Grady Speech Team Wins Big, Earns ‘School of Honor’ Distinction at National Speech & Debate Tournament
Henry W. Grady High School’s award-winning, seven-time state championship speech team, the Jesters, dazzled judges this past weekend, as they flexed their mental muscles at the 2016 National Speech & Debate Tournament (NSDT) in Salt Lake City, Utah. In addition to Grady being named a “School of Honor,” nine participating students earned honors in several categories, including Prose Reading, Program Oral Interpretation, International Extemporaneous Speaking, Lincoln-Douglas, and World’s School debates.
Thanks to their recent distinction, the Jesters now rank in the top 10 percent of 1 percent of all schools in the nation. Here are the individual student participants’ rankings:
Molly Looman: Octofinalist in Prose Reading
Chloe Citron: Top 50 in Program Oral Interpretation
Gregory Fedorov: Top 50 in International Extemporaneous Speaking
Max Rafferty: Semifinalist in House of Representatives in the National Student Congress
Conor Downey: 12th place in Lincoln-Douglas Debate
Will Taft, Harrison Wilco, Grace Bridges and Todd Pengelly: Third place in World’s School Debate
Harrison Wilco: Eigth speaker in the nation for World’s School Debate
Harrison Wilco and Molly Looman were recognized for qualifying for the national tournament during all four years of high school.
During the tournament, Coach Lisa Willoughby was recognized for coaching the World’s School Debate Team, which included four Grady team members and a student from Milton High School.
Debate coach Mario Herrera served as a national tournament official, as well as a judge during the final round in Program Oral Interpretation.
Hosted by the National Speech & Debate Association, the NSDT is the largest high school academic competition in the world with over 4,700 students from across the country and schools around the world. Qualifying for the tournament draws the top 1 percent of all competitors from within the organization.
Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Meria J. Carstarphen is named as one of the most influential Atlantans of 2016 in a list published by the Atlanta Business Chronicle.
This week’s ABC, the city’s leading business journal, features the publication’s annual “100 Most Influential Atlantans” special section. Dr. Carstarphen appears on page six of the section, in a photo with Invest Atlanta President and Chief Executive Officer Dr. Eloisa Klementich.
Earlier this year, Dr. Carstarphen was honored by Georgia Trend magazine as one of the 100 Most Influential Georgians of 2016.
An expanded and renovated Atlanta Public School that re-opened in the fall of 2015 after completing construction earned an Honor Award and recognition from the South Atlantic Chapter of the Construction Management Association of America (CMAA).
The renovated Ralph Bunche Middle School located in southwest Atlanta was honored at the organization’s annual banquet and awards ceremony held June 15, at the Carlos Center in Atlanta.
The annual CMAA South Atlantic Chapter Construction Management Project Achievement Awards program recognizes outstanding achievement in the practice of construction management. The awards program is designed to recognize and promote professionalism and excellence in the execution and management of the building construction industry.
Originally constructed in 1979, Bunche was extensively renovated and expanded including enclosing previously open classrooms, the construction of a new auditorium and gymnasium and additional building improvements designed to meet the current instructional needs of the district as part of a $32.9 million project, funded through SPLOST. The building was designed by Cooper Carry, Architects and built by J.E. Dunn Construction.
This is the sixth such award from CMAA to APS projects. It was among several other recognitions presented to APS by the organization for 2016 representing continuing industry acknowledgement of project achievements in the construction industry and the district’s Capital Improvement Program.
Dr. Betsy Bockman, principal of Samuel Martin Inman Middle School, joined 26 other foster, adoptive and kinship families in Washington, D.C., June 4-6, to urge federal legislators to ensure that children in foster care are able to grow up in families rather than in group care or institutions.
The visits were planned by Advocates for Families First, a national collaboration dedicated to ensuring that children and youth have a family — relative, foster or adoptive — when they cannot remain with their birth parents. Dr. Bockman advocated on behalf of families in conjunction with Families First, The Annie E. Casey Foundation and North American Council on Adoptable Children (NACAC).
“Every child and youth has a right to have a lifelong family,” said Dr. Bockman, who is a member of the Adoptive and Foster Parent Association of Georgia. “Children want and deserve a mom, dad, grandparent, or other relative who will love them, tend to their hurts, celebrate their successes, and take care of them — now and in the future.”
Dr. Bockman should know. Since 1999, she has been a foster parent and adoptive mother to five children — ages 16, 14, 13, 9 and 8 — who know that the Bockman family is home. All five attend Atlanta Public Schools — Mary Lin Elementary, Inman Middle and Henry W. Grady High School. Dr. Bockman, an Atlanta native, also attended Atlanta Public Schools.
Currently, far too many children and youth in foster care don’t have a family to call their own. According to Advocates for Families First:
- One in five children in foster care will live for some time in an institution, even though for most of them, there is no therapeutic reason for this.
- It’s even worse for older children, with one in three teenagers being placed in foster care in a group placement.
Also, research shows that children who live in a family while in the child welfare system fare better than those who are raised in institutions.
“Having a family matters because parenting doesn’t stop when children turn 18,” Dr. Bockman said. “I look forward to celebrating all the graduations, weddings, grandchild births and other milestone events in my children’s lives.”
A key part of the discussion with policy makers entailed the importance of support that children and youth need in order to heal from the trauma, loss, and hurt that comes from their experiences.
Dr. Bockman explained, “Across the country today, children and youth with many challenges are being successfully parented in families. With the right support, parents can care for children who are medically fragile and have difficult behaviors and mental health challenges. There’s no reason for 50,000 children in this country to be in group care or institutions. By showing policy makers who foster, adoptive, and kinship families are, we knew we could help ensure that children have a loving family to care for them when they can’t remain with their birth parents.”
NOTE: There was a ton of activity throughout the district to close out the school year. We shine a light on a number of those events, initiatives and accomplishments in a series of Talk Ups titled “Finishing APStrong.”
Out of the hundreds of Atlanta Public Schools graduates who walked across the stage at the Georgia World Congress Center last week, two mattered the most to Forrest Hill Academy Principal Dr. Zawadaski Robinson.
It was the two students who, after long stints at Forrest Hill, got back on track academically and behaviorally in time to “walk” with their classmates at their respective home schools.
“That is our goal, that is our target,” said Robinson, who just completed his first year as principal after two years as the assistant principal at Forrest Hill, a non-traditional school for students in grades six through 12. Most of its approximately 300 students were sent there due to discipline infractions at their home schools.
“While they are here, we want to work with them to get them back on track,” Robinson said. “We want to help them make better decisions, so that when they return to their home school they can be successful.”
Robinson said this past school year was a very successful one due to the implementation of two key initiatives: Social Emotional Learning (SEL) and Restorative Practices.
SEL, which has been adopted by the district as a conflict resolution strategy, is the process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions. Restorative Practices is a disciplinary measure that is less punitive, and focuses on having the child examine ways in which he or she may in the future avoid situations that caused them to be assigned to Forrest Hill.
“We have to get away from the punitive mindset and move toward the restorative,” Robinson said. “It is hard work, because it is a complete culture shift not only for the students, but for parents, teachers and administrators.
“We have to get to the point where we believe that there is no such thing as a bad child, just a child who makes poor choices,” Robinson said. “To do that we have to engage the students, reinforce positivity, get them to feel good about who they are.”
As such, Robinson and his staff have put in place a number of activities designed to bolster student morale and help them make better decisions. For example, students who have shown progress in their classwork and behavior are allowed to visit nearby Hutchinson Elementary School to assist with reinforcing academic skills, reading stories to students, and speaking to the students about the importance of having good character. This gives the Forrest Hill students an opportunity to serve as leaders while making a positive impact on the community.
Additionally this year, Robinson and his staff:
- Arranged for local barbers to come to the school twice a month to give free haircuts to students who need them
- Hosted monthly awards ceremonies for students who displayed good behavior, academic progress and near perfect attendance
- Organized a career fair, which attracted participation from more than 15 businesses and organizations, including Chick-fil-A and Publix, which hired a combined 30 students, Primerica, Next Step Staffing, Atlanta Metropolitan State College and Atlanta Technical College
- Worked with the Georgia House of Representatives to provide students who showed exemplary growth with official certificates of achievement
- Established a relationship with officials at Arkansas Baptist College to help worthy students gain admission
These programs, coupled with hard work from the 55 staff members at Forrest Hill, helped the school have a very successful year, Robinson said.
“Our discipline problems plummeted and student morale is way up,” Robinson said. “We want to build on this success next year. We want to stay focused on our goal of presenting these students with viable, positive options in order to make a difference in their lives.”
13 Atlanta Public Schools Receive the Georgia Student Media Festival Outstanding Media Production Award
By: Erica Fatima
Recently, the Georgia Student Media Festival (GSMF) awarded 28 projects from 13 APS schools the prestigious 2016 Outstanding Media Production award. Additionally, four APS projects were bestowed the revered Best In Show award for receiving a perfect score of 100. Lastly, Autumn Allen’s (Adamsville Primary) project was granted the State Elementary GALILEO Award.
Since 1976, the Georgia Student Media Festival has supported and celebrated efforts to stimulate student interest and involvement in all types of media production from grades K-12. Student media projects such as live action video, website design, animation and photography foster learning across the curriculum and the GSMF festival provides an outlet for students to showcase their work.
Dr. Warren Goetzel, APS Media Services Coordinator said, “Student-driven project based learning is vital for today’s students to attain the 21st century skills needed to be successful in our rapidly changing technology-based learning and work environments. The GSMF is a perfect avenue for APS students to master the 4 C’s of 21st century learning: collaboration, communication, creativity and critical thinking.”
In classrooms across the globe, teachers and students are working together to infuse technology into their learning landscape. At the elementary and middle school levels, reading comprehension, writing and math skills are developed while producing these technologically advanced projects. High school students increase their ability to plan, analyze, and interpret results. Furthermore, cooperation and leadership flourish where student media is encouraged. Future academic and employment opportunities increase in relationship to the rise in technological proficiency. Student-created media, through its involvement in the world of computers, video, sound and photography, is a proven avenue to increasing student participation in the classroom.
See the list of winning APS projects: APS GSMF Winners
Overall, 93 projects from 22 APS schools were submitted to the 2016 GSMF. The 28 award winners and their sponsors will receive a custom, personalized plaque and all participants will receive GSMF certificates.
Congratulations to all of the 2016 GSMF student and teacher winners!