South Atlanta Cluster To Host 5K Run/Walk and Health Fair

At South Atlanta High School, a healthy body is just as important as a healthy mind. That’s why the school decided to host the inaugural South Atlanta Cluster 5K Run/Walk and Health Fair on Nov. 9. Proceeds will benefit South Atlanta’s Athletics Department and its HOSA – Future Health Professionals team.

“Building community is essential as we push forward with our efforts to weave social and emotional learning throughout the day, the year and into each and every home and business within our cluster,” said Shanna Miles, South Atlanta High School media specialist and 5K coordinator. “Schools feed young minds, but we can’t forget about our bodies. According to the American Diabetes Association, someone is diagnosed with Diabetes every 17 seconds. People who are Black or Latinx are at higher risk of that diagnosis. Those are the parents, grandparents and students we serve. This 5K is an opportunity for fun, fellowship, and finding solutions.”

HOSA – Future Health Professionals, formerly known as Health Occupations Students of America, is an international student organization recognized by the U.S. Department of Education and the Health Science Education (HSE) Division of ACTE. HOSA’s two-fold mission is to promote career opportunities in the health care industry and to enhance the delivery of quality health care to all people.

At the Nov. 9 event, South Atlanta High School’s senior HOSA members and nursing supervisors will conduct blood pressure, blood sugar, height/weight and vision screenings. Certified staff will also provide mental health consultations. In addition, representatives from PeachCare and Georgia’s Medicaid program will answer questions about the state’s wellness programs.

“The students, faculty, staff and community of South Atlanta High School are excited to participate in the upcoming 5K Race and Health Fair,” said Dr. Patricia Ford, principal. “Participating in the walk/run will promote lifelong fitness habits, which builds stronger muscles/bones, reduces obesity-related conditions (such as high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol and certain cancers), improves attention and focus and also allows students to manage stress and anxiety. We wanted to create an opportunity that will allow students and their families to spend more time together by training together, and we also wanted to motivate students in a positive way. I look forward to seeing you there!”

The South Atlanta Cluster 5K Run/Walk and Health Fair will take place Nov. 9 at South Atlanta High School, located at 800 Hutchens Road SE, Atlanta, GA 30354. For additional information about the event, please contact Shanna Miles at 404-802-5005 or sxmiles@atlanta.k12.ga.us.

Click here to register or secure sponsorship.

We Are APS: Tonnia Blount

Oct. 21 is Georgia Driver Appreciation Day, and Atlanta Public Schools proudly honors the dedicated, professional drivers who serve on the frontline every day, ensuring our students arrive safely to and from school.

To help kick off Georgia Driver Appreciation Day and National School Bus Safety Week, held Oct. 21-25, Atlanta Public Schools honors the extraordinary efforts of bus operators like Tonnia Cousins Blount, a seasoned, dedicated, and caring driver who is passionate about serving students.

Blount loves her job and the kids she drives to and from school each day. An APS bus driver servicing Route 19-919 in the Jackson Cluster for the past 27 years, Blount has no plans to retire anytime soon. She sees her job as a labor of love – one that gets her up bright and early each morning, during which she greets the bright faces of students attending Benteen Elementary, Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School, and Maynard Jackson High.

For Blount being a bus operator is more than just a job. It is a mission that brings her joy every single day.

“This is the only real job I’ve ever had,” said Blount, a Price High School alumna whose mother inspired her to become a bus driver. “I really, really love this job. It’s the relationships that I’ve gained with the community and the kids over the years. I get to see my children graduate from high school. I’ve got kids that have gone off to the army, gone to college, who’ve had their kids, and are now bringing their children onto the bus. Also, I have made some amazing relationships with people who live not far from the community I actually grew up in.

“It’s been an amazing journey,” she reminisced. “I really like what I do. The closer I get to retiring, I don’t think I’m going to retire. I think I’m going to die out. I’m serious … I don’t see myself leaving anytime soon. If my health holds up, I’ll be here for a long time. I don’t see retirement in the foreseeable future.”

Learn more about Blount’s commitment to student safety in the question and answer below.

Please describe your role as a bus operator.

I pick up children and I transport them safely to and from school. But, it’s a little bit more than making sure they get from school to home. You have to make sure that when they’re home, they’re safe. I have some children that I pick up directly at home who are latch-key kids, and I make sure they are inside of the house and before I pull off. There have been times that I’ve seen kids fumbling and they don’t have keys. If they don’t have keys, I have to make sure they get back to school so their parents will know they’ve been locked out of the home. If you just drive off, you don’t know if the kids have gotten in.

As a bus driver, what does National School Bus Safety Week mean to you?
It means making sure that our future is safe. The children are our future; they will be here long after we’ve gone and we’re old. They need that extra support to make sure they can get across the street, make sure they get into their parents’ hands and make it inside their homes.

Why is school bus safety so important to you?
School bus safety is so important because children have to get across the street. I pick my children up on Boulevard. There is no school crossing guard on Boulevard between where my children live and the school. It’s a busy four-lane highway, and children have to get to school and across the street to Benteen Elementary School safely. We’ve had a tragedy where someone was hit going around a MARTA bus, so it’s extremely important that we get our kids to and from school safely.

What are some of the other ways you help keep kids safe on a daily basis?
As bus drivers, we also have to teach our kids about school bus evacuations. There have been times when we’ve actually had school buses to catch on fire, so we have to train children and teach them what to do. I have older children who know where the brake is located and how to shut the bus off in case something happens.

I also teach some children how to use the radio. I also have a PA system and a two-way radio I use to contact dispatch. In the event I need help, I also have an older student on my route whom I’ve taught to call dispatch. The dispatch office can always find me because we’re equipped with a zonar system.

Students are also taught about safety around, in front, and back of the bus, and how to get on and off the bus safely in case of an emergency. These are the things that help keep students safe

What is the most important message you want parents, students and community members to know about bus safety?
People should know that school bus safety is all about transporting and keeping children safe.

We Are APS highlights APS visionaries (parents, students, teachers, principals, support staff, community members, partners, etc.), who exemplify our vision of a high-performing school district where students love to learn, educators inspire, families engage, and the community trusts the system. To recommend an APS visionary for a We Are APS feature, contact your communications liaison or email apscommunicationsoffice@gmail.com.

‘My School Bus, the Safest Form of Transportation’: APS Observes National School Bus Safety Week

Did you know that students are about 70 times more likely to get to school safely when taking a school bus instead of traveling by car?

Oct. 21-25, 2019 is National School Bus Safety Week, and Atlanta Public Schools proudly salutes the nearly 500 school bus operators, bus monitors, mechanics, dispatchers, supervisors, and other APS Transportation Department employees who transport and help keep our students safe – both on and off the school bus every day.

Held during the third full week of October each year, National School Bus Safety Week serves as an excellent opportunity for parents, students, teachers, motorists, school bus operators, school administrators, and others to join forces and address the importance of school bus safety.

This year’s theme is “My School Bus, the Safest Form of Transportation.” Week-long events will be held to recognize transportation employees, which include a Transportation Appreciation Cook-Out; bus driver safety program and assembly at Harper-Archer Elementary School; and a series of pre-recorded “thank you” messages from District administrators that will play on the PA system at the main bus yard.

As part of the celebration, Oct. 21 is Georgia Driver Appreciation Day, which acknowledges school bus operators for their commitment to safely transport students.

John Franklin, executive director of Transportation, commends those APS safety heroes who make student safety their top priority while transporting 28,000 student riders to and from school, home, field trips, and other school activities.

“Everyone in this department is dedicated to safety – from our mechanics who make sure our buses are mechanically sound – to our drivers who perform their routes and observe the policies and procedures implemented by the state to ensure that all kids are safe,” Franklin said.

“We also do training throughout the school year to make sure transportation employees are well-trained and prepared in case of something unexpected,” Franklin noted. “It’s important for all parents, stakeholders, school administrators and families to know that APS stands prepared to make sure that we transport children safely.”

In addition to 405 bus operators and 86 bus monitors, APS Transportation maintains 289 daily bus routes and 422 buses, all while traveling 3.1 million miles each year and supporting 8,000 field trips per year, both in fine arts, athletics, and a variety of other activities that help students succeed at a very high level.

According to Franklin, it takes the entire community to promote and maintain school bus safety.

“It takes everyone contributing to student safety everyday – from motorists driving safely and using the speed limit – to students being sufficiently prepared and on time to the bus stop,” Franklin said. “All of this is very vital and are important pieces to making the bus the safest possible medium for students to get to and from school.”

Throughout the week, be sure to look for features highlighting various transportation employees and their commitment and dedication to transportation safety.

We salute our transportation employees for a job well done!

Dobbs Students Test Budget Skills in Atlanta Community Schoolyards Program’s Design Workshop

Big Blue Jaguar Park, J.W. Dobbs Community Park, and Jaguar City Park are among the names students at J.W. Dobbs Elementary School are proposing for their new public park.

The Trust for Public Land, Urban Land Institute Atlanta, Park Pride and Atlanta Public Schools is piloting the Atlanta Community Schoolyards Program at two sites this school year: John Wesley Dobbs Elementary and L.O. Kimberly Elementary. The program aims to improve the number of residents who do not live within a 10-minute walk of a park by reimagining schoolyards for public use during non-school hours. 

“The Dobbs family is so excited to be chosen as a school site that will have a major impact on this community,” said Principal Tiffany Ragin. “The students and teachers are all in and are enjoying every single phase. Although we’re in the earlier phases, students have had an opportunity to meet with employees from The Trust for Public Land, Park Pride, and the Urban Land Institute to complete this awesome schoolyards project.”

On Oct. 3, Kimberly fourth and fifth graders entered into the design phase of the program. On Oct. 17, it was Dobbs fourth and fifth graders’ turn to work their creative and strategic muscles.

“We felt it important for everyone to get a fair share to contribute and truly take part in the process,” said Teri Nye, park visioning coordinator with Park Pride.

Students bursting with ideas soon learned that turning their playground dreams into community park realities is a lesson in creativity and money management.

 “They’ve completed grade specific surveys to determine what they want in their community park, and most recently decided on what they can actually purchase via a project-based learning simulation that included budgeting, decision making, and lots of creativity,” Ragin said.

Students were placed into small groups of 5-7 and instructed to design their dream schoolyard.  Each team was given $100 in Jaguar bucks, a layout of their actual schoolyard, and a catalog full of items they could add to the park, including a half basketball court, playing field, playgrounds, fun sidewalk ideas and garden trails. Each item, of course, had an associated price tag. So, they had to stay within budget.

Fortunately, volunteers –including Delta Air Lines employees – were there to assist students with the designs and budgets.

“Delta is a sponsor of the Atlanta Community Schoolyards Program, and they wanted to put volunteer time with Dobbs Elementary. In the summer, when its time to help build the park, they will bring volunteers to help build as well,” said Susan Patterson, director of philanthropy for the Trust for Public Land.

Delta Community Engagement Lead Project Manaager LaSandra Boykin and Delta Community Engagement Program Manager Barry Matthews were among the dozen or so volunteers at Dobbs on Oct. 17. They say the Atlanta Community Schoolyards Program is a tremendous opportunity to minimize environmental footprints, develop neighborhoods, and protect greenspaces.

“We are extremely thankful that soon Dobbs Elementary can serve the community and have the capacity to provide a safe space for children and families to play and enjoy nature in their backyards –all with the assistance and design of our awesome scholars,” Principal Ragin said.

Next steps: representatives from the Atlanta Community Schoolyards program will hold outreach meetings in the late fall to discuss the project with Kimberly and Dobbs elementary school families and community members.

Somos Uno – We Are One: APS Honors Hispanic Heritage Month

Hispanic Heritage Month (Sept. 15- Oct. 15) is an opportunity to celebrate the rich histories, cultures and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America.

Sept. 15 is significant because it is the anniversary of independence for Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. In addition, Mexico and Chile celebrate their independence days on Sept. 16 and Sept.18, respectively, according to http://www.hispanicheritagemonth.gov.

Below is just a sample of Atlanta Public Schools events held to honor the rich legacy of Hispanic Americans in APS, Atlanta, and around the world.

Be sure to check back for updates!

Benjamin E. Mays High School

Benjamin E. Mays High School’s ESOL program celebrated its 6th Annual Hispanic Heritage Celebration on Oct. 10. Each year, Mays invites a successful Hispanic motivational speaker to inspire young Latinx scholars. This year, 4X Emmy-award-winning content producer and bilingual expert Judith Martinez-Sadri shared her story of struggles and successes. Students appreciated her presence and enjoyed the celebration, which ended with cultural food and dances.

Benteen Elementary School

The Atlanta Braves and Georgia Power hit it out of the park when Rafael Ortega and Julio Teheran visited Benteen Elementary on Sept. 4. The Braves players joined forces with Georgia Power to kick off Hispanic Heritage Month through hands-on activities that educated students and celebrated the contributions Latinos make to the game of baseball. Read more.

Cleveland Avenue Elementary

Fifth grade students at Cleveland Avenue Elementary School performed salsa dances in celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month. This was a great collaboration between Spanish and music classes.

Georgia Pre-K Week

The APS Office of Early Learning was thrilled to celebrate Georgia Pre-K Week in English and Spanish this year! Pre-K Week aligned with Hispanic Heritage Month, which provided the perfect opportunity for volunteers to read “Llama Llama Red Pajama/ La Llama Llama Rojo Pijama” in both languages in schools. APS is committed to being a welcoming District to all, and believe it is valuable for students whose home language is Spanish, as well as those whose home language is English, to hear both texts.

The Office of Early Learning is also excited to launch two Spanish Dual Language Immersion Pre-K sites at Garden Hills and Benteen next year!

Morris Brandon Elementary School

Morris Brandon Elementary School kicked off Hispanic Heritage Month festivities with guests who discussed culture and shared music.

North Atlanta High School

At North Atlanta High School,”Somos Uno – We Are One” was this year’s theme that encourages inclusiveness as the school hosted a gambit of culturally rich academic activities, including music, food and dance demonstrations, guest lectures from Latinx speakers, and an essay contest.

  • On Sept. 16, students Emelie Lopez, Janet Juarez, Lissete Garcia, Angeles Moreno, Marleny Francisco, and Liliana Ortiz adorned traditional Mexican costumes as they danced in the international lobby and distributed Latin candies to fellow students. At lunch, the chef’s table displayed Hispanic food, and all students enjoyed Mexican food for the day’s menu.
  • On Sept. 18, opera singer Karina Pegueros (soprano) performed for students taking Spanish classes, music and arts.
  • On Sept. 25, Dr. Pierluigi Mancini talked to about 85 Hispanic students about anxiety, depression and stress.
  • On Sept. 27, Harvard professor Natalia Jaramillo, PhD. talked to female Hispanic seniors about her Latinx experience, success and tenacity in life. Dr. Jaramillo encouraged students to always move forward and never give up. “Do not use obstacles and/or struggles as an excuse for failure,” she said. She also commented that she had to challenge her family and culture because of the expectation they have about women. “I did not want to get married, have babies and have a family. I wanted to travel the world, meet people and be a professional.” When asked about the importance of Hispanic Heritage Month she said, “I celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month every day of my life. I am a Latina woman, and that goes with me wherever I go.”

Mary Lin Elementary School

Under the creative coordination of Spanish teacher Monica Waldman, Mary Lin Elementary School students celebrated Hispanic Heritage Month with a variety of different activities. In addition to a variety of activities, kindergarten students made maracas to use during a mariachi band performance, second graders created puppets of children in traditional Spanish costumes, and students in grades K-2 learned about Mexican cuisine by making tortillas.

Second graders also made calaveras, or decorative skulls, while learning about the Day of the Dead holiday. Also, throughout the month, all morning PA announcements highlighted Hispanice culture and history.

NYT Best-Selling Author Jason Reynolds Kicks Off APS Race2Read 2.0

Atlanta Public Schools is excited to re-launch our district-wide reading campaign, Race2Read 2.0 – A Journey Through Atlanta, One Book at a Time! This year, we’re challenging students, teachers, staff, parents and community to read daily and collectively reach 10 million minutes of reading by the end of the 2019-2020 academic year. Read and log minutes on www.beanstack.com/race2read.

What better way to kick off APS Race2Read 2.0 than with New York Times best-selling author Jason Reynolds? Reynolds stopped by South Atlanta High School on Oct. 10 to share his story and inspire young readers.

“Y’all know what Race2Read is?” asked Reynolds, just two days after the release of his latest book, Look Both Ways: A Tale Told in Ten Blocks. “Today is the first day, and y’all can use my book as your first book.”

Twenty-six elementary and middle schools from across the District filled South Atlanta High School’s auditorium as Atlanta-based author Nicki Salcedo led the discussion of his journey from a little black boy who hated reading to a best-selling author of several middle-grade and young-adult books.

“I’m really old,” the 35-year-old author told the crowd. “Back in my day, because we didn’t have cellphones, we had boredom. And because we had boredom, we had imagination.”

Yet, Reynolds’ imagination alone did not spark his interest in writing. He had dreams of becoming the next Michael Jordan, but he says “sometimes life shows you who you are even when you think you’re someone else.”

“The actually books were available, but the stories we needed weren’t,” Reynolds explained. “I didn’t read books because they didn’t relate to me. I thought ‘Why should I have a relationship with something that doesn’t want a relationship with me?”

As a result, Reynolds didn’t read a book from cover-to-cover until he was 17 years old. He found his way to literature through rap music. Queen Latifah’s 1993 “Black Reign” album to be exact.  

“As I read the lyrics, I realized that she was writing poetry,” Reynolds said. Though critics at the time didn’t believe rap music would last 5 years yet alone decades, Reynolds acknowledges that hip-hop artists of the 80s and 90s in particular “were geniuses writing the poetry of their time, of their generation.”

Now Reynolds is the author of more than a dozen novels and poetry for young-adult and middle-grade audiences, including All American Boys, the Track series, Long Way Down, For Everyone, and Miles Morales-Spiderman.

APS scholars lined the aisles with budding questions: What inspired you to start reading rap lyrics? What was the purpose of writing as brave as you? How did how you grew up impact you? Did you always want to be an author? Did you base Ghost on your personal life? When you started writing books, did you ever think you would make it this far? Are there any teachers in your life that stood out?

When the question and answer portion concluded, students were met with a big surprise: free, signed copies for every student.

Now, let’s Race2Read

Atlanta Community Schoolyard Program Enters Design Phase at Kimberly Elementary

Story contributed by Birgitta Johnson, L.O. Kimberly Elementary, Media Specialist and communications ambassador

The Atlanta Community Schoolyard Program kicked off last month at Dobbs and Kimberly elementary schools, as fourth- and fifth-grade students met representatives from the Trust for Public Land and Park Pride who will turn their playground dreams into community park realities.

On Oct. 3, the two organizations returned to L.O. Kimberly Elementary School to collaborate with fourth and fifth graders bursting with design ideas.

“The Trust for Public Land, Park Pride, and Urban Land Institute feel strongly about designing to the needs and requests of the Kimberly Elementary community,” said Jay Wozniak, Trust for Public Land urban parks director. “Over the past couple of weeks, students and faculty completed surveys with pertinent questions about opportunities and challenges to improving the Kimberly schoolyard. The data was collected and reviewed to customize the design workshops held with the school’s fourth and fifth graders. The workshops are venues for students to collaborate with their friends to discuss what should be implemented on the Kimberly campus and be open as a public park to residents of the surrounding neighborhood.  The ideas created by the students will inform TPL and Park Pride design team as what the final design should be.”

The schoolyard campus improvements slated to operate as a public park for the surrounding neighborhood is proposed to be constructed on the large field near the school gym.

Students were given a budget to spend on different park materials to create their vision of the park.  Their design ideas ranged from benches and drinking fountains to playgrounds, a multipurpose sports field and basketball court.

“This project is extremely beneficial to not only the students of Kimberly but the entire Therrell Cluster,” said Principal Joseph Salley. “We are excited to have our students take ownership by assisting in the creation of the design of the park. We look forward to the continued collaboration to create a great greenspace for our entire community to enjoy.”

On Oct. 16, park representatives will meet with Kimberly’s GO Team to provide updates on the project.

On Oct. 17, Dobbs Elementary School students will have their design session to share their ideas for a new public park for their South Atlanta Cluster community.

Roughly 30 percent of Atlanta residents live in park desserts, or not within a 10-minute walk to a park, according to The Trust for Public Land. So, the city of Atlanta, Park Pride, Urban Land Institute, The Trust for Public Land, and Atlanta Public Schools partnered to make a change.

Over the next three years, 10 APS schools will help create community schoolyards, making those schools open to the public during non-school hours. Dobbs and Kimberly elementary schools are the first two elementary schools on the list.