Board Approves FY16 General Fund Budget for APS

BOEMeetingI was pleased to present to the Board tonight the FY16 General Fund Budget for Atlanta Public Schools, which stands at $685.6 million. I want to thank again all of the staff, Board members and community members who toiled through this process.

This budget represents months and months of work that goes back to before my start date and the beginning of the Board’s work on the Equity Audit. It includes the incorporation of our new mission, vision and strategic plan and the Board’s identification of clear budget parameters and priorities.  It stands as the culmination of months of work that also included active engagement in the community. Based on the feedback from this Board and the public, we made considerable changes to the budget, trying to show that we are listening to you and making adjustments within the resources we have available.

As a gentle reminder the General Fund budget represents just a portion of the resources APS manages. If you remember, the Board, thankfully, recently approved an amended SPLOST IV budget to help fund much-needed HVAC improvements that we couldn’t find money to cover in the general fund. In May, we will present the Board with a tentative budget for Special Revenue, Capital and Debt Service funds. The General Fund Budget covers general operating expenses across the District while the other budgets cover other needs to benefit students and manage operations.

This particular General Fund budget is our first step, albeit embryonic, to set the course for a new direction for the District as we move toward the submission of  a Charter System operating model for our schools. It also shows our commitment to a higher level of instructional quality, operational efficiency and the direction of more flexibility spending closer to the classroom to ensure the responsible and effective use of taxpayer dollars.

Due to limited resources and certain mandated expenditures, we were not able to address all of our funding priorities or fund all of the longstanding challenges (some inherited and some created) in one year. That underscores the necessity of a multi-year budget strategy that includes defining new resource opportunities, securing dollars due to us, and maintaining an ongoing and diligent effort to find efficiencies and cuts so that we can expand fund balance reserves for challenges in the years to come.

Here are some of the new things you will see in this updated budget:

  • A focused commitment to Fine Arts and World Languages so some, but not all, the cuts could be restored. We will fund this with the additional $5 million the Board approved as part of the cluster planning investment for at least an equitable, basic standards of service levels in those areas. That means our schools will, at the minimum, offer visual arts and general music at all school levels; adding band at the middle school level and performing arts in high school. For World Languages, basic standards of service means that our elementary students will be exposed to other languages, while middle and high school students will have programs designed to reach proficiency.
  • We went back to our baseline $668.8 million budget and scrubbed for funds to help with enhancing the educational environment and address supports for schools that have students who are still not at proficiency levels.
  • There is a deliberate endeavor to guide the entire district toward IB programs or programs of comparable levels of investment and rigor.
  • There is an effort to fund about $3 million in original enhancements to the educational environment the Board identified in January and February.

Throughout the budgeting process, we worked with a goal of improving quality, while increasing efficiency and addressing equity. To that end, you have seen and continue to see significant reductions in central office administration by about $6 million – yes, we did trim the fat downtown to now reflect in district financial reports general administration budget reductions from 6.7 percent to 3.2 percent – and we reduced school administration by $2.3 million while adding $14.1 million for school and cluster flexibility. Such flexibility and autonomy at the school level enables principals to develop staffing plans and invest resources in alignment with the District’s academic standards of service.

The good news is that the FY 2016 budget fully funds many of the priorities of the district. But there also remains a considerable number of unfunded priorities – improved services in regards to custodial and grounds work, pay parity, increases in the cost of living and fully funding the IB programs or programs of comparable levels of investment and rigor are a few. As we work to secure new revenue sources (for example, a tax neutral Pension Obligation Bond this fall) or secure revenue already due to us, the Board can consider those funding priorities during the school year or for the FY 2017.

Even after Board approval, APS will continue to fine-tune this budget as we finalize cluster programming needs, firm up staffing allocations, and develop more options for rethinking current resource allocations. The District will also continue to review and address support for students who remain below proficient in basic academics. As we near the start of FY16, any adjustments or modifications will be reflected in the final load of the budget in July.

Thanks again for all of the feedback that informed our budget! Congrats to all!


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!


“SELMA” for APS Students – High school students can go for FREE while supplies last!!!


Everyone who knows me, knows that I am passionate about education.  If there is anything that rivals my love of public education…it is my love for my hometown of Selma, Alabama.

This year Selma celebrates the 50th anniversary of the historic 1965 march from Selma to Montgomery, led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  This was a social justice campaign to secure equal voting rights in the face of opposition.

Paramount Pictures recently released the movie “SELMA” which tells the story of this movement.  The film chronicles the tumultuous three-month period in 1965 when civil rights leaders, many from right here in Atlanta, won one of the most significant victories of the movements’ history. King attended APS’ Booker T. Washington High School and entered Morehouse College during his junior year in high school.  I am thrilled that the Atlanta community answered the challenge set by business leaders in New York and throughout the nation, and will kick off the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Holiday weekend by providing free movie tickets for “SELMA” to 10,000 APS high school (9th-12th grades) students beginning Saturday, Jan. 17, 2015.

Members of the Atlanta community raised more than $100,000 to purchase tickets for the film. Director Ava DuVernay’s “SELMA” tells the story of how the revered leader and visionary Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (David Oyelowo) and his brothers and sisters in the movement prompted change that forever altered history. The film also stars Tom Wilkinson, Cuba Gooding Jr., Alessandro Nivola, Giovanni Ribisi, Common, Carmen Ejogo, Lorraine Toussaint, with Tim Roth and Oprah Winfrey as “Annie Lee Cooper.”

The movie has an excellent educational component for our teachers that includes lesson plans that meet Common Core Standards to incorporate into the district’s curriculum.

STUDENT “ASSIGNMENT”: Our students who present a current Atlanta Public Schools’ ID or report card at the box office of any participating theater will receive free admission while tickets last. The metro Atlanta theaters are:


The diversity of our group of funders accurately represents our city.  We’re proud of the fact that people from all backgrounds and income levels that have come forward to share Dr. King’s message with APS students.  We had a range of donations where people gave what they could, including one very special $16 gift.  I love this city’s generous nature and our generous corporations, Chick-fil-A and Newell Rubbermaid, as well as well as individuals of all means who came together to make this happen.

I appreciate the efforts of Dr. Michael Lomax, president & CEO, United Negro College Fund; Hala Moddelmog, president & CEO, Metro Atlanta Chamber; and Dr. John Silvanus Wilson, Jr., president, Morehouse College.

In addition, the following supporters are making it possible for 10,000 APS high school students to see “SELMA”:

Large Funders $10,000


Ford Foundation

Greenberg Traurig

Bill Lewis & Carol Sutton-Lewis
Chuck Phillips
Myrtle Potter & Alan Thompson
Newell Rubbermaid

The Family of Meria Carstarphen

W.K. Kellogg Foundation

Other Funders ($9,999-$1,000)

Atlanta Board of Education


Coast to Coast Tours

Georgia-Pacific & Youth Entrepreneurs Georgia

Georgia Natural Gas

Hara Amdemariam

H.J. Russell and Company

Kathy and Kenny Waller

Metro Atlanta Chamber

The Integral Group

Thomas Kennedy Sampson & Tompkins

United Way of Metro Atlanta

Endorsing Organizations

100 Black Men of Atlanta, Inc.

Atlanta Business League

Atlanta City Council

Atlanta Women’s Club

Andrew & Walter Young Family YMCA


Dogwood City Chapter of The Links, Incorporated

First Congregational Church

National Black MBA Association – Atlanta Chapter

National Coalition of 100 Black Women, Inc. – Metropolitan Atlanta Chapter

National Sales Network Atlanta

S.C.L.C Women

The Andrew Young Foundation

The C. T. Vivian Leadership Institute

The National Center for Civil and Human Rights

The Urban League of Greater Atlanta

United Way of Metropolitan Atlanta

Endorsing Individuals

Fulton County Chairman John Eaves

Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard

Mr. Lonnie King

Dr. Joseph E. Lowery

Atlanta City Council President Ceasar C. Mitchell

Dr. C. T. Vivian

Ambassador Andrew J. Young

“SELMA” is nominated for Academy Awards® for Best Picture and Best Original Song for “Glory” by Common & John Legend. The film earned a Golden Globe Award for Best Song for “Glory” and was nominated for Best Picture, Best Actor and Best Director.

The film’s educational outreach includes a curriculum guide with 11 interdisciplinary lesson plans in Social Studies, ELA, Geography, Math and Art. All lessons meet Common Core State Standards.  Educators and parents may download a curriculum guide by visiting:

We’ve put up a page on the district’s website – for more information about theaters and show times for this weekend visit or follow the Twitter hashtag #selmaforstudents.

Our Emerging Artists at Price Middle School

PriceSculptorLast week students at Price Middle School were treated to a sculpting class with sculptor Fred Ajanogha.  Mr. Ajanogha is working with students on a series of sculpture projects throughout the school year.
Price students have participated in three workshops where they’ve learned various sculptural techniques and created several small models.  They will continue to work with Ajanogha to hone their sculptural skills and prepare for the end of the year art show.  I’m really excited about the exposure the students are receiving to this artistic discipline.  They’ve even been invited by the artist to tour Atlanta Living Walls and visit his personal art studio. 
PriceSculptor2Mr. Ajanogha currently has sculptures on display at the Apex Museum, Clark Atlanta University, the Southern Museum of Art and our very own Grady High School. 
A big thank you to veteran art teacher Ms. Janice Johnson for this opportunity.  Ms. Johnson has been Price Middle School’s art teacher for more than 22 years!