SHOUT OUT to Our Awesome Students and Staff!


EAT, SLEEP, RUN!  That was the Maynard Jackson Lady Jaguar track & field team motto this season, running all the way through the finish line to capture the 2015 GHSA Class AAA State Championship.  Marking the first state title for the school’s athletic program since 1990 when then Southside High School Lasers won the state title in basketball, these young ladies have made history!

I was a door prize! During pre-planning this year, Dr. Margarent McKenzie, our coordinator of World Languages and ESOL, had a little fun and offered me up as a door prize to teachers attending planning sessions. I love connecting with our teachers every chance I get – and I had a pleasure of spending time recently with our two winners.  From World Languages, Erica Pereira, Spanish teacher at BEST Academy High School and in ESOL, Ms. Timothea Cokley, an ESOL teacher at West Manor Elementary.  I REALLY enjoyed their classes – and appreciate their dedication to teaching English to our young learners and Spanish to students who will use the language for the rest of their lives.

I have to give a HUGE congratulations to a very special kid, Carter Lewis Guensler for being selected as the 2015 State PAGE STAR student. Valedictorian of Grady High page FOUNDATION GRADY STAR STUDENT School’s class of 2015, Carter was selected among 27 PAGE STAR student region finalists. Fourteen of which received a 2400 score on the SAT and all were in the top 10 percent or top 10 of their class.  Carter’s impressive grades and perfect SAT score earned him the school’s STAR student nomination and the opportunity to select Mr. Lee Pope as the school’s STAR teacher.  Mr. Pope is the Grady Social Studies department chair as well as instructor of Advanced Placement European history and theater.  AT&T Georgia presented Carter with a $5,000 scholarship and Lee Pope will receive a $2,500 cash award from the Frances Wood Wilson Foundation.

North Atlanta Golf

After an impressive season, the North Atlanta High School golf team is headed to the state championship tournament, Saturday May 18, 2015.  They’ve played in eight tournaments finishing second three times, third three times and have five wins with no losses in match play.  The girls soccer team also made it to the state championship this month.  Way to go!  Jackson said that playing in the state championship this year is an incredible feeling considering the youthfulness of their team. The team’s starting six is comprised of two juniors, three sophomores and one freshman.  Young and talented, they’ve been making some noise over the last couple of seasons and are looking to bring home a championship!

mutual award3

Shout out to APS! Atlanta Public Schools was awarded the 2014 Mutual of America Community Partnership Award Honorable Mention. The award was given to the district for the role it played in the revitalization of the East Lake Community and for being an outstanding example of leadership in the facilitation of partnerships.

‘Shout Out’ to our great students, teachers and schools

There are a lot of GREAT things happening in our district.  Each month I will give “shout outs” to students, staff and volunteers who are helping us achieve excellence in Atlanta Public Schools.

Let’s give a shout out to…

The 38 North Atlanta High School students who competed against students from 17 other high schools in the Embracing Differences-Students Draw the Line Against Prejudice contest. They made a clean sweep walking away with all three awards for the high school category. Congratulations to the three student winners: Erin Jimison, Maggie Richardson,  and Allie Barbone.

Our ten Posse finalists at Benjamin E. Mays and Maynard Jackson high schools. Congrats Maria Gallo-Blanco, Jamiah Shoemake, Nia Carter, Lena Adams, Angel Gabriel, Keairra Brown, Danielle Simmons, Selema Gonzalez, Kennedi Brantley, and Atia Butts!

Posse finalist from Mays High School.

Posse finalists from Mays High School.

Maynard Jackson High School students Cecilia Cole and Selema Gonzalez who earned Superior ratings for their solos at the Georgia Music Educators Association Festival.  They performed Italian Arias and operatic solos, for an adjudicator for the coveted top rating.

Henry W. Grady High School’s debate team, “The Grady Jesters” which competed in the Saint James School Speech and Debate Tournament in Montgomery, Ala. winning the award for Overall Sweepstakes Champions!

B.E.S.T Academy High School students, Tyler Bivens and Kaleb Anderson! Both have been selected to intern with the Atlanta Hawks for three months!  This opportunity will provide these students with some very valuable experiences.

Way to go APS! Keep up the great work.

I Had the Best Day at B.E.S.T. Academy!

As I started my trip down the main hallway at B.E.S.T. Academy, the district’s all male middle and high school, I immediately noticed a group of students looking intensely at a screen in the computer lab. Turns out the young men were members of the school’s football team. I spent some time with the football players – they were reviewing their tape from this weekend’s game. We talked about who they thought was the best team (high school and college) and I asked them what they thought about Michigan, which really got the conversation going. 

Then of course I asked them about their grades and their experiences in the classroom.  I wanted specifics!  One of the students walked me through one of his online assessments, giving me a glimpse into his daily academic life.  We all debated over the answers to the questions and there was laughter and a few moments of reflection.  I reminded the boys that academics and athletics are both important in their lives, but that everyone isn’t going to be number one on the field. You’ve gotta work it both ways. What I loved most about this group is that they didn’t know who I was, they had never met me, I was a random lady in a suit who walked into their lab and started asking questions, yet they showed me respect and engaged me the entire time I was with them. This respect for authority and desire to learn seems to be the mark of a B.E.S.T. Academy young man, and I experienced throughout my entire visit.

We moved on and spent time in Ms. Cushmir’s science class where students were discussing the agents and causes of erosion. My two tour guides for the day were Muhammad Bah and Rashaun Clark, both 8th graders at the middle school. I had already heard great things about them from David Jernigan, who visited the school during the first week of classes back in August.

Mr. Blackmon’s ELA class was digging deep into the award winning novel, The Watson’s Go To Birmingham. (Side bar: I know how to read this book aloud to students quite dramatically in case a school needs a reader…) He took a moment to place the recent results of the student’s assessments on the board and the students were able to track their progress against other classes in the building. The results showed a big improvement, they were ranked number 2 out of all of Mr. Blackmon’s classes, which meant…dancing!  Students in his class earn 10 seconds of uninterrupted celebratory dancing when they reach milestones. I was super lucky because I was in class when one of dancing milestone moments happened so  I danced too. Have you ever seen my robot? I was getting jiggy with it!!! It’s pretty good!

It was a great visit and I look forward to returning.  Thank you Muhammad, Rashaun, Principal Jones and Principal Womack for a great tour and enduring experience.

This was so much fun. My robot is fierce!



B.E.S.T. Academy Students Soar High: Guest Blogger David Jernigan, Deputy Superintendent

BEST1B.E.S.T. Academy, an all-male middle school and all male high school sharing one campus, is a great example of how collaboration between school leaders can reap great benefits for students. 

Our tour this afternoon was led by middle school students who were energetic, knowledgeable about their school and eloquent with their answers to questions.  There is intentional work happening here around culture building.  Classroom visits prove that there is a significant effort to drive consistency across the schools, which was reinforced this summer with a two-week professional learning opportunity for all teachers.

BEST2We visited multiple classrooms, including the band and orchestra rooms where middle school students were anxious to show off their talent. 

We loved seeing the rituals around how visitors are greeted when they enter the classroom.  Every young man stands to their feet and gives a hearty and respectful hello.  Every young man knows how to give an inviting yet firm handshake while looking you in the eye.  B.E.S.T. Academy is building great men.

This particular school is particularly dear to me.  While working with the KIPP organization, I was a part of the leadership team responsible for creating opportunities for collaboration between KIPP and B.E.S.T.  The partnership has grown to include a staff member from KIPP remaining in residence with the Academy for the past 18 months, conducting teacher and staff leadership training.

I am looking forward to developing more opportunities throughout the district where schools share tools and best practices that are working on their campuses. 

Congratulations B.E.S.T. scholars; you are off to a great start this school year!