By: Erica Fatima
ben big picture winnerBenjamin
 “Ben,” as his friends call him, appeared unflappable as he spelled “V-I-G-I-L-A-N-T-E” and secured the victory after nine harrowing rounds of spelling. Ben, a fifth grader at Brandon ES, will represent Atlanta Public Schools in the District 4 Bee, which will be held Saturday, Feb. 27, at North Atlanta High School.

Upon being declared the winner, Ben exclaimed, “This is great! I can’t believe I won! At first I wasn’t going to participate in the Bee, but my teacher, Ms. Brown, said that I should try; so I did and I won. Wow!”

When asked how he practiced, Ben stated, “I see the words in my head. I visualize them and then spell them in my hand before I spell them out loud. I can actually see [words] them.” 

More than 35 schools were represented at APS’ 55th Annual Spelling Bee, including several APS charter schools. The event took place Tuesday, Feb. 9 at the Lester W. Butts Auditorium at Frederick Douglass High School. spelling bee all

“I am so proud of Ben and all of my students,” Brandon ES teacher, Ms. Brown said. “I assigned the spelling list to the entire class as homework for the week, no exceptions. Ben initially didn’t want to participate, but once he started practicing he began to show real interest; and now here we are—he’s representing the entire system! I’m so proud of him!”

spelling bee 2 winner

2nd place winner:  Maya Ratchev and her mom

Maya Ratchev, from Jackson ES, was named the second-place finalist; showing great spelling prowess as she advanced to the final round. 


Spelling the words kabuki, juggernaut, vulnerable and triumvirate, the top four APS spelling champions: Harris Romas Tsiotras, Morningside ES; Timothy Salter Sliger, Springdale Park ES, will also attend the District 4 Bee. Kayla Mickens, Long MS will serve as the alternate.

Bee winners, left to right: Harris Romas Tsiotras, Morningside ES; Timothy Salter Sliger, Spingdale Park ES; Maya Ratchev, Jackson ES; Benjamin Song, Brandon ES

Dr. Zackory Kirk, APS Literacy Coordinator for grades 6-12, and this year’s spelling bee coordinator stated,“The spelling bee is a great opportunity to recognize some of our most studious learners. It also builds community within classrooms and schools while incorporating the family and community into the work of educating the whole child.”

Special thanks to this year’s distinguished judges: 

bee judges standing up

Above, left to right: Dr. Deborah Stephens; Dr. Zackory Kirk; Melissa Davis; Dr. Aleigha Rosser; Cheryl Collier; Natasha Daniels; Marcus Bivines, Esq.

Spelling Bee Judges 2016

  • Bee Master-Dr. Deborah Stephens-Lattimore (APS Speech Pathologist);
  • Head Judge-Cheryl Collier (President, Atlanta Association of Black Journalist);
  • Dictionary Judge-Natasha Daniels (Senior Council Aide at City of Atlanta); 
  • Listening Judge-Dr. Aleigha Henderson-Rosser (APS Executive Director, Instructional Technology); 
  • Scoring Judge-Melissa Davis (APS Science Coordinator, K-5);
  • Recording Judge-Marcus Bivines, Esq. (APS HR Training & Communications Specialist). 

“Congratulations to all of our spelling juggernauts. We wish Ben and our four APS Bee winners great success in the next competition,” -Atlanta Public Schools.

The top two finalists from District 4 will advance to the state spelling bee, which will be held on Monday, March 18, at Zoo Atlanta. The state winner will then advance to the National Spelling Bee in Washington D.C., which began in 1925.

Contributing writer: Alicia Sands Lurry


February 11, 2016 at 7:28 pm Leave a comment

Students Take Virtual Field Trips, Thanks to Google Expeditions Program


Students and Cardboard Viewers

Fourth grader Jennifer Ramirez (center) explores virtual field trips through the Google Expeditions Pioneer Program.

By: Alicia Sands Lurry

Imagine visiting the Galapagos Islands, the rainforests of South America, the canals in Italy, and the surface of Mars – all in one afternoon.

That is exactly what 120 third, fourth, and fifth graders from John Hope-Charles Walter Hill Elementary School experienced on Friday, Feb. 5. The students “traveled” to various field trips around the world – thanks to the Expeditions Pioneer Program, a virtual reality platform built for the classroom and designed to be incorporated with teachers’ lesson plans. Powered by Google, the app-based program immerses students in entirely new experiences through cardboard viewers. With the use of a tablet, teachers serve as virtual tour guides to take their students on journeys.

Hope-Hill Elementary was among the first schools in Atlanta to unveil the technology to students and teachers. In addition to students, teachers and Google representatives, State Superintendent Richard Woods and his staff also stopped by to see the demonstration.

Fourth graders like Mikayla Westbrook and Ashara Parker couldn’t wait to take an expedition. The two girls spent most their time peering wide-eyed through the cardboard viewers, which resembled goggles, while they viewed images of natures, as well as the moon’s surface.

Students with Tablets

Hope-Hill fourth graders (left to right) Mikayla Westbrook, Zamari Crawford, Jazmen Bush, Ashara Parker, and Camiyah Fowler peer through their cardboard viewers.

“I was on the moon,” 9-year-old Ashara squealed with delight. “It was fun and creepy at the same time.”

“I saw two people standing behind me,” Mikayla, 10, said in disbelief. “It was creepy because they were staring at me.”

Their classmate, Jennifer Ramirez, was mesmerized by the experience.

“It’s fun,” said the 9-year-old fourth grader, while viewing the busy streets of New York City. “You get to be on the moon and go other places, too.”

Hope-Hill Principal Maureen Wheeler was just as excited.

“This is huge,” Wheeler said of the Expeditions program. “It exposes kids to things they may not see in their lifetime. The great thing about it is they don’t realize they’re learning. What I love is that it takes learning to a new level. It makes school fun and engaging.”

During the demonstration, fifth-grade teacher Monica Jones guided her class through expeditions, where they viewed everything from coral reefs, sharks and jelly fish, to volcanoes, land forms, and New York City.

“This is a wonderful opportunity for students to explore and feel like they’ve actually been to these places,” Jones said of the demonstration. “As a teacher, it allows me to tailor a lesson they can learn from and enjoy, and does my heart good to know they love it.”

Teacher With Tablet2

Using a tablet, fourth-grade teacher Kristen Lyle guides her class through several expeditions.

State Superintendent Woods said he hopes to use the technology as a tool to advance and support student learning throughout grades K-12.

“There’s so much we can expose students to, and this technology opens a whole new world to them,” Woods said. “It actually goes beyond the classrooms, and proves that you don’t have to have four walls for kids to learn. It’s wonderful to see this level of excitement and engagement.”

Google Expeditions_Superintendent WoodsHope-Hill ES

State Superintendent Richard Woods (center) and Hope-Hill Principal Maureen Wheeler are joined by a group of Hope-Hill students; Brenden Dermody, team lead for Google Expeditions; a Georgia DOE staff member; and John Childs, owner of Mental Fitness.

For John Childs, a former Hope-Hill Elementary teacher, the program has endless possibilities.

“Students are getting virtual field trips to places they may not normally see,” said Childs, whose afterschool program, Mental Fitness, works with Hope-Hill and other Atlanta Public Schools to provide students with science technology, engineering, art and mathematics activities. “This is standards-based, visual learning that helps students learn even more. This should be a staple in every school, at every grade level.”

February 11, 2016 at 1:50 pm Leave a comment

APS Celebrates Black History Month

Black History Month remains an important time to honor the heritage of African-Americans; and APS has some significant connections with the civil rights movement. Atlanta Public Schools has had many famous students, including Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Lena Horne, Mayor Maynard Jackson, Nipsey Russell and others.

The district’s Museum Curator, Cathy Loving, sat down with us to give us a small glimpse into some of the connections that APS has with the civil rights movement in this video.

Cathy LovingClick image to view video

February 11, 2016 at 10:14 am Leave a comment

Young Middle School Students Learn History, Self-Respect at Jean Childs Young Day

Jean Childs Young

(Courtesy Lillie Blades and Andrew Young Foundation) Jean Childs Young Middle School was named in honor of the late first wife of former United States U.N. Ambassador and mayor of Atlanta, Andrew Young. A new mentoring program at the schools seeks to encourage students to act more like their school’s namesake.

By Seth Coleman

Former United States Ambassador to the United Nations and mayor of Atlanta Andrew Young, is the epitome of a man:  smart, confident, stately, and thoughtful. His late first wife, Jean Childs Young was the embodiment of a lady:  intelligent, beautiful, elegant, and kindhearted.

Now, administrators and community partners at the school named in her honor hope to establish a new mentoring program that will lead more students to carry themselves in a manner befitting the Youngs.

“We want them to know there is an important legacy here, and to know what that means,” said Gwen Atkinson, a retired Atlanta Public School principal working with Young Middle School’s new principal, Kevin Scott. “We want them to know their school has a history that they should feel good about and strive to uphold.”

Recently, the southwest Atlanta school honored the memory of Mrs. Young with its annual Jean Childs Young Day celebration. The event featured performances by the Young Middle School orchestra and bella voce, a video presentation about Mrs. Young, and remarks by her children – Andrea Young, Professor of Practice at the Georgia State University Andrew Young School of Policy Studies, and Andrew “Bo” Young, III, chief executive officer of PakLab.

But the showstopper was the former mayor and ambassador. Though he will turn 84-years old next month, Mr. Young, an icon of the Civil Rights Movement, commanded the room of middle schoolers.

“The first thing he told them was to sit up in their chairs and pay attention, and they did,” Scott said. “The students were totally engaged in what he had to say.”

Mr. Young’s message of self-respect and non-violent means of conflict resolution was one the students needed to hear, Scott said.

“He told them that as the U.N. Ambassador, he represented the biggest, badest bully in the world,” Scott said. “But he told them his goal was to always come to peaceful agreements. He wanted them to know and understand that there are better ways to resolve conflicts than fighting.”

Andrew Young with Young MS Prin Kevin Scott

Jean Childs Young Middle School Principal Kevin Scott (right) poses with former United States U.N. Ambassador and mayor of Atlanta, Andrew Young, during the Jean Childs Young Day celebration at the school.

Scott, who became principal at the start of the second semester, said he hopes to launch the mentoring program later this spring.  He is being assisted by the Andrew Young Foundation, the Camellia Rose Chapter of The Links, Incorporated, and nearby Mount Vernon Baptist Church, among other organizations.

“We want the program to be large-scale,” Scott said. “We just don’t want a few men and women to come over from time to time to work with a large group of students. We want all of our students to have a mentor, so we can establish those one-one-one relationships. That’s important.”

Mrs. Young was a former educator and administrator in Atlanta Public Schools and founder of the APS Dream Jamboree, a large-scale college fair for middle and high school students that has grown over the past 25 years into one of the largest such events in the nation. Her work with children and her own efforts as a part of the Civil Rights Movement, made sure she was never overshadowed by her husband of 40 years.

Mrs. Young passed away in 1994, but her legacy of academic achievement and compassion lives on. Scott wants to instill that legacy in his female students, while his male students are molded in the image of Mr. Young.

“I was so proud of our students,” Scott said. “They were involved and engaged in the program. I think it was very enlightening to them and showed them the history they represent. It showed them that they can do it. They can be successful, no matter where they come from, and our new mentoring program will help us continue reinforcing those positive messages to them.”





February 10, 2016 at 2:07 pm Leave a comment

Maynard H. Jackson Principal Named Georgia Association of Secondary School Principals’ “Principal of the Year”

POTY_JacksonHS_02_08_16The Georgia Association of Secondary School Principals (GASSP) announced Monday that Stephanie Johnson, principal of Maynard H. Jackson High School in Atlanta Public Schools, has been named “Principal of the Year.” Johnson was surprised with the news on Monday from GASSP and APS leaders.

“School administrators in Georgia, as well as the entire nation are extremely proud of Stephanie’s accomplishments at Maynard H. Jackson High School,” said Melton Callahan, executive director of GASSP. “On behalf of Executive Director JoAnn Bartoletti from the National Association of Secondary School Principals and GASSP, we are pleased to recognize outstanding school principals like Stephanie who personify excellence in providing quality leadership to their school communities.”


Principal Stephanie Johnson was surprised by APS and Georgia Association of Secondary School Principal leaders on Monday with the GASSP “Principal of the Year” announcement.


The honor recognizes principals who excel in educational leadership; while resolving complex problems, developing self and others and providing community service.

“A respected neighborhood high school like Maynard H. Jackson High School demands the leadership of an exciting, dynamic educator at the helm,” said Superintendent Meria J. Carstarphen, Ed.D. “With Principal Stephanie Johnson, this school has such a leader many times over. And, I am thrilled that Principal Johnson is getting the recognition that she deserves, so we salute her for this deserving honor from the state.”

Johnson has been a high school principal for 10 years, including four at Maynard H. Jackson. She will represent Georgia for the National School Principal of the Year award during a ceremony this September in Washington, DC.

“It is a great honor to be recognized by GASSP as Principal of the Year,” said Johnson. “The strength of education comes from strong leadership. I appreciate the opportunity to have such a great career where I can grow as a leader and help give students an opportunity to transform their lives and become successful adults.”

In addition to the state Principal of the Year honor, Jackson has recently received the following awards: Georgia State Principal Center’s 2015 Joe Richardson Principal of the Year; 2014-15 Principal of the Year for Atlanta Families’ Excellence in Education Awards; and 2015 Office of the Secretary of Defense Leadership Award for Employer Supporter of the Guard and Reserve.

Johnson was surprised with the announcement by her family, Superintendent Carstarphen and a host of colleagues and friends. 

February 9, 2016 at 11:25 am Leave a comment

Join us for upcoming community meetings in the Carver Cluster

Carver Cluster Night Flyer - GideonsThomasville

February 8, 2016 at 11:48 am Leave a comment

APS Pays Tribute to NFL Super Bowl Alumni at Golden Football Presentation

MJC and Judson (Golden Football)

William Judson, a graduate of Sylvan High School, and a participant in Super Bowls XVII and XIX with the Miami Dolphins, presented his NFL Super Bowl Honor Roll Golden Football to the Atlanta Public Schools and Superintendent Dr. Meria J. Carstarphen.

By Seth Coleman

It’s Super Bowl Weekend and in honor of the 50th anniversary of the big game, the National Football League has created an initiative in which any player who has ever participated in a Super Bowl can request a “golden football” to present to his former high school:  the NFL Super Bowl Honor Roll.

Over the last half century, Atlanta Public Schools has been well represented in the Super Bowl. Sylvan High School alum William Judson played with the Miami Dolphins in Super Bowls XVII (1983) and XIX (1985). However, Sylvan no longer exists as a high school (it is now a middle school); therefore on Friday, he presented his NFL Golden Football to Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Meria J. Carstarphen.  It will be placed in the district’s trophy case.

“The lessons I learned from my mother, a teacher in APS, and all of my teachers and coaches prepared me for success,” Judson said during his presentation in the Center for Learning and Leadership auditorium. “My high school is no longer there, so I wanted to present my Golden Football to the whole school district.”

Hunter, Judson, Rambo (Golden Football)

William Judson, a graduate of Sylvan High School, and a participant in Super Bowls XVII and XIX with the Miami Dolphins, presented his NFL Super Bowl Honor Roll Golden Football to the Atlanta Public Schools and Superintendent Dr. Meria J. Carstarphen.

During the presentation, Judson thanked and honored his former classmates and teammates, many of whom were in the audience, as well as his youth football coach, Charles Rambo, and his coach at Sylvan, Willie Hunter – a legendary coach and teacher who help desegregate intramural sports at Sylvan in the early 1970s.

MJC, Myles, Judson, Carver Players, Amos (Golden Football)

William Judson (center) has applied for a grant through the NFL Super Bowl Honor Roll grant program. He will donate the proceeds to the football program at Carver High School. Here he stands with (L-R) APS Superintendent Dr. Meria J. Carstarphen, Carver head football coach Darren Myles, Carver athletes Gregory Payton, Jacoby Hill and Jeremiah Abby, and Atlanta Board of Education District 2 Representative Byron Amos.

Along with presenting the Golden Football to APS, Judson has submitted a grant to the NFL Super Bowl Honor Roll grant program, which gives $500 to $5,000 gifts to local high schools on behalf of former Super Bowl participants. Grant winners will be announced in the coming weeks.

Other APS Super Bowl alums acknowledged during the presentation include:

Richard Dent, Murphy High School (now Crim High School), Chicago Bears, Super Bowl XX (20)

Bucky Dilts, Dykes High School (now Sutton Middle School), Denver Broncos, Super Bowl XII (12)

Jamal Lewis, Douglass High School, Baltimore Ravens, Super Bowl XXXV (35)

Earthwind Moreland, Grady High School, New England Patriots, XXXIV (34)

Frank Pitts, Archer High School (now the Archer Transition Building), Kansas City Chiefs, Super Bowl I (1) and Super Bowl IV (4)

Reggie Wilkes, Southwest High School (now Jean Childs Young Middle School), Philadelphia Eagles, Super Bowl XV (15)

Carlton Williamson, Brown High School (now Brown Middle School), San Francisco 49ers, Super Bowl XVI (16) and Super Bowl XIX (19)

Sam Wyche, North Fulton High School (now North Atlanta High School), Washington Redskins (Player), Super Bowl VII (7); Cincinnati Bengals (Coach), Super Bowl XXIII (23)

“We are so grateful to William Judson for this special honor, and for his loyalty, devotion and love of Atlanta Public Schools,” APS Superintendent Dr. Meria J. Carstarphen said. “He and all of these men are fine representatives of Atlanta Public Schools, and provide great examples for our young men to follow.”



February 6, 2016 at 7:10 am Leave a comment

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