It’s A New Year! Back-to-School Shopping with a Dunbar Family


School social worker Emerson Jones, Sherrelle Shelley, Dunbar Elementary students Davion Shelley (7), and Dion Shelley (10), Me and Shumeka Moon of Target.

It’s back-to-school time. The first day of the 2015-16 school year begins for APS students on Wednesday, Aug. 5. I love this time of year. With only one day until the start of the new school year, I can hardly contain my excitement.

Target2015-075For me, it’s a time of renewal, full of hope for a great new year. As a kid, back-to-school was a time to go shopping and pick out new clothes and school supplies; an opportunity to make new friends and recommit to doing well in school. I’m not so sure it was as much fun however for my parents who had to buy clothing and supplies for four girls. So, I can imagine how difficult it is for some of our families to carve out a little extra money from the family budget to get students prepared to go back to school equipped with all the supplies students need to be successful. I know every little bit helps—and thanks to the State of Georgia, families got a little financial relief in the form of tax-free days this past Friday and Saturday.

While tax-free days are an opportunity to do some back to-school shopping, more on that in a minute, it’s also a great time to remind APS families and students that it is critically important to attend school from Day One and everyday thereafter. We know that school attendance and preparedness impact children’s lives for a lifetime:

  • Up to 7.5 million students miss a month of school each year.
  • Math achievement is tied to regular school attendance.
  • Missing school can lower math and reading scores and leave your child less likely to graduate.
    • For example:  A student who is absent 30 days out of the school year has a 41 percent likelihood of graduating from high school; he is likely to score only in the 29 percentile in math and reading.
    • A child missing five days of school has an 82 percent likelihood of graduation and scoring in 45 percentile in math and 42 percentile in reading.
  • Attendance also strongly affects standardized test scores and graduation and dropout rates.

Every day, including the first day, is a day of instruction, an opportunity to learn. And the research is clear that absences hurt achievement. One report traces students’ struggles to master reading in the third grade to missed days in kindergarten. Another study shows that students’ chance of graduating high school are severely limited by how many days they missed in middle school. Simply put, every school day counts. Coming to school prepared with the tools needed to learn is also important. Now back to the fun stuff.

I had the great pleasure of shopping with busy working mom Ms. Sherrelle Shelley and two of her children Dion (10) and Davion (7) who attend Dunbar Elementary where the school uniform colors are navy and white this year. The boys picked out matching navy wind breakers and Davion had a tough time deciding between the Despicable Me and Spiderman backpacks—he eventual settled on the latter.

Click here for video footage of my back-to-school shopping trip with the Shelley family. With the help of the Target at the Edgewood District, Dion and Davion received school supplies, uniform clothing, shoes and household items needed to ensure a great start to the new school year. Target donated a gift card and another donor, who wishes to remain anonymous, helped Ms. Shelley who has six children, purchase school supplies, clothing and even a new tablet for the home.

For more information about registration, your child’s bus route and other important information about back-to-school visit APS please visit

Target2015-027I want to send a special thank you out to Ms. Denise Revels and Mr. Emerson Jones the school social workers who helped connect me with this wonderful family and to my friends at Target for being a great partner. If you or someone you know needs assistance please reach out to your school social worker or the Parents as Partners Academic Center for help. It is so important that all of our students are prepared to start school on Day One and every day thereafter. For more information visit us at 

Dion and Davion promised me that they would work hard this school year and promised to take extra good care of their new tablet. As for all my other APS students, it’s been a long summer and I miss you guys! I look forward to seeing you all back in school on Wednesday, August 5.  I wish the Shelley family and all APS families a happy new (school) year!



Dunbar Students Celebrate International Literacy Day

Dunbarreading1.jpg-largeDid you know that approximately 67 million children around the globe do not have access to primary school education and another 72 million miss out on secondary school education? International Literacy Day, recognized September 8, 2014,  helped to bring a global awareness to the importance of reading.

I am proud of the students and staff at Dunbar Elementary School for taking a moment this week to remind everyone that access to books and great literacy teachers is a gift and should never be taken for granted!

Hats off to the Dunbar Instructional Coach Makini Coleman, Media Specialist Tomiko Cobb and Principal Karen Brown Collier  for encouraging the Dunbar Bulldogs to read!


Itty-Bitty Kids with a Super Duper Future

dunbar7When I walked into Ms. Cannady’s kindergarten class this week, the 5 year olds were engaged in a lesson about living and non-living things. “This is how we GROW” Ms. Cannady said, as she and the group stretched their arms to the ceiling.  The kids were stretching, they were answering questions, they were EXCITED to be learning.   

Paul Laurence Dunbar Elementary, located in Mechanicsville, is a school of 384 students.  The learning complex is unique, in that it houses not only an elementary school, but also an early learning center for students as young as six weeks old. They were itty-bitty and so adorable!!! I spent time in several classrooms and had a chance to look in on the youngest learners as they napped.  The three-story indoor courtyard filled with light serves as the play area for the younger children.  It is a warm and inviting space that encourages development.


“This is how we GROW!”

Principal Brown-Collier spoke about the number of students who begin the school year at the school but leave or transition to another neighborhood school during the year.  The goal at the complex is to increase the number of students choosing to remain at the school from birth through 5th grade. 

dunbar5I turned again to Michael Nettles, our Executive Researcher in Residency, for his thoughts after visiting Dunbar.

“Fifty percent of all children and around 75 percent of African American children are born into single parent families.  This condition often presents an obstacle to educational attainment and too often contributes to low expectations and achievement. Paul Laurence Dunbar Elementary and its partnerships with neighboring Women’s Wellness Center and the Center for Working families is making sure that this is not the fate of the children of the Mechanicsville area of Atlanta,” said Nettles. “ Dunbar is a model for facilitating family engagement in meeting the school and educational needs of young children. Now the challenge is to ensure that we have appropriate content, coordinated delivery systems and assessments to ensure student achievement.”

We need to continue to work with the district architect to think about the available space currently in the building and how it can best be utilized for the current students.  An expanded cafeteria may be one of the first agenda items. 

Principal Brown-Collier agrees and says that she and her staff are intentionally working on developing the whole child at Dunbar, attempting to address their academic, social, emotional and physical development each and every day.

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