Day and Night at North Atlanta High School

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Enjoying the NAHS nightlife with BOE members Cynthia Briscoe Brown and Nancy Meister who represent the North Atlanta cluster.

Whenever I find a school, program, or any place where things seem to be working well in APS, I want to immerse myself in their process so that I can glean how we can apply that lift and success to other schools in our district.

As a part of my back-to-school tour, I decided to spend a little time in the North Atlanta High School (NAHS) cluster this month. Parents always come up to me and gush about their NAHS cluster experience. They talk about their time at one of the cluster elementary schools such as historic E. Rivers or Garden Hills, then their experience at the cluster’s sole middle school—Sutton, and the pride that comes with becoming an NAHS Warrior. Often times, parents have attended the same schools that their kids now attend. This cluster is a place where thoughtful planning around the priorities of a cluster is working – and has been working for some time – so I was excited to learn more as we enter into APS’ second year of cluster planning in the district.

The property contains a small lake - stunning views!

The property contains a small lake – stunning views!

NAHS is a vibrant, diverse, Title I school with equally diverse feeder schools, all coming together ultimately for their International Baccalaureate high school experience. The school’s renovation was still a big conversation when I arrived a year ago and since Atlanta is a city that values sustainability, I was not surprised that our schools and buildings also reflect a desire to re-use, recycle and renovate with a purpose.

For instance, Beecher Hills Elementary in southwest Atlanta recently saw the addition of the city’s Beltline Southwest Connector Trail, which is a part of a 33-mile network of Atlanta Beltline trails. And over at Springdale Park Elementary, which feeds into the Grady cluster, great effort was taken during renovations to preserve the historical elements of two homes – merging them with new school buildings and obtaining the coveted LEED Gold certification, making them one of Georgia’s first green schools.

But still, one of the most unique school buildings here in APS, and in the nation, was once a corporate office complex housing 5,000 IBM employees – and that would be North Atlanta High.

What a view!

What a view!

A few years ago, after extensive renovations, North Atlanta High School students began attending classes in what was once an old office building, originally built in 1977 and this month students started their third school year in the re-purposed building.

When I arrived on campus, it was a Friday night and everyone was preparing for the first football game of the school year, NAHS vs. Lovett School. Board of Education member Nancy Meister gave me a cool, night-time tour of NAHS and wow, was it a beautiful sight. Check out our ‘reflection’ selfie photo below.

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Cool shot, right?

This school is 11 stories tall with a small lake (double wow). Appropriately, the school’s newspaper is called “11 Stories” and I had the opportunity to be interviewed by budding NAHS journalists (insert video link if available).

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Good luck Anna! I can’t wait to hear about your Hong Kong University studies.

Oh – and a quick shout-out to a former NAHS journalist! I hope to continue to follow the academic career of recent graduate and NAHS STAR student Anna Gustafson who is headed to the University of Hong Kong this fall to study journalism. You may remember her photo from my blog about our Georgia Scholars earlier this spring. Anna, who was born in London, speaks both French and Chinese and is a really well rounded student with plenty of talents. The intensity of the school’s film/tv and writing programs, coupled with the International Baccalaureate focus (NAHS was the first school in the southeast to receive the IB designation over 20 years ago), prepared her for this unique post-high school experience. Anna represents so many of our students who are thinking globally about their futures – with that in mind, it is important that we continue to develop clusters that support students in a way that will allow them, even encourage them, to take both traditional and non-traditional pathways for college and career after graduation.

IMG_2550Board member Meister took me down to the field and the school was buzzing as parents launched a ‘Football and Food Trucks’ tailgating event leading up to the game. I had a chance to meet more students, teachers and parents on the sidelines until the game ended in a 14-14 tie.

The following evening I volunteered at “Black Silver & Red Hot Jazz.” This event is organized by the North Atlanta High School Foundation and supports the North Atlanta High School community.  The night’s theme was set in the Roaring 1920s and part of my volunteer prep involved studying up on the time-period and participating in character. So cool. It was a well thought out event and a great way to interact with parents in the cluster and hear their wishes and desires as well as stories of success in APS.

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Black Silver & Red Hot Jazz was a big hit with supporters of NAHS! Thanks Ms. Meister!

The following Monday I returned to the campus to visit with principal Curtis Douglass and hear more of his vision around the future of the school. One thing that stood out to me is that I saw art everywhere. Principal Douglass is not only focusing on the school from an operational and academic view, but also using aesthetics to build an entire experience for students.

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Principal Douglass told me about last year’s senior prank. I asked if I could participate this school year!

It was so exciting to see the infusion of student-created art into all of the spaces in the school. From the stairwells to the hallways and even over the water fountains, Principal Douglass has done a great job of utilizing what could have been drab, blank walls and giving them color and life. On all 11 stories, he wants to tell…a story, using original art, historical photographs and other unique pieces. He says that when students walk down the hallway, he wants them to learn something about the school – and in turn something about themselves and their classmates.

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Art is everywhere at NAHS.

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The student created artwork is stellar at NAHS.

A big thank you to the students and staff who were patient with me as I popped up at various events. I see what you’re doing over in the NAHS cluster – and I like what I see.

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I paid a visit to a film and tv class. NAHS offers IB level flim and video classes through the CTAE program.

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Meister, me and NAHS PTSA co-president, Dawnitra Quigley. Great job with the football and foodtrucks event!

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Principal Robin Robbins of D.H. Stanton has a daughter here at NAHS! Look closely, you can see her cheering in the background…right between our heads 🙂

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Ms. Irving strikes a pose in the NAHS dance studio.


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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.

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.

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

‘Shout Out’ to our great students, teachers and schools

There are a lot of GREAT things happening in our district. Each month I give “shout outs” to students, staff and volunteers who are helping us with our mission to have every APS student graduate ready for college and career.  There is SO MUCH good happening in APS, this may become a weekly blog post!

Let’s give a shout out to:

Rivers Elementary School for rallying more than 100 student walkers and their families, including dogs and strollers, for Georgia Walk to School Day. Some families walked three miles one way! What a great way to inspire community and fitness!

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Brijida Del’valle of West End Academy! She was chosen by Pricewaterhouse Coopers LLP and the Center for Civil and Human Rights for the center’s first Youth Activism Fellowship. This fellowship gives metro-Atlanta teenagers the opportunity to explore the intersection of culture, community, and human rights with a particular emphasis on human rights leadership.  Students are chosen based on their leadership qualities. Way to lead Brijida!

 

Aleigha Henderson-Rosser executive director, Information Services and her Atlanta Virtual Academy team for offering our APS high school students free test preparation services as they prepare for college entrance exams.

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North Atlanta High School for excelling in leadership, arts and athletics!

 

The North Atlanta High School JROTC Leadership Team placed first out of 521 teams in the JROTC Leadership and Academic Bowl Level II competition and have advanced to level III.   They were one of 40 leadership teams chosen to advance to Washington, DC for the Level III National Leadership Bowl, June 26-30, 2015.

 

The North Atlanta High School Concert, Symphonic and Philharmonic Orchestras each received Straight Superior Ratings at the Georgia Music Educators Association’s Large Group Performance Evaluation.

North Atlanta’s swim team finished 7th overall in the state!

Keep up the good work NAHS!

West Manor Elementary 5th grade student Kendall Smith. Kendall has been named a Ben Carson Scholar and will receive a $1,000 scholarship. This is the second year in a row that West Manor has produced a Carson Scholar. Congratulations Kendell!

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Beecher Hills Elementary for fostering an atmosphere of parent engagement. The school’s PTA President, Antwan McKee received the 2015 Georgia Parent Leadership award. How awesome is that?

Early College pre-engineering student, Taylor Dalton of Maynard Jackson High School. She received a cash award from Mr. Rod Batiste of Fast Track Atlanta for her group’s t-shirt design in the Small Business Project contest. Taylor was the Chief Operating Officer for her group. The Maynard Jackson-NASP FAST Track Program is a nine-month program that allows students to explore different careers, learn about starting a business and prepares the student to be successful in all of their endeavours!  Congrats Taylor!

APS students that placed in the High School Innovation Weekend 2015 challenge. Senior executives from Coca-Cola invited students to create solutions to address the challenge of inspiring the next generation of teens to connect and engage, with Coca- Cola in mind. The students were split into teams with students from different high schools.  APS students whose team placed first in the challenge were Tyrhonda Stinson and Rakim Woods of Maynard Jackson High School.  APS students whose team placed second were Dominique Pope, Juaqueair Johnson and DeAndre Green of Maynard Jackson High School and Brandon Sykes of Drew Charter School. Great Job!

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The Mays girls basketball team for winning their region championship and making it all the way to the State Championship game for the first time since 2003! Awesome job ladies. What a great way to represent your school and community.

Way to go APS! Keep up the great work!

West Point Hosts LEADS Conference for APS Students

DSC_0119Last Friday, 171 APS middle and high school students attended a Leadership, Ethics, and Diversity in STEM “LEADS” Conference at North Atlanta High School, hosted by the United States Military Academy at West Point.  The guest speaker for the conference was our very own Dr. Timothy Gadson, associate superintendent of High Schools!  During the event, students broke into small groups where they interacted with West Point cadets.  APS middle school students attended STEM robotic sessions while high-schoolers and cadets discussed ethical decision making.  At the end of the day, the conference was treated to several funny yet poignant skits about how today’s teenagers face ethical dilemmas.

Lt. Col. Anthony Johnson, Math Dept. Director at West Point, stated “for every
unemployed American, there are two unfilled STEM jobs due to the lack of qualified applicants.”  Johnson then went on to say “West Point’s goal is to broaden an under-represented urban pool of potential employees by introducing them to STEM and leadership.”  Lt. Gen. Bob Caslen, West Point’s Superintendent, views this as a “win-win” partnership with Atlanta Public Schools, hoping to interest students in West Point.  For many that don’t know, the United States Military Academy annually ranks amongst the top five public colleges nationwide – and is free to attend.  Graduates serve in the Army for four years as an officer.  After their four-year service obligation, many West Point graduates go on to land six-figure engineering jobs on par with their Ivy League counterparts. DSC_0149Our students had a great time last Friday.  Hopefully they learned a little bit about ethics, STEM, and what it’s like to be a West Point cadet.

My 100th blog post – Hooray for learning!

There are at least a hundred reasons to get excited about the great things happening in APS. What is the best way for me to celebrate my 100th blog posting? By celebrating our students of course!

Take a look at a few awesome highlights from around the district.

Two North Atlanta video broadcast students, Jada Jackson and Joy Longely spent today on the set of the daytime show, Atlanta & Co. with television hosts Rashan Ali and Christine Pullara. They were able to go behind the scenes and were encouraged to dream big, network and give back. These students were chosen to cover APS football games as a part of a mentorship program with Atlanta Football Insider.

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Photo from Thomasville Heights Twitter feed

 

It is important to keep our kids physically active on a daily basis. Check out this group of Thomasville Heights students exercising in Coach Rambo’s physical education class. Way to keep our kids moving!

Photo from Perkerson Elementary's Facebook page

Photo from Perkerson Elementary’s Facebook page

Perkerson scholars learn about conservation and protecting the environment as they work with Trees Atlanta to plant 50 trees, including the ceremonial tree at their school. Their efforts help to launch TOTO USA’s Urban Greenways project.  The initiative is to improve children’s well-being by planting 250 trees on the streets that lead to schools. Way to keep our communities beautiful!

Photo from Mr. Foster's Twitter feed

Photo from Mr. Foster’s Twitter feed

Technology department chair Terry Foster and students at Carver School of Technology work to refine their programming skills using EV3 Robots in the GAETT (Geniuses Achieving Excellence through Technology) after-school program. Mr. Foster along with Instructional Coach Christina Rogers were able to implement this program from the Google Rise Award they received earlier this year. Thank you Google for supporting our schools!

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Photo from Kipp Strive Primary Facebook page

The Kipp Strive Primary flag football team did an amazing job this year. They finished the season undefeated and took home the first place trophy. Their Facebook post says “ ‘Like’ this post for the hardest working scholar athletes in Atlanta.” Way to work hard KSP!

Photo from Inman Middle School Twitter feed

Photo from Inman Middle School Twitter feed

Seventh graders in Ms. Vaughn’s science class at Inman Middle School get creative with their project about the human body. The students were learning how the different parts of the body work together to keep the body at homeostasis. Look at that great work!