A Strong Performance for Grady Debate!

Wake Forest LD Champion Conor ?. Congratulations!

Wake Forest Lincoln-Douglas Debate Champion Conor Downey. Congratulations! (Photo courtesy of Grady Jesters Facebook Page)

A super-duper debate ‘shout-out’ to our Grady Jesters, the speech and debate team of Grady High School, who competed against 104 schools and 700 entrants from 22 states in this weekend’s Wake Forest University competition in Winston-Salem, NC.

The Jesters took a team of 10 students and here are the results:

Will Taft, Octafinalist and 10th Place Overall Speaker, Lincoln-Douglas Debate

Gregory Fedorov, Quarterfinalist in Extemporaneous Speaking

Sam Lombardo, Quarterfinalist in Extemporaneous Speaking

Molly Looman, 5th Place, Dramatic Interpretation

Keegan Hasson, 3rd Place, Extemporaneous Speaking

Conor Downey, CHAMPION and 5th Place Overall Speaker, Lincoln-Douglas Debate

A big thank you to our coaches Mario Herrera and Lisa Willoughby, along with volunteer and Grady alum Lucas Bailey (c/o ’11), for your continued dedication to our students and the speech and debate program. Way to go!


The Grady Jesters (Photo courtesy of Grady Jesters Facebook Page)


A beautiful day at Wake Forest University. (Photo courtesy of Grady Jesters Facebook Page)


Keegan Hasson, 3rd Place, Extemporaneous Speaking and Molly Looman, 5th Place, Dramatic Interpretation. (Photo courtesy of Grady Jesters Facebook Page)

‘Meet the Farmer’ at Grady High School – Day One!

20150805_123644I was on hand today at Grady High School as our district celebrated “National Farmers Market Week” with a Day One event titled “Meet the Farmer.”

These events were actually held at both Bunche Middle School and Grady High Schools and the purpose was to introduce students to local farmers and foods; to educate students about careers in the farming industry and encourage students to consume more fruits and vegetables available on the school lunch menus.

Executive Chef Justin explains all of the meal options to me for the year.

My lunch served today included locally grown peaches and organic foods that will be served this year on the Day One APS school lunch menus.
It was a bit of a celebration with videos streaming in the back of the cafeteria and music playing during the lunch hour. Local farmers were on hand to welcome students back to school.
APS has been a part of the healthy lifestyle movement since 2006 when a vegetarian lunch line was piloted at Grady High School. Our district has increased its commitment to purchase more locally grown foods and I’m really excited about how much better our food options were today than even one year ago.
While having lunch with a few students, I taste tested lots of food items, including those from our new “Street Eats” campaign. I served some of these meals during our recent Back to School Bash, but today I had the chance to sit with Board of Education members Cynthia Briscoe Brown and Matt Westmoreland and really sample all of the dishes and sauces.
I liked it. Pretty much all of it. Dr. Marilyn Hughes and her chefs are doing a great job, incorporating feedback from students and staff and creating tasty lunch options. I enjoyed my fruits and veggies, but I must admit, I really enjoyed those new air-cooked french fries as well.
Well done nutrition department! And thank you to principal Guiney and our Grady students for all of my cool Grady swag – I will wear it with pride.

We tried a little bit of everything and the food was great!

New Experiences – New Year!

Grady Group Shot

Hats…well, helmets off, to a great group of players. Thanks for taking me through those drills!

Back-to-school is all about trying new things and having new experiences. Last week, as I prepared for the new school year, I decided to try something new for the very first time. I’ve been blogging about my running experience and recent Peachtree race, and believe it or not, I’ve continued my training. I figured I was in pretty decent shape when I stepped on the field to practice with the Grady High School Varsity football team and Mays High School Varsity football team during two of my stops across the district in preparation for the first day of school.


Several of these players at Mays have already chosen their colleges for next year. I enjoyed talking to them about the reasons behind their choices.

I put my practice gear on, #11 at Grady and lucky #13 at Mays, (13 is lucky for me because it’s the day of the month on which I was born), then broke a mean sweat as I participated in individual agility drills and situational team drills. Whew, these players are relentless. We were outside at Grady and although practice was after 6 p.m., man was it hot!  They put me through some serious conditioning. At Mays, the skies opened up with an amazing thunderstorm as practice began, sending us into the gym for a couple of hours of practice.

Grady Picture

Girl Power! Thanks for showing me the ropes Jayla Shropshire! Enjoy your season.

Earthwind Moreland, the coach at Grady is a Grady graduate, former NFL player and second-year head coach. Corey Jarvis of Mays is also an APS alum and is returning another very strong team – last year they were Class AAAAA (5A) State Runner-ups. I was welcomed with open arms by Principal Guiney at Grady and Principal Fowler at Mays.

Goodness gracious! Student athletes are no joke. So many of the lessons learned on the field can be applied to the classroom. These athletes were so patient with me, and guess what – I even caught an over the shoulder pass which was very difficult for me, but the players made it look easy.

A huge treat was visiting with the Mays High School Marching Raiders band prior to my practice with the football team.






Got it! Whoo Hooo!

I had an awesome time practicing with the Mays Raider Band, under the direction of Mr. William Oliver. I played the drums, marched with cymbals and co-directed the band through several pop and dance tunes, from Michael Jackson to Usher. They even let me try on a band uniform – check out my picture below. The school’s principal tells me that Mays is next on the list for new band uniforms, so this could very well be the final year for the ensemble I’m wearing.  Before leaving, these talented students serenaded me with Stevie Wonder’s “Isn’t She Lovely.”


I felt SO SPECIAL when they allowed me to try on a Mays High Marching Band uniform! How cool is this!

This time of year is as exciting for me as it is for our students. Being on the field with our football players was a great way to connect with our students and some great fun for me. It was also a good time to make sure students know that our principals, teachers, and the entire district team have been working hard this summer to make sure we are ready to support them in every way possible this school year.

What a great band. Looking forward to seeing them in action this year.

What a great band. Looking forward to seeing them in action this year.

We are switching into high gear tomorrow! Open house events for Atlanta Public Schools are Monday, Aug. 3: High Schools (1 p.m.-3 p.m.); Middle Schools (3 p.m.-5 p.m.); Elementary Schools (5 p.m.-7 p.m.). Classes begin Wednesday, Aug. 5.

I’ll join the fellas over at B.E.S.T. Academy this week for another football practice as well and having fun with families at South Atlanta High during open house..

For more on registration and enrollment and transportation, please visitwww.apsbacktoschool.com<http://www.apsbacktoschool.com/#!dayoneaps/c1jfq>.

I can’t wait for our fall sports to begin. Looking forward to seeing all my scholar-athletes from practice on the football field.


We were jamming! Thanks Mays Raiders for allowing me to practice my drum major skills.


Our drumline was on fire!

Grady Cheer

Three cheers for an awesome season!


What an amazing feeling to run across the field in my Grady gear.


It wasn’t long before they forgot all about my being the superintendent. These players are awesome.


Grrrrr! I gave it every bit of energy I had, but I was no match for this Mays defensive line.


Good coaches don’t give up on you!

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.

GADOE Announces 2015 Georgia Scholars

Georgia Scholar Anna Gustafson at Valedictorian, Salutatorian and Star Student Awards Ceremony

Georgia Scholar Anna Gustafson at the Valedictorian, Salutatorian and Star Student Awards Ceremony

Our high schools are full of talented students doing amazing work not only in their classrooms, but also in their communities.  Last week, the Georgia Department of Education recognized eight Atlanta Public Schools graduating seniors as 2015 Georgia Scholars.  They join 175 other Georgia 12th graders who have also achieved excellence in their academic life as well as their community life.

State School Superintendent Richard Woods made the announcement and said, “I want to congratulate our 2015 Georgia Scholars.  In addition to academic success, I believe we have to teach our students about life and the importance of soft skills. These students have shown that they possess both, and I am confident we will be hearing much more about these students’ accomplishments in the near future.”

Who are these students? According to the Georgia Department of Education:“…students eligible for Georgia Scholar recognition are high school seniors who exhibit excellence in all phases of school life, in community activities, and in the home. Georgia Scholars are students who have carried exemplary course loads during the four years of high school; who performed excellently in all courses; who successfully participated in interscholastic events at their schools and in their communities; and who have assumed active roles in extracurricular activities sponsored by their schools.”

Wow! These are some pretty awesome kids.  Congratulations!

Georgia Scholar Program Winners

D.M. Therrell High

Mya Green

Grady High

Lucy Lombardo

North Atlanta High

Tyler Ball

North Atlanta High

Anna Gustafson

North Atlanta High

Richie McClure

North Atlanta High

Spencer Shelton

North Atlanta High

Paul Spiegl

North Atlanta High

Chaz Torres

Gold Crown, Quill and Scroll and Pacemaker Awards Equal Historic Year for the Grady High School Journalism Department

I am so proud of the up and coming journalists at Grady High School. The school’s newspaper, The Southerner, has received the 2015 Columbia Scholastic Press Association’s Gold Crown Award!  As the former editor of my high school’s newspaper and former photo journalist for an international publication, my love of reporting runs deep,  and I can truly appreciate the consistent hard work that has gone into this publication and this program for almost 70 years.

Headed by David Winter, Journalism Instructor at Grady High, The Southerner has been published without interruption since 1947.  The Awards Convocation for Scholastic Crown recipients took place at the 91st Scholastic Convention Friday, March 20, 2015 at Columbia University in New York.

With over a thousand publications submitted, The Southerner was selected as one of 20 recipients to receive the award in the “hybrid” category.  Extremely proud of his students that produced the work recognized, Mr. Winter says that they don’t set out to win awards. They simply set out to practice journalism as professionally as they can and that the awards just validate that they’ve succeeded in that effort.
Grady Maddie-2

Mr. Winter says their recipe for having an award winning program is giving students the freedom and discretion to be real journalists. “As long as I have been at Grady, the faculty and the administration have trusted the students and the publications with press freedom,” says Winters.

Written and edited by Grady students, The Southerner has made a positive impact on the lives of past and present APS students. Allison Rapoport, co-news editor from the class of 2014 said that being the news editor and on the staff of the Southerner was probably the single most impactful part of her high school experience. “The paper not only improved my writing and confidence as writer, but it also inspired an interest in current events and expanded my world view, all of which are important in life after high school,” explained Allison.
Grady High School senior Mary Claire Morris, co-managing editor and 2015 Georgia Scholastic Press Association Champion Journalist, says that it is great to be a part of a paper that has achieved so much. She says that it says a lot about the kids at Grady, but even more about the teachers and faculty who support them. “They push and encourage us to take on the important issues, increase our coverage and improve our writing,” said Mary Claire.
Grady journalism students in Selma
Mr. Winter says that being a part of the Southerner staff gives the students an opportunity to learn about the power of the press to educate, lead communities and to call attention to problems that need to be addressed. “Even if they never work in journalism beyond their high school experience, they learn the value of teamwork and of the necessity of collaborating with others in order to produce something that requires trust, interdependence and shared responsibility,” said Winters.
The Southerner has earned many individual journalism and publications awards over the years and now publish an online and traditional version of the newspaper.
This group of talented students also received the National Scholastic Press Association Pacemaker Award and the Quill and Scroll Gallup Award for the 2013-2014 publication, making it the first time in history that they’ve received three national press awards in the same publication year!
I had the opportunity to witness some of the reporters in action during our recent trip to Selma, Alabama for the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act.  Check out some photos below taken by and of the journalists during the weekend.
Congrats again and keep up the good work!
For more information about the Southerner visit thesoutherneronline.com http://thesoutherneronline.com.

Grady Debaters prove themselves to be best in state

Grady_debate3As a former high school debater, I know all too well how hard it is to win big at the state level.  I would like to give the students, staff and principal of Grady High School a standing ovation for winning this weekend at the Georgia Forensic Championship tournament.

The Grady High School Speech and Debate Team, the Jesters, won the Debate Sweepstakes Award, Speech Sweepstakes Award and for the sixth year in a row brought home the Overall Champions Sweepstakes Award at the Georgia Forensic Coaches Association Varsity State Championships at Marist School this past weekend.

Grady_debate1Here is how individual students fared:


Robert Brown, 4th Place

Ashley Carter, 2nd

Chloe Citron. CHAMPION


Denis Goldsman, 5th Place

Keegan Hasson- 2nd Place

Sam Lombardo, CHAMPION


Denis Goldsman, semifinalist

Max Rabb, 5th Place

Keegan Hasson, 4th Place

Molly Gray, 3rd Place


Robert Brown and Molly Looman, CHAMPIONS


Chloe Citron, 4th Place

Molly Looman,  CHAMPION;


Octofinalists- Mark Winokur, Logan Mann

Quarterfinalist- Conor Downey

Semifinalist- Will Taft

CHAMPION- Meredith Fossitt


Quarterfinalists- Harrison Wilco and Chloe Prendergast Harrison Wilco, 11th Speaker


SENATE: Max Rafferty, 5th Place; Keegan Hasson, CHAMPION

HOUSE: Gregory Fedorov, 2nd Place

Grady_debate2The Grady High School Speech and Debate Team also broke some records:

  • The team qualified more entries to the State Tournament this year than any other team in the history of the Georgia Forensic Coaches Association, winning its sixth straight “School of Excellence” Award.
  •  Grady High School is now the only school in Georgia to have a State Championship in every event offered.

Mario Herrera, Speech and Debate Team coach was inducted into the Georgia Forensic Coaches Association Hall of Fame this weekend.

Way to go you guys. I am so impressed….and proud!