took the time to submit a nomination. We want the committees to begin working after winter break, and we’re on track to meet this goal!

The committee members are as follows:

Finance and Budget Advisory Committee

Dr. Linda Anderson, Assistant Superintendent for Teaching and Learning

Dr. Tony Burks II, Principal Douglass High School

Yolanda Carr, Mays High School Cluster Representative

Tammy Dixon, South Atlanta High School Representative

Cynthia Dumas, Therrell High School Cluster Representative

Clay Elrod, Jackson High School Cluster Representative

Buck Greene, Principal – Sutton Middle School

Tye Hayes, Deputy Chief Information Officer

Felecia Josey, Washington High School Cluster Representative

Nicole Lawson, Executive Director for Human Resources – Talent Management

Cynthia Mickelburg, At-Large Member

Marshall Norseng, At-Large Member

Mark Rebillot, Grady High School Cluster Representative

JaTawn Robinson, The New Schools at Carver Cluster Representative

Joseph Salley, Principal – Kimberly Elementary School

Chandra Selles, Charter Schools Representative

Bob Stockwell, North Atlanta High School Cluster Representative

Dr. Clara Taylor, Principal – D.H. Stanton Elementary School

Toni Terry, Douglass High School Cluster Representative

 Special Education Advisory Committee

Chartez Bailey, Student – Therrell High School

Monica Blasingame, Teacher – Price Middle School

Vickie Cleveland, Executive Director for Special Education

Michelle Constantinides, Grady High School Cluster Representative

Don Doran, Principal – Drew Charter School

Christina Edward, Teacher – Sylvan Middle School

Tameka Gilliam, The New Schools at Carver Cluster Representative

Ginger Harbin, Teacher – Grady High School

Lisa Hill, Principal – Long Middle School

Dwight Hutson, North Atlanta Cluster Representative

Kenya Kemp, Mays High School Cluster Representative

Melissa Leontorvich, Industry Expert (Former Georgia State University Special Education Professor)

Josie Love, Principal – Carver School of Technology

Denice Morgan, Washington High School Cluster Representative

Sharron Paige, Douglass High School Cluster Representative

Keyona Revere, At-Large Member

Cassandra Rainey, Therrell High School Cluster Representative

Charlene Salter-Legend, Jackson High School Cluster Representative

Joan Sloan, Industry Expert (Kennesaw State University)

Ashley States, Teacher – Atlanta Neighborhood Charter School

Kara Stimpson, Principal – Brandon Elementary School

Nyree Sears, South Atlanta High School Cluster Representative

Richard Quartarone, Charter Schools Representative

Tammie Workman, Assistant Superintendent of Student Services

SPLOST Oversight Committee

Corey Anderson, At-Large Member

Dr. Danielle Battle, Associate Superintendent of Elementary Schools (Carver, S. Atlanta, & Mays Clusters)

Chris Bennett, Mays High School Representative

Gayle Burnett, Manager of Data & Compliance, Office of Innovation

Kathy Davis, At-Large Member

Michael Everly, North Atlanta High School Cluster Representative

Dr. Timothy Gadson, Associate Superintendent for High Schools

Shawna Hayes-Tavares, Therrell High School Cluster Representative

Melissa Hughley, South Atlanta High School Cluster Representative

Tamera Jones, Grady High School Cluster Representative

Dr. Greg Middleton, Associate Superintendent for Middle Schools

Luana Slaughter, Jackson High School Cluster Representative

Rhoda Spence, Douglass High School Cluster Representative

Valeria Williams, Washington High School Cluster Representative

(Vacant), The New Schools at Carver Cluster Representative