Cool Air and Warm Hearts At the Sarah Smith Intermediate Campus

IMG9561651Today I stopped by the Sarah Smith campus to visit our students and staff on the first day of school! Principal Ken Proctor greeted us at the door to begin our tour but before meeting and greeting the students and the staff, I changed into my snazzy Sarah Smith school shirt (thanks for the gift).  I was joined by Board of Education member Nancy Meister, District 4 representative for this school and an incredible supporter of the entire North Atlanta cluster. Board members Cynthia Briscoe Brown and Matt Westmoreland also came along with us, and as we began our walk of the school, the principal noted that for the first time in the building’s history, the air conditioning was fully functioning across the entire school, thanks to the extensive HVAC work that was completed over the past few months.

IMG9589821Just a few paces into the school, the team and I noted the peaceful sound of engaged students and quality instruction.  We stopped by several classrooms because I was curious to see what was engaging our students to the extent that the Sarah Smith hallways were so quiet.  When I walked into Ms. A’s class, all of her students were thoughtfully considering possible career options.  When I inquired a little more, I soon discovered that Ms. A, was in the process of having her kids apply for the various jobs or careers that are needed to run a successful classroom.  Students were engaged in a lengthy discussion about how they could fill out the necessary “application” to describe their skill sets for each of the available jobs.   This led to an interesting discussion about my career and job as a superintendent and all the fun that I have helping our students reach their aspirations.  They too were curious about my role in that they asked me questions, a lot of questions about how I do what I do. I told them that I take big things and break it into small manageable pieces.

What a great group of smart kiddos. I enjoyed my time with them and look forward to returning. Happy Day One!


New friends and some friendly competition at Smith Elementary School

My new pal, “Backpack Bear” from Jackson Primary, made a bunch of new friends at Sarah Smith Primary!

Dr. Freda Hamilton’s office may have been the most friendly, welcoming principal’s office ever!

It’s full of fantastic souvenirs from the University of Georgia, Dr. Seuss books and an awesome Mr. Potato Head collection.  Backpack Bear found a spot right near the Wizard of Oz-themed Potato Heads.

In Ms. Moran’s French class, Backpack Bear found a friend in a beret! I practiced some French with Ms. Moran and discussed the importance of language on brain development.

She’s been a teacher 19 years, has spent 12 years with APS and agrees with me that setting a goal that our students become bilingual and trilingual was not far fetched and would benefit all of the students in the district.

Ms. Brookins stopped me in the hall to tell me that I have actually inspired her to get her Ph.D.! She’s been teaching nine years. It’s a wonderful complement but really I am the one inspired every day by the incredible work of our teachers.  I encouraged her to go for it and to finish quickly.

Backpack Bear met another classroom mascot in Mrs. Cecil’s first grade class, Leo Lion. He goes home with students on weekends so they had plenty of suggestions on where I should take Backpack Bear, including Stone Mountain and LEGOLAND.

Thanks for the great ideas and delicious hot chocolate! Students were passengers on the Polar Express that day with Mrs. Cecil as the conductor. She’s more than qualified to lead that train as a former Teacher of the Year and a current member of my Teacher Advisory Committee.

I joined Mrs. Peake’s first-graders on the floor for a phonics game before heading to the gym. I can’t believe P.E. teacher Daniel Monroe rides his bike 12 miles to school every day. His P.E. partner in crime is Daniel Sprague. While students practiced strikes in stations I jumped on a scooter and raced Dr. Hamilton around the fitness practice drill.

Before I left Smith Primary I spent some time in Ms. Shepard’s art class and Ms. Baublitz’ kindergarten class. By the way, Ms. Baublitz’ mom is also an APS kindergarten teacher at Garden Hills.

Principal Hamilton wouldn’t let me go until I heard kindergartener Jonathan sing “Let it Snow” in Spanish to the tune of Disney’s “Let it go”. I sure hope he doesn’t let go of his passion for singing. He was fantastic.

Smith_jonathanI jumped in the car (after making sure Backpack Bear was in his seatbelt), and ate lunch with the school’s Principal, Dr. Kenneth Proctor and students at Smith Intermediate. The fourth graders told me all about the trials of balancing homework and extracurricular activities.

I know it’s not what they wanted to hear but research shows extracurricular activities lead to organized and efficient students which, guess what, makes them better to handle homework!

Lunch included jerk chicken, plantains, cabbage, red beans and rice, and a bread stick. I even got desert from fourth grader Matthew who was celebrating his 11th birthday.  His mom made cupcakes for his friends and brought them to school. He generously offered me one without any coaxing.


You can see the fabulous and brand new playground from the cafeteria. Parents were able to raise all the funds necessary to make that green space a reality.

I headed over to the gym instead for a volleyball game; however, I think it may have been better to wait a little longer after lunch.

Smith_JeopardyI ended my day in a competitive game of Jeopardy with Jack in Ms. Dowell’s third grade class. I nailed the trivia section on Greek history and architecture but was awful at civics and government. Jack was making me sweat especially when it came to the civics questions.

Regardless of the final score, Backpack Bear and I had a great time engaging in some friendly physical and mental competition with our kids. They kept me on my toes…I mean PAWS!


Educators that Excel in APS – Dr. Freda Hamilton of Sarah Smith Elementary


Don’t miss our Sarah Smith students, also featured on the cover and inside!

Dr. Hamilton has been an elementary educator for 24 years.

Dr. Hamilton has been an elementary educator for 24 years.

Check out our phenomenal APS educator, Dr. Freda Hamilton of Sarah Smith Elementary featured in the most recent issue of Simply Buckhead Magazine on page 79!  This fly-fishing assistant principal talks about her journey into the field of education and why she loves her job. What a great article! Keep up the great work Dr. Hamilton.