Healthy Food and Fitness at Fickett Elementary!


I couldn’t help myself when I visited Fickett Elementary School, I simply had to try the fruits and veggies!

I popped in recently for a quick visit with our friends at Fickett Elementary. Principal Twyman is always bursting with new ideas and she was excited to show me one of the newest additions to the school, a learning garden!

Fickett is the recipient of a Captain Planet Learning Garden grant as well as a Strong for Life grant, both of which focus on healthy living.  From the hallway near the main office, I looked out onto their courtyard and saw what appeared to be the beginnings of a small garden.   As we opened the doors to go outside, I noticed three raised flower beds with greenery.  I took a closer look and noticed the greenery was not bare, but had tomatoes growing on the vine. Some reddish in color, almost ready to eat.  I couldn’t help myself, they looked so good.  I decided to pull one and give it a “taste”.  I was pleasantly surprised that cherry tomatoes were so tasty (sweet and tangy)….so mmm mmm good that I decided eat more than one.

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A class entered the courtyard, and Principal Twyman wanted the students to show me all of the hidden gems in the garden.  As the children arrived, they pointed out the basil, thyme, and other herbs. They were all excited and talking at once. Everyone had something they wanted to share. One student pulled a tomato for me to eat, while another student lifted a watermelon from the vine. We had a blast!  Pulling and eating the vegetables right on the spot!   One student asked, as he was pointing to bushy greenery, “What’s that growing right there?”  His classmate replied, “Those are carrots!”   But the student still couldn’t see what was growing under the soil…so we pulled a carrot up to show him. “What’s all of that white stuff covering the carrot,” he asked.  I told him it was the carrot’s roots and that the roots allow the carrot to receive water and nutrients to continue growing.  “Oh,” he exclaimed.

Right there, in a little less than a minute… learning was happening in the outside classroom garden.

We collected our garden gems, including the watermelon, and placed them with my Fickett backpack for me to share with others.

The mint I pulled will add that “spa like” touch to a cool glass of water. I plan to take my watermelon and set it up to ripen so that I can cut it and share with staff.  Finally, my carrot didn’t make it out the building because an “old friend” stopped by to see me before I departed off to my next school visit.


Carlos is a fourth grader I met last school year during another great visit to Fickett. He heard that I might stop by during the week, so he asked the principal if it was possible for him to say hi to me before I left.  Ms. Twyman called him down as I was about to leave and I showed off the garden goodies that I was taking with me to my office.  As I pulled out the carrot he asked if he could share it with me, and like the tomato that I had earlier, the carrot did not disappoint.  Both Carlos and I agreed that it was great.

Thanks Fickett Elementary for giving our students healthy food and a focus on healthy living.  Keep up the good work on the garden and let me know when you are ready for your next big harvest.


The watermelon made it to my office! Can't wait to slice it open and share with the staff.

The watermelon made it to my office! Can’t wait to slice it open and share with the staff.

‘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…

Senior football player Travodius “Vodi” Ferguson at Maynard Jackson High School made the Georgia High School Football Daily “Best of the Rest” top performances list!  Max Preps listed him in the “Best of the Rest” category after he had eight solo tackles, three assists, three stops behind the line and a 45-yard TD return of an interception in a 14-12 loss to Decatur.

Carver’s RB Gregory Peyton was also named to the list after he rushed for 165 yards on 21 carries, caught a 70-yard TD pass and had 95 yards in returns (for a total of 330 all-purpose yards) in a 16-12 victory over Grady.

Florida A&M University offered 39 APS students more than $1.4 million scholarship dollars!  Way to go Class of 2015!  One APS student, Omonua Kiyitto of Therrell High School, received an offer of $113,940.  CLICK HERE to view a full list of winners.

Five APS students have been chosen for internships with MARTA this school year!  The students and their respective MARTA departments and schools are as follows:

  • RECRUITING: Samaria Christian (CSKYLA)
  • ACCOUNTING: Paris Johnson and Vanessa West (Johnson-CSKYLA and West-Mays)
  • CUSTOMER SERVICE: Andre Jackson (B.E.S.T.)
  • LEGAL: Melia Sharp (CSKYLA)

Coach Braddy attends the Alliance for a Healthier Generation Leaders Summit. Congratulations on your great work. Photo Credit: Alliance for a Healthier Generation Georgia

Coach Amelia Braddy of Parkside Elementary was on hand in Washington D.C. in September to accept the school’s Silver award from the Alliance for a Healthier Generation.  President Bill Clinton honored 250 schools for meeting the Health Schools Program benchmarks for creating healthy changes and exceeding federal nutrition standards.  Our district has received bronze medal recognition in the past, but this marks the first time we’ve been awarded silver!  The Alliance is a partnership between the William Jefferson Clinton Foundation and the American Heart Association.  CLICK HERE to read more.

Mays High School has been approved by the GA Department of Education to begin their Business and Computer Science Industry Certification process this school year.   Upon successful completion of this process, Mays High School will be recognized for having exceptional Business and Computer Science programs.  Congratulations Mays High!

And the Golden Radish Award Goes to…

Congratulations to our nutrition department on their Golden Radish Award!


Their application was reviewed by a six member committee representing the Georgia Dept. of Education, Georgia Dept. of Agriculture, Georgia Dept. of Public Health, and Georgia Organics and the committee was particularly impressed by their commitment to the farm to school program.

Earlier today, representatives from the district were at the State Capitol where they received their award from State Superintendent John Barge, Commissioner of Agriculture Gary Black, Commissioner of Public Health Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald, and Georgia Organics Board Chair Mandy Mahoney. During tonight’s Board of Education meeting I will recognize our volunteers and partners in the district who keep our farm to school program thriving.  This award comes on the heels of their Georgia USDA Best Practice Award last month!

Congratulations to our Director of Nutrition, Dr. Marilyn Hughes and everyone involved!  Keep up the good work.

APS is the First System in Georgia to Offer Sushi!

I am excited to announce that this Monday our nutrition department will offer a new spicy crab sushi roll, a crisp veggie roll and tasty soy pockets to students in some of our APS middle and high schools.

Our executive chef for the district, Justin Gillette, recently held a taste test for the new rolls at Grady High School.  He’s been working with John Stoj, owner and president of Rold Rite Sushi, since early 2013 to determine healthy menu alternatives.  The crab and veggie rolls, as well as the soy pockets were developed just for APS.  This is the first time a Georgia public school system has offered a sushi menu option.

We invited Grady High School students to taste the three offerings and vote on which ones they liked best.  There was so much positive feedback that we will offer all three!

Take a look at my photos from the taste test.  I enjoyed all of the offerings, and I look forward to eventually seeing this menu choice rolled out to all of our schools.


This is what the sushi offering will look like in the packaging at schools.


In the packaging, the rolls are perfectly portioned for a healthy diet.  All the sushi offerings are prepared with only brown rice and Japanese mayo, which serves as a preservative that does not require deep refrigeration. Oh and there is no MSG! {Note: Veggie Rolls without soy sauce are gluten free}


I brought sushi back to the office! Here is Larry Hoskins, head of operations, eating his very first piece of sushi.


Grady High School was a gracious host. Pictured here is our Grady Teacher of the Year with new principal Mr. Guiney.


A big thank you to Dr. Hughes, our head of nutrition and Chef Justin for bringing sushi to APS!

Students gave great feedback and voted during the testing.


While we were there, our students also tried the new mango banana and strawberry banana smoothies. Low on sugar high on taste!


Nutrition is also “rolling out” new pizza dough. You will find this fancy restaurant style offering in our cafeterias right now.


Thank you to all of our students and staff for their feedback.