We Honor MLK by Continuing Our Journey of Transformation

MLK - Selma to Montgomery, 1965 (2018)

As a native of Selma, Alabama, most of you know about my roots in and respect for the Civil Rights Movement and all of the icons – both famous and unsung – who participated in it.

Today’s 32nd celebration of the Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday has an even more special meaning for our nation, as this year we also commemorate the 50th anniversary of Dr. King’s assassination. Though he has been gone for half a century, it is even more important today that we continue to honor his name by fighting to keep his dream of respect, dignity and prosperity for all alive. And at its core, that is what our journey of transforming Atlanta Public Schools is about – treating our students with respect and dignity, and preparing them to lead productive, prosperous lives.

I am back in Selma this weekend to celebrate the legacy of my own father’s life and look forward to returning again in two months to celebrate the legacy of leaders in the Voting Rights Movement. On Saturday, March 24, I will be running in the Inaugural Selma to Montgomery 51-Mile Dr. C - Edmund Pettus Bridge Picture (2018)Relay (read more about it here), held to commemorate the historic Voting Rights March of 1965 – organized and led by Dr. King, the Southern Christian Leadership Council (SCLC), and the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). It was a seminal moment in the Civil Rights Movement, a transformational journey that was met with great resistance. But Dr. King and countless other heroes and heroines of the Movement persisted, and we must do the same even as our transformational journey encounters its share of obstacles. I am always reminded of what Dr. King once said: “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.” 

APS Day 1 of school.

And we all know that Dr. King did not lead the Movement alone. A short list of those who fought with him includes legends like Congressman John Lewis, the Honorable Andrew Young, Rev. Joseph Lowery and Rev. C.T. Vivian, as well as late, great leaders such as Rosa Parks, Hosea Williams, Fannie Lou Hamer, Rev. Ralph David Abernathy, Dorothy Height, Beyard Rustin, Maynard Jackson and the Jackson Family, and of course, the ever-graceful Coretta Scott King.

Likewise, we are not alone in our quest to make APS a consistently high-performing school system, as illustrated by several of our great partners who will be honoring the King Holiday by completing service projects at a number of our schools:  State Farm (Brown Middle School); Salesforce (Bunche Middle School); Target (Crim Open Campus); Alston & Bird (Dunbar Elementary School); Slalom (Fickett Elementary School); ADP and Leadership Atlanta (King Middle School); and Newell Brands (M. Agnes Jones Elementary School).

I am deeply humbled by the commitment of Dr. King and countless other freedom fighters who marched and paved the way toward making this a better world filled with limitless opportunities for all of us. We should reflect on that truth today and every day, and honor their efforts, struggles and sacrifices by doing our best to keep Dr. King’s dream alive. I can think of no better way to do that than continuing our transformation of Atlanta Public Schools and brightening the futures of our students by preparing them for college and career, so that they may live fruitful lives of boundless possibilities.

Happy Birthday, Dr. King!

#MLKday #JohnLewisFreedomRunners #Selma

Rally for Reading with Rubbermaid: Guest Blogger David Jernigan, Deputy Superintendent

BoydRUBBERMAID2014-003I was excited to be on hand last week for a Reading Rally Assembly hosted by Newell Rubbermaid, the district’s newest partner and our friends at Scholastic Book Fairs as they donated new books to the students of William Boyd Elementary School.  This was a part of Newell Rubbermaid’s second-annual Global Day of Service where dozens of employees volunteered during the day at both Boyd and Burgess Peterson Academy.

BoydRUBBERMAID2014-005It was important to me for the students to understand what it meant to be generous, so I asked each of them to think really hard about their favorite toy or game.  Then I asked them to imagine what it would be like to give that toy or game away to their friend.  That feeling…that’s what it means to be generous, I explained, and that is what our partners at Newell Rubbermaid and Scholastic were doing with their time, talent and donations.BoydRUBBERMAID2014-007

 In addition to the donation of five books per student, (a total of 2,500 books), Newell Rubbermaid will also donate a Community Reading Oasis to both schools in the near future.  This will be a special room in the school where students can relax, enjoy books and read in a peaceful environment.  The hope is that the space will give families an opportunity to enjoy reading together.  It will be filled with reading themed artwork, furniture and even a listening library!  Teachers also received supplies, including dry erase markers that are always in high demand at any school! As a former classroom teacher and school leader, I can tell you that classroom supply donations make a difference!BoydRUBBERMAID2014-006

How did the kids thank Newell Rubbermaid President and CEO Michael Polk, all of our volunteers and our school leaders and staff for working together to create this opportunity?  We sang my favorite thank you song – it was a hit with my 3rd graders back in the day.  “That’s the BoydRUBBERMAID2014-011way, un huh un huh, I like it!”  When we finished singing and dancing, Mr. Polk said it was the BEST thank-you he had ever received!

I believe that partnerships like this can really make a difference in a child’s life because that child has something special to bring home, use and share with his or her family.  I also love that our kids get to see the values of service and generosity modeled firsthand by leaders in our community.  I look forward to seeing the finished Oasis rooms at both Boyd and Burgess.BoydRUBBERMAID2014-007 BoydRUBBERMAID2014-012 BoydRUBBERMAID2014-010 BoydRUBBERMAID2014-009 BoydRUBBERMAID2014-004 BoydRUBBERMAID2014-002 BoydRUBBERMAID2014-001

FedEx Helps Hutchinson Elementary School Blow the Cover Off Reading


Hutchinson is the first school in APS to receive a READesign Reading Corner.

I spent Tuesday morning at Hutchinson Elementary School where the generous volunteers from FedEx and The Heart of America Foundation were building a reading corner filled with brand new books!  It was exciting to see the FedEx volunteers putting the finishing touches on the reading corner, hosting story time in the classrooms.  Hutchinson is the first school in APS to receive a READesign Reading Corner.  Not only did volunteers stuff their media center with 250 additional library-quality books, but each student also received two new books to take home.


Reading makes kids smart.

The folks over at The Heart of America Foundation and FedEx were great students and they did their homework on Hutchinson.  When they found out the school served more than 20% of English Language Learner students, they made sure the donation contained books written in both Spanish and English!  Research shows that one positive experience with reading can turn a child into a good reader.  If compelling, comprehensible material is available, even the most reluctant reader can develop literacy skills for a lifetime.


Time for a selfie with John Flynn, Vice President of Reading Design at The Heart of America Foundation.

Students at Hutchinson were reminded that reading makes them smart, builds their vocabulary and spelling and it connects everything – from math and social studies to science and art – reading helps kids understand all of their subjects better.  Literacy is the cornerstone of learning and everyone has a role to play.

It was important to me to remind the students that Principal Shaunta Broadway and Media Specialist Ms. Shirley Miller aren’t the only ones in charge of reading at Hutchinson.  In fact the principal and media specialist are only a small part of the reading puzzle at all of FedEXhutch2014-200our schools.  Parents, teachers and counselors as well as bus drivers, cafeteria staff and community partners need to ask kids, “What are you reading today?”   We can all work together to encourage students to read and provide them with opportunities for sustained, silent reading in all subjects on topics that interest them. That way, we can lead our students to deeper thinking, which results in higher achievement.


Thank you FedEx!

A special thank you to John Flynn, Vice President of Reading Design at The Heart of America Foundation, Board of Education member Eshe’ Collins and Instructional Technology Coordinator Warren Goetzel for joining us during the celebration.  Thanks again to our partners for their generosity!


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