We ‘made up our mind’ to celebrate literacy and Dr. Seuss’ birthday!

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Burgess-Peterson students were eager to sing Happy Birthday to Dr. Seuss.

I hugged a cuddly Lorax who wore slippers, not boots. Took selfies with Things that were tiny and cute. I grappled with friends over a fish, dog or yent. All in all, I can say, my day was well spent.

OK, OK, so I’m not Dr. Seuss or a writer anywhere near the genius that is Theodor Geisel (Dr. Seuss’s real name), but I did have a blast celebrating the National Education Association’s Read Across America Day today by reading Seuss’ newest book, What Pet Should I Get? to early learners at Burgess-Peterson Academy, Wesley International and KIPP Strive Primary! Read Across America Day is an annual, nationwide event that promotes literacy while celebrating Dr. Seuss’ birthday.

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A warm welcome from Wesley International students!

What Pet Should I Get? tells the story of a brother and sister (the same kids featured in the beloved One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish), who are having a tough time deciding on a new pet while visiting a pet store. The manuscript was only discovered in the last few years and published in 2015, 50 years after it was originally written (that is so cool).  True to form, there is a deeper message embedded in the story that goes beyond choosing a pet. The story reminds readers that choices are powerful, and when given the opportunity, they should make wise decisions. All of the kids agreed that their favorite line in the book was, “Make up your mind!”

A big Seussical shout-out to principal David White at Burgess; Lakeesha Ramdhanie, lower school dean at KIPP Strive Primary Academy; and teacher (and friend), Tracy Trammell at Wesley International, for giving me the opportunity to be spontaneous and silly with their students. Today was our day!

“You’re off to Great Places! Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting, so… get on your way!” –Dr. Seuss, Oh, The Places You’ll Go!

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KIPP Strive Primary students asked great questions today.

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Congratulations, APS Class of 2015!

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Graduation elicits a broad swath of emotions from the thrills of reaching the end of high school to the pride of a job well done to the sadness of leaving friends, families and classmates behind to go to the next step of college, career and life.

For me, the graduation of Atlanta Public Schools’ Dr. CClass of 2015 marked my first with the District and brought forth in me all of those emotions.

I can hardly express the thrill of attending all of the graduations and generating great memories that I will always cherish.

  • The chance to lead enthusiastic school cheers at Mays, Jackson and Grady
  • The stirring musical performances from North Atlanta, Douglass and Therrell
  • Heartfelt speeches about perseverance, grit and determination from students at Carver, South Atlanta and Crim high schools
  • The joint ceremony with B.E.S.T. and Coretta Scott King academies where nearly every graduate on stage had been accepted to college
  • The 90-year legacy and sense of family and community at Washington
  • Sharing my first APS graduation with the first-ever graduating class from KIPP Collegiate Atlanta.

And then there’s the pride. The pride that the Class of 2015 is 2,250 graduates strong, earning more than $85 million in scholarships for college.South Atlanta

And finally a sense of sadness, because I, too, will miss all of the students of my first graduating class as APS superintendent.

For the families, friends, teachers, staff and community members who did not get a chance to join any of the fantastic APS graduation ceremonies last week, I invite you to visit livestream.com/k12aps to view them and experience some of the excitement for yourself. Go to Twitter and search for #APS2015 or your school’s hashtag and see running accounts, photos and videos of every graduating class.

You can also visit our TalkUp Blog, which featured numerous students across the District including all of our valedictorians, salutatorians and STAR students and many of our Posse, Gates and Georgia Scholars as well as other champion athletes and students. Crim

Needless to say, we are super proud of our students.

And we know that they will continue to make us proud, because they know it doesn’t end with graduation. As I told them at graduation, the word “commencement” literally means “beginning.”

And while they experience a fresh beginning, it’s not a hard, new start. They have all of the lessons, experiences and friendships they developed at APS with them and the support of family, teachers and the community.Family

We wish them all the best of luck. We are definitely proud of them, and we will miss them.

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!

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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.

Visiting Latin Academy

A middle school with almost 300 students, The Latin Academy, one of the district’s newest charter schools, opened in the 2012-2013 school year.  I had a chance to visit with the staff and students this week.  The school moved into the former APS Capitol View Elementary school building last school year.

True to their name, the Latin Academy focuses on a classical curriculum.  Principal Larry Thompson told me that all 8th graders take Latin as a foreign language and attend fine arts classes each day.  Two 6th grade scholars have been awarded the Ben Carson scholarship, and according to our charter schools office, scholars are growing on average 1.5 years in both reading and math.

This was our lunch stop for the day and the students were eager to tell me what they liked and didn’t like about their school lunch.  While they don’t receive the same lunches as students in our non-charter schools, they still had plenty to say about how school meals could be improved.  I love hearing feedback from kids when it comes to their food – and I plan to include students in our decision making process next school year as it relates to menu choices.

I heard that 11 of the school’s 8th graders will travel to Rome for an end-of-the-year field trip June 18 – June 24.  I’m looking forward to hearing more about the experience.

 

Our charters are an important part of our APS family, and as I toured several of our charter schools this week, I noticed multiple opportunities to support and enhance their facilities and buildings.  I’ll be brainstorming with our charters and our operations team on how we create a plan and leverage our efforts to get support for some upkeep and maintenance of facilities – we want all of our staff and students to have safe, welcoming and clean environments to work and learn.

But for now, enjoy your summer vacation and your travels – carpe diem and see you next year!

Oh, and my favorite quote in the entire world is in Latin – Maxima debetur puero reverentia. Translation: The greatest reverence is due a child.

North Atlanta Golf Team headed to the State Championship

After an impressive season, the North Atlanta High School golf team is headed to the state championship tournament, Saturday, May 18!

They’ve played in eight tournaments finishing second three times, third three times and have five wins with no losses in match play.  I wanted to check in with Coach Sarden to see how he feels about the upcoming tournament.

Coach Sarden is confident in his team as they are plenty prepared from practice and tournament play.

“In youth we learn, in age we understand,” he constantly reminds his players.

“I try to give them a little understanding about the game. A lot of golf is mental,” said Sarden.

“I ask them to take one shot at a time and visualize it going down the fairway.”

Visualizing bringing a championship title home, junior golf player Jackson Perkins said they are going out there with something to prove. “No one is really giving us a shot. So were going to go out there, fire at some pins and see if we can make some history.”

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 made some noise over the last couple of seasons.

Sophomore, Winston Meshad finished second in the State Championship last year shooting a four under par and has won several other honors for outstanding play in other tournaments.

Andrew Taylor showed up big last year to post a score that helped North Atlanta place in the top four in the state championship tournament.

Jackson Perkins has put up some good numbers, but it’s his leadership and attitude that Coach Sarden admires the most.

Jackson expressed what he loved about playing golf. “I love the team atmosphere and everyone playing for each other. Not just yourself,” he said. “It’s a family thing.”

Golf, like many other sports, translates into the classroom well— requiring patience, discipline, thinking skills and composure. Coach Sarden said that the term student-athletes truly embodies their commitment to the classroom; sharing that his girls golf team has a perfect 4.0 GPA.

He is confident in his players’ ability to win a state title. He reminds them to be committed to doing their best every time out. “If we do that, we win,” said Sarden.

“I believe we can win the state championship.”

The state championship tournament is Saturday May 18, 2015 at the GHSA State Championship Courses.  Best wishes, I hope you bring home a win!

For more information about the state championship event, visit www.ghsa.net/golf.

Supreme Douglass High teacher headed to the Supreme Court

douglassCongratulations to Frederick Douglass High School teacher Jameka Fields! Ms. Fields is one of 60 civic education teachers selected to attend the Supreme Court Summer Institute.  The Institute will give Ms. Fields the chance to study Supreme Court cases and learn how she can bring innovative teaching techniques back to her classroom.  She will have a chance to visit the Court, attend decisions and also rub elbows with Supreme Court lawyers, reporters and other educators while she’s there.  This Institute is co-sponsored by Street Law, Inc. and the Supreme Court Historical Society.  I can’t wait to hear about her adventure.  Way to go Ms. Fields!