Dave Howland, founding school leader at KIPP Atlanta Collegiate and Tiffany Smith, first-grade teacher at F.A. Toomer Elementary School, are two of 11 educators surprised Aug. 26 and Aug. 27 by Atlanta Families’ Awards for Excellence in Education (AFAEE) representatives and APS officials. The two educators were honored for their work in improving student achievement and student self-esteem, while also collaborating with community stakeholders.
Smith received her bachelor’s degree in early childhood education with a Pre-K through 2nd emphasis from the University of Georgia. She is fully invested in offering an innovative curriculum to her students and has been recognized for her dedication. As Toomer’s current “Teacher of the Year,” Smith’s goal as an educator to create a classroom environment and curriculum where her students’ background, abilities, interests and dislikes are respected while helping to foster their mental, physical and social growth.
Howland also positively influenced the students he serves at KIPP. With a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Rochester and a master’s in education from National Louis University, Howland has significantly altered the way students learn. By building on the success of nearly 20 KIPP high schools nation-wide, Howland’s leadership has brought huge successes to the school.
Educators from Atlanta Public Schools, Cobb County Schools, DeKalb County Schools, Fulton County Schools and Gwinnett County Schools received $7,500 prizes to be used for innovative classroom projects ($3,500), professional development ($1,500) and a personal stipend ($2,500). AFAEE worked with school administration and support staff to throw a surprise party for all of the winners. They celebrated with balloons, over-sized checks, gifts for their students, special mascots and guests.
Over the last 10 years, AFAEE has granted more than $2 million to 117 educators and their classrooms. The Atlanta Families’ Awards for Excellence in Education recognizes and honors outstanding educators in a manner that informs and recognizes the community. The 2015 winners will be formally celebrated with an awards ceremony on Nov. 5, 2015, at The Carter Center. To find out more info about the event and the Atlanta Families’ Awards, please visit www.atlantafamilies.org.
Pension Obligation Bonds: It’s All About Timing. APS Will Not Pursue Pension Obligation Bonds at This Time
By Mariama Tyler Jenkins
As you may know, the Atlanta Board of Education authorized Superintendent Meria J. Carstarphen at its June meeting to prepare for a public referendum in November that would allow APS to issue pension obligation bonds to address our unfunded pension liabilities. At the time, financial analysis showed that APS could expect as much as $80 million in savings that could not only shore up its liabilities but also provide additional dollars for student achievement.
Both then and now, the district stressed that it would pursue such an option only if market conditions were favorable.
The APS Pension Task Force and Robert Morales, CFO of Atlanta Public Schools, worked with consulting actuary firm Segal along with financial advisers and legal counsel this summer to further examine this option. Their latest analysis indicates higher borrowing rates on taxable pension obligation bonds as compared to earlier reports. While lower borrowing rates would have created greater opportunity for savings, current rates and market conditions would reduce potential savings by nearly $30 million.
For this reason, the Board has decided that APS should no longer pursue the pension obligation bond option at this time.
However, with the rising costs of maintaining APS pension plans, the district must continue to explore other options, which the Board is committed to doing. The district also will continue to seek advisement from financial and pension plan experts. For whatever course of action taken, APS will continue to exhibit the highest levels of fiscal fidelity and prudence and keep you informed about our progress.
It’s early in the 2015-16 school year, and the Atlanta Public Schools Nutrition Department has this year’s food program well underway. The 2015 National Farmers Market week (Aug. 2 – 8) was one of the many activities that coincided with Day One 2015. Throughout the district, Georgia farmers brought in items grown across the state into our schools.
Students at Boyd Elementary were able to learn more about fresh vegetables, the varying tastes, and their many varieties. A representative from GA Organics Direct spoke with students about fresh eating habits. GA Organics Direct is the partner distributor for Adderson’s Fresh Produce in Burke County, Ga. The Adderson farm is family owned and has been operating since 1950s. The farm transitioned completely to Organic 10 years ago and focuses solely on produce.
This is the fourth school year that Boyd students are participating in the APS Fresh Fruits and Vegetable program. “We are excited about being a part of the program,” said assistant principal, Dr. Veneschia Bryant. “This is a way to introduce students to fruits and vegetables that they may not have heard of, or even tasted.” Each day the students are introduced to fruits and vegetables from around the world.
“We are very excited about the new things coming up,” said Dr. Marilyn Hughes, R.D., L.D., director, Atlanta Public Schools Nutrition. “September is going to be our organically grown month here in APS. We will be focusing on two items that our locally-grown vendors are bringing us— cabbage and kale.” APS receives many other locally-grown items, but chose to focus on these traditionally early fall vegetables in September.
The district’s foodservice provider, Sodexo, has contracted with three Georgia-based farms to provide organically grown fruits and vegetables in our school cafeterias. Each farm has been certified by the USDA and the Georgia Department of Agriculture as using organic methods to grow their fruits and vegetables.
By Mariama Tyler Jenkins
My “Day One” at Humphries Elementary School began when I met Kingston Malloy, a second-grade student, who unprompted opened the door for me and his fellow classmates as they were transitioning to another classroom. My first stop was to visit Mr. Houston’s Spanish class where students were introducing themselves, “Me llamo Kingston,” the first student announced. More students followed some more confidently than others.
Next door, Ms. Jones’ first-grade English Language Arts class was hard at work. The students clustered in small groups of four students with each child reading independently. At the front of the class, Ms. Jones was doing individual assessments of students’ mastery and skill set. The veteran teacher likes to get a sense of where her students are right from the beginning. “Let me model for you, because we have to have a clear understanding,” Ms. Jones told the class as she demonstrated what proper reading looks like and what it does not. “Is this reading?” she asked with a book open and resting on and completely covering her face. “No!” the students shouted in virtual unison. “Ok then class, model good reading for me and model for your friends. Are you ready to model for me?”
When she sensed the students’ attention waning and observed some boys and girls chatting and wiggling in their seats, Ms. Jones asked everyone to put down their books and stand up to get their wiggles out. For two minutes the students jumped and shook out their limbs and gave their minds a little break. The students settled back down to read and soon it was time for lunch. “Where are my book managers?” Ms. Jones motioned for the designated students to come forward to collect and put away the classroom books. She likes to give them jobs to build their sense of responsibility.
“I’ve been doing this for 25 years, and I still love it!”
Humphries Elementary Principal Melanie Mitchell spoke to me about her Lady Pearls, a group of mothers she has befriended and is mentoring. “My goal this year is to teach them that their voice matters,” Mitchell says of the parent women’s group she started. Ms. Mitchell wants the women to learn to communicate effectively, to get their point across in way that is firm but respectful. She has gotten to know her student’s moms, asking them about their individual interests, one mom wants to be a chef, and encouraging the mothers to journal and create vision boards for their lives. She inspires them to model good behavior for themselves and for their children. She lets them know that they do not have to let other people’s images of young black mothers, be true. Ms. Mitchell started a GED class for parents at the school so they can improve their job prospects and life circumstances. She tells them “I want you to have ownership of your life; we are going to do this together.” Ms. Mitchell shares with the women her own struggles in school and in raising her family. She has real talk with Lady Pearls. “I see something in them. I care.”
Ms. Mitchell reminds us that we can all use a mentor and a friend, and that we are never too old to be a good student who models good habits.
Day One with Dr. Carstarphen: From Morning Bus Routes to Afternoon Workout
By Scott King
Day One at APS started for Superintendent Meria J. Carstarphen early at the Lakewood Bus Depot. She wanted to make sure our school bus drivers got off to a great start for the 2015-2016 school year.
Her visit kicked off a near marathon school tour, which would take her to several schools in the district.
In our schools, Dr. Carstarphen got the word out that APS was ready to start the school year on the right foot. This included making morning announcements, speaking with the news media, co-anchoring a school newscast and jumping into a lesson plan.
For Dr. Carstarphen, Day One was not limited to instruction as she closed the day with a practice with the South Atlanta Hornets football team.
By Kimberly Willis Green
Staff members from the Georgia Department of Education delivered backpacks filled with school supplies to Atlanta Public Schools’ (APS) Truancy Center Aug. 14. The “back-to-school packs” donated by GaDOE staff were distributed to schools in south and middle Georgia, along with seven metro-area school districts, including APS.
Over the summer, Georgia State School Superintendent Richard Woods heard from educators and parents about the need for donated backpacks and school supplies in Georgia’s schools. In response, he asked GaDOE staff members to come together as an agency and donate backpacks stuffed with school supplies for Georgia students.
“When I heard that students were in need of backpacks and supplies, I wanted to come together and do what we could to help,” Superintendent Woods said. “Our role is to support schools and districts in any way possible. This is a simple gesture, but I hope it was a meaningful one for the students who received backpacks and supplies.”
The GaDOE hopes to expand the drive and make it a statewide event next summer.