Running with the Jags and Strutting in the EAV!

WelcomeCrossCountryJagsTuesday, after school, I was able to have my first cross country training experience at Jackson High School with the Jaguars! Let me tell you, these kids work hard! Our run started at the school’s athletic field, wound through the historic Grant Park neighborhood and over into Grant Park, near the Atlanta Zoo. There were hills, asphalt, grass and plenty of hot sun. Like I said, these kids and their coach Ms. Robinson, work hard.

Thanks for running with me Olivia!

Thanks for running with me Olivia!

But it was a great experience – I love seeing our students outside of the classroom – I even ran into one of my Student Advisory Council members Olivia. Not only is she super smart with great ideas about how to make the district better for her fellow students, but she’s also a great runner (and standout Lady Jags soccer player as well). It was hot, hot, hot out there but the kids kept going and made me proud…I, however, had to give up on the fourth hill of the run! It was just too much!

After catching a ride back to the school (could not run back on the concrete with shin splints), I saw that the Football team was practicing on the field just as I was arriving back to the school and, well, you can imagine what happened next. Before I knew it I was in a helmet, in a three-point stance and running down the field. I have so much respect for our student-athletes and it is always fun to spend a little time in their world. A big thank you to the Jackson football team for letting me crash their practice!


First game for these fellas is Friday night. Good luck!


My visit was a great chance to keep my commitment to running and also to prepare for the upcoming East Atlanta Village (EAV) Runfest. My former Associate Superintendent and now principal of Burgess-Peterson Elementary, David White, encouraged me to join this 5K and not only did I sign up, but so did about 100 of my fellow APS co-workers. We had our first practice last week at Piedmont Park and I can’t wait to see everyone again tonight for practice number two. We will typically meet on Thursday evenings at 8pm and Saturday mornings at 8:30am.Everyone in the group isn’t a runner and that is fine by me – we are encouraging employees to walk, strut, jog and run their way to good health.

Just like with our students, I also enjoy seeing APS employees outside of the office and outside of their schools.  An important part of building a school district is building a sense of community. Strong schools are built by strong people who know that not only are they valued for the work they produce, but also for their natural talents, abilities and interests. An hour or so a week together outside of “work” goes a long way toward building a positive culture inside our schools.

Team APS!

Go Team APS!


Check out our APS team participating in stretching and warm down aerobics! And, yes, I taught aerobics after school during my teacher days so we do step on the steps of the Oval!

The EAV Runfest is September 26, 2015 and is the kickoff to the annual EAV Strut.

Learn more about Runfest here:

Learn more about the EAV Strut here:

I hope to see some of you September 26 when our APS team takes over the EAV!



Celebrate Mathematics Awareness and Education Month!

Students in Ms. Bringslid's fourth grade math class at Mary Lin Elementary School.

Students in Ms. Bringslid’s fourth grade math class at Mary Lin Elementary School.

The month of April is Mathematics Awareness and Education Month, and I don’t think math education has ever been as important for our students’ success in college, career and life as it is right now.  I’m so proud that APS was represented at the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics’ annual conference in Boston. These people are passionate about math, and they will tell you it’s not just about numbers, it’s about problem solving and critical thinking.

This year’s theme is “Math Drives Careers.” That has never been truer than it is today.

Through the course of an APS student’s education, the math curriculum is designed to build upon itself and become more challenging as the child progresses through school. As part of our measurements of success, that student by third grade should be able to multiply and divide with any number up to 100 and work with fractions.

Denise Bringslid, a fourth grade math teacher at Mary Lin Elementary, joined her peers at the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics conference. She finds puzzles and problem-solving motivates her students. Recently, she videotaped the principal asking students for help with a backyard fence he was building for his dog. She played the tape for students at the start of class. In order to solve the principal’s problem students had to apply various skills they had learned about area, perimeter multiplication, division and conversion. “I find they are most engaged when you give them a problem to solve like a puzzle, something that is real and applicable to their lives,” Ms. Bringslid.”  She adds that students get additional fulfillment by accomplishing a task for someone else.

By fifth grade, a student should understand place values, use equivalent fractions and relate volume to multiplication and addition.

In eighth grade, a successful math student can work with ratios and proportions, hold a solid understanding of algebraic principles; understand the basics of geometry and apply data and statistics. By the time a student graduates from APS, he or she should have enough knowledge of algebra, geometry, trigonometry and statistics to be successful in college-level mathematics courses.

Dr. Porsha Denson (l),  math instructor at Maynard H. Jackson High School, was awarded the 2015 "My Favorite Teacher" Award from the Barnes and Nobles “Prize Patrol”.

Dr. Porsha Denson,
math instructor at Maynard H. Jackson High School, was awarded the 2015 “My Favorite Teacher” Award from the Barnes and Nobles “Prize Patrol”.

Dr. Porsha Denson teaches Analytical Geometry Honors and Advanced Algebra Honors courses at Maynard H. Jackson High School. She incorporates a variety of teaching strategies and student learning styles into her instruction. “I instill the passion and motivation for the course content by making the subject matter relevant to the student’s life,” said Dr. Denson.

Her students certainly appreciate her hard work. Their entries led to her winning the 2015 “My Favorite Teacher” Award from the Barnes and Nobles “Prize Patrol.” Dr. Denson stresses, “Math doesn’t have to be difficult; taking the time to practice previous and current concepts will allow you to master understanding.”

It is my hope that every APS student reaches their full potential in math.  I want to see our kiddos taking AP Calculus, Statistics and other rigorous courses in high school and excelling not only during Mathematics Awareness and Education Month, but all year long.

Girl Power!

The Women’s Sports Foundation reports that high school girls who play sports are more likely to get better grades in school; have higher levels of confidence and self-esteem and a more positive body image.  APS is proud to be a part of all of the positives associated with girls’ sports.  We are equally proud of the success of our female athletes and the robust offerings of girls’ sports in the district.

I wanted to take this opportunity to recognize four of our dynamic APS girls basketball programs.

South Atlanta – Currently 18-0 and ranked #5 Class AAA. The Lady Hornets upset the #3 team in the state this weekend (Decatur), by a score of 53-51, and beat the previously ranked #1 team in the state (Laney), 68-52 on Monday. They were also crowned champions of the Dwight Madison Roundball Classic in Montgomery, Ala. over the winter holidays. Congratulations to Coach Akisha Graham and the Lady Hornets!

Mays-Currently 16-2 and ranked #9 in class AAAAA. Under the leadership of Chantay Frost, the Lady Raiders represented the district over the break in the National Title IX Conference in Washington, DC, going 2-1 during their stay. Earlier this week they took on #3 Stephenson High for Region 6AAAAA supremacy resulting in 64-46 victory for the Lady Raiders.

Maynard Jackson- Currently 13-4. Coming off a state playoff appearance in 2014, the Lady Jaguars, under the direction of Michelle Powell look to make a serious run in Region 4AAA and establish themselves as one of the elite teams in the state.

Therrell- Currently 13-7. Under first year coach Earl Caruthers, the young Lady Panthers have shown flashes of brilliance this season. Winners of the Chuck Miller Holiday Classic over the winter holiday break, the Lady Panthers also will be a threat to challenge for Region 4AAA supremacy.

Please join me in saluting our coaches and sensational scholar athletes for their dynamic work and representation of APS Athletics.

‘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.

Our Awesome Educators Earn Atlanta Families’ Awards

KIPPI am proud to announce that this year, five APS teachers and one APS principal received the Atlanta Families’ Awards for Excellence in Education (AFAEE).  Educators receive this award when they demonstrate excellence in the classroom and in the Atlanta community.  This was my first time participating in these surprise announcements and it was so much fun.  The energy in the room was at a TEN and the look of shock on the face of each winner was priceless!  Congratulations to Principal Stephanie Johnson of Maynard Jackson High School, Tiffany Barnes of Garden Hills Elementary, Katie Carlson of Garden Hills Elementary, Elizabeth Emerson of Springdale Park Elementary, Jennifer Freeman of KIPP Strive Academy and Celeste McNeil, also of KIPP Strive Academy.

afaee_emerson_springdaleWinners will use a portion of their award to fund a school based project that will enhance the academic experience of students on their campus.  Whether it is Ms. Carlson’s new learning garden at Garden Hills Elementary School or Ms. McNeil’s Kindle reading project at KIPP Strive, each educator has planned a unique and engaging learning experience to share with their students.

afaee_ghills2014-008I am excited to also announce that pending Board approval this Monday, Katie McDowell, currently the co-founder and Executive Director of AFAEE, will become the district’s new Executive Director of Partnerships and Development!  Ms. McDowell has led the Atlanta Families’ Awards for the last nine years, recognizing and awarding over $2 million to high-achieving teachers and school leaders in APS and Fulton County Schools.  Her addition to our APS family will help build and sustain current and future partnerships in the district.

families_award_checkWe profiled all of our 2014 AFAEE winners on the district’s blog!  Click the links below to learn more about these awesome educators. Congratulations!

We profiled all of our 2014 AFAEE winners on the district’s blog!  Click the links below to learn more about these awesome educators. Congratulations!

Tiffany Barnes and Katie Carlson of Garden Hills Elementary:

Elizabeth Emerson of Springdale Park Elementary:

Stephanie Johnson  of Maynard Jackson High School:

Jennifer Freeman of KIPP Strive Academy:

Celeste McNeil of KIPP Strive Academy:

A Surprise for Mrs. Maria Lopez of Maynard Jackson High School

SymetraJacksonCongratulations to MHJHS Spanish Teacher Mrs. Maria Lopez! This morning Mrs. Lopez was surprised by SunTrust Bank and the Atlanta Falcons and named a Symetra Hero in the Classroom.

Chartez Bailey, a MHJHS student, nominated Mrs. Lopez for the award and today.  Mrs. Lopez received a $1,000 donation for the school, two tickets to watch the Falcons play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, VIP sideline access at the game and other prizes including game day gear from the Falcons.

Each school year, the community program Symerta Heroes in the Classroom presented by SunTrust, recognizes 16 Georgia teachers for outstanding leadership and instructional skills during the school year.  Mrs. Lopez joins a select group of APS instructors – the district had three teachers selected for this award during the 2013-2014 school year.

Congratulations Mrs Lopez, and thank you, Chartez, for thinking enough of your teacher to nominate her for this honor.