Hollis Receives Lü Interactive Playground to Help Build STEM Initiatives

Math, but make it fun! Hollis Innovation Academy students received a Lü Interactive Playground thanks to AT&T and the Westside Future Fund! The telecommunications company, has donated $200,000 towards the $16.4M pledge from Westside Future Fund. The contribution supports STEM-based education at Hollis Innovation Academy.

The Lü Interactive Playground is self described as a system that transforms traditional school environments into immersive and interactive spaces, using a vast catalog of purposeful activities and world-class audiovisual equipment.

The school launched the program during a Friday morning assembly, where students were paired into teams. Classmates cheered each other on as team members competed to solve math problems. Students seemed to enjoy the fast pace game and the entire visual experience.

Dr. Diamond Ford, principal of Hollis Innovation Academy, is excited to receive this new way of impactful learning.

“This investment will make a tremendous difference as we make Hollis Academy an innovative learning model that benefits our students, families and the surrounding community,” Ford said.

The K-8 school already has plans to use the Lü Interactive Playground not only for educational purposes, but for community meeting structures and an indoor recess activity during inclement weather.

The playground is expected to integrate perfectly into the structure of Hollis Innovation Academy, as most students are already using technology at home and in the classroom.

As a STEM focused school, Hollis looks forward to further integrating technology in all areas of its programming.

APS Office of Partnerships Welcomes Two Team Members

APS proudly welcomes Joi Hunter, development coordinator, and Upenda Dubose, partnerships manager, to the Office of Partnerships & Development.

Upenda Dubose is celebrating her ninth year with Atlanta Public Schools and is excited about her new position as partnerships manager within the Office of Partnerships and Development. She brings a wealth of diverse experiences from both the corporate and education sectors. Most recently, Dubose served as project manager for Michael R. Hollis Innovation Academy- the first Pre K- eighth grade public school in APS. She was responsible for managing projects, including opening the new school and year-one logistics. She also developed a robust partnerships program that engaged stakeholders and supported the school’s strategic plan. During her three-year tenure at Hollis, Dubose was either directly responsible for or supported fundraising for over $16 million in monetary and in-kind donations to the school. She is a proud graduate of Alabama A&M University, where she received a bachelor’s degree in finance. She also holds a master’s degree in education from Central Michigan University and an educational specialist degree in curriculum and instruction from Nova Southeastern University.

Joi Hunter is excited to join APS as the new development coordinator after working with Voices for Georgia’s Children (Voices) and her own consulting firm. She is a results-oriented, non-profit professional with proven experience in outreach, grants management, fundraising and project management. Before joining Voices as the first fundraising and communications director, Hunter served as director of National Development Strategy with OneGoal, a college access organization. During her time, she worked to ensure strong, effective stakeholder engagement (organization-wide) to reach a revenue goal of over $20 million. Previously, Joi worked for the KIPP Foundation, Teach for America and the Thurgood Marshall College Fund. Born and raised in Atlanta, Hunter is a proud graduate of Frederick Douglass High School. She also graduated from Howard University, where she received her bachelor of arts degrees in English and philosophy. She also completed a year of studying philosophy at Syracuse University and returned to Howard University to earn her master’s degree in philosophy. 

The Partnerships team looks forward to serving you and working with you this school year. Please reach out to Joi and Upenda for support!

We Are APS: CSKYWLA Social Worker Named ‘Hunger Hero’

Latanya Farrar is a hero to many – especially to those families of students at Coretta Scott King Young Women’s Leadership Academy (CSKYWLA) and B.E.S.T. Academy.

Farrar, who serves as school social worker and pantry coordinator with the Atlanta Community Food Bank (AFCB), recently received the Hunger Hero Award by the Atlanta Community Food Bank for distributing over 18,000 meals to 904 families for the year.

In her role as pantry coordinator, Farrar ensures that families and surrounding community members are aware and participate monthly. CSKYWLA established the food pantry in 2015 in partnership with AFCB to quickly distribute large volumes of food directly to communities in need. The overall mission is to fight hunger by engaging, educating and empowering the community.

Farrar actively promotes the pantry throughout the school community and to neighboring residents and senior citizens in the area. On distribution day, long lines form well before the pantry opens.

Thanks to Farrar’s leadership, the food pantry at CSKYWLA is now recognized as one of the best pantries within Atlanta Public Schools.

“Our families and community members have grown to depend on our monthly distribution, and I know we are having an impact when I hear responses like, ‘This food will help me make it through the week,’ and ‘I’ll be cooking a full meal tonight,'” said Farrar, who was the only coordinator from APS to receive the Hunger Hero award. “People are very thankful for whatever food and other products they receive.”

For more information about the Atlanta Community Food Bank and its mission, visit: https://acfb.org/

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.

Let’s Talk! A New Customer Service Solution for APS

Atlanta Public Schools (APS) has launched a new online customer service tool called Let’s Talk! The tool is designed to make it easier for the public to connect and engage with APS, ask questions, offer feedback, or share ideas. Let’s Talk! can be conveniently accessed through the District’s website at http://www.atlantapublicschools.us or through the APS Mobile App using your smartphone, tablet or other mobile device.

You can download the APS mobile app from your Google or Apple store. Just search for “Atlanta Public Schools.”

Once in Let’s Talk!, the public can choose from a number of APS topic areas, including transportation, safety and security, school nutrition, facilities, Go Teams, individual schools, special education, human resources, Board of Education, general inquiries and much more! Just submit your question, comment or suggestion to APS.

In addition to providing an additional opportunity for the public to engage with APS, Let’s Talk! will help APS see the kinds of questions being asked districtwide. It will also create a consistent customer service experience for the public by streamlining customer service efforts within APS, preventing duplication and providing a seamless and timely response to the customer.

Listening and engaging with the community and using online tools like Let’s Talk is a key part of the District’s journey toward becoming a high-performingschool district where students love to learn, educators inspire, families engage, and the community trusts the system.

SEL Reads. Dr. C Leads. Here are the August Books of the Month …

A, B, read along with Dr. C!

Join our Superintendent Dr. Meria J. Carstarphen throughout the school year as she reads books related to social and emotional learning (SEL).  Our SEL books for the month of August are All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold and Suzanne Kaufman for elementary readers, Seedfolks by Paul Fleischman for middle school readers, and Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, and Kimberly Kirberger for high school readers.

August Theme: Welcome to the School Community

We recognize the value of our home communities, while making a daily contribution to our school community through acts of kindness.

Book Summaries

  • All Are Welcome (elementary selection for August) lets young children know that no matter what, they have a place, they have a space, and they are welcome in their schools. Follow a group of children through a day in their school, where students grow and learn from each other’s traditions. It’s a book that celebrates diversity and gives encouragement and support to all kids.
  • In Seedfolks (middle school selection for August and September), a Vietnamese girl plants six lima beans in a Cleveland vacant lot. Looking down on the immigrant-filled neighborhood, a Romanian woman watches suspiciously. A school janitor gets involved, then a Guatemalan family. Then muscle-bound Curtis, trying to win back Lateesha. Pregnant Maricela. Amir from India. A sense of community sprouts and spreads.
  • Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul (high school selection for August) shares stories for teens that will bring about laughter and tears. The book is designed to motivate, comfort, reassure and remind teens that they go through similar circumstances, which makes them a community.

SEL Competency

Relationship Skills allow students to develop and maintain healthy relationships with others, including the ability to resist negative social pressures, resolve interpersonal conflict, and seek help when needed. Students need to be able to work well with their classmates in order to participate in collaborative groups.

Several copies of each book are available at school libraries/media centers and can also be found in myBackpack via Class Pass @APS.

We Are APS: Derrick Mosley

Brown Middle School English/language arts teacher Derrick Mosley spent five amazing weeks in Tanzania this summer examining the country’s educational system and immersing himself in African culture and tradition as part of the prestigious Fulbright-Hays Program.

As a Fulbright-Hays fellow, Mosley worked with a group of teachers from across the country to design and create a language arts and social studies curricula titled, “Thinking Globally About Local Issues to Develop Teachers’ Cultural Competence and International Awareness in Africa: A Short-Term Curriculum Development Seminar in Tanzania.” His journey included attending language labs and lectures, touring museums and spice farms, visiting cultural sites, and learning about Tanzanian history, local customs and traditions.

A seasoned traveler and dedicated APS educator with over 20 years of experience, Mosley has taught middle school language arts, high school English, as well as served as a counselor at the elementary, middle and high school levels. Selected for his effectiveness as both a teacher and professional school counselor, Mosley plans to share his knowledge with students and fellow colleagues while incorporating the curricula into the classroom.

The Fulbright-Hays Teacher Fellow program is open to educators and administrators with responsibilities for curriculum development in fields related to humanities, languages, and area studies. The program awards grants to individual U.S. K-14 pre-teachers, teachers and administrators, pre-doctoral students and post-doctoral faculty, as well as to U.S. institutions and organizations while supporting research and training efforts overseas focusing on non-Western foreign languages and area studies. The Fulbright-Hays Program is funded by a Congressional appropriation to the U.S. Dept. of Education.

Learn more about Mosley’s experience in the question and answer below:

How would you describe your overall experience traveling to Tanzania this summer?

I can honestly say that the entire experience was life-altering! The emotions were plenty and for various reasons. I viewed this experience as one for teaching and learning, but also a spiritual journey. Long before I had a driver’s license, I had a passport, so I’ve traveled abroad and to the Caribbean; but this time, it was so different. We were encouraged to experience it as indigenous people. But I would also like to add that you cannot have an experience like this and not miss the opportunity to reevaluate a (potential) change in practice and perspective.

What was the purpose of the Fulbright-Hays Teacher Fellowship, and how were you selected?

The purpose of the Fulbright Fellowship was to go and examine the Tanzanian educational system and to do a critical analysis. I was quite amazed because I believe that every student comes with a certain level of cultural capital and it then becomes incumbent upon teachers to acknowledge it … and then reflect and assess our own cultural competence. In terms of the selection process, it was a very arduous one. They make it clear that this is not a travel opportunity but an opportunity to teach, learn and serve. We had to apply and present our philosophy of education and how it could possibly align with the focus of the seminar. The process also consisted of several individual and group interviews.

How did you develop your curricula in Tanzania, and how do you plan to implement it into your teaching at Brown Middle School?

Dr. Pedro Noguera (Distinguished Professor of Education at the Graduate School of Education and Information Studies at UCLA) often speaks about “relational learners,” so I make it a point to maintain and nurture ALL relationships. In addition, I worked with a cadre of teachers from all over to design and create English/ language arts and social studies curricula that we could come back and share with and redeliver to our own specific school districts. It is also important to note that the Tanzanian model is not without flaw; however, I believe in giving students a world-class education. Often times, it means stretching myself and the students more than we are comfortable with. It means encouraging and requiring ALL of us to look at various points of view before prescribing or accepting various answers or anecdotes.

What knowledge do you hope to share with your students and colleagues?

I believe in shared responsibility; however, I also believe in shared accountability. There is the Nguni Bantu term Ubuntu that is often translated to the philosophical expression of: “In order for me to be all that (I) can be, I need for (YOU) to be all that you can be, so that (WE) can be all that we can be.” We must be deliberate and intentional about the role and responsibility of effectively building capacity. I believe that if we’re not researching and utilizing best practice, it’s tantamount to malpractice. It is my fervent hope that we work to close the achievement gap by eliminating the “opportunity gap.” Encouraging our students to seek out opportunities should be one of the many learning tools that we stress. I am the beneficiary of the Fulbright Fellowship because I make it a priority to seek out opportunities that will make me better. As a young student matriculating through this very system, I saw many of my teachers do the same.

How did your experience as a veteran teacher and counselor prepare you for the fellowship?

I’ve always been an avid reader. Many of my family and friends will tell you that one of my favorite books is Spencer Johnson’s “Who Moved My Cheese?” When my position as professional school counselor was abolished, I, once again, used the experience as a “teaching and learning” opportunity. My experience as a veteran teacher and counselor also prepared me to look at multicultural morals and values of those I encountered as well as always assessing group dynamics. It also provided me somewhat of a global framework and perspective that will allow me (and my students) to problem-solve and continue to work to create a world-class education for us all.

Is there anything else you would like to share?

Two reflections! I read (Associate Superintendent) Dr. Emily Massey’s dissertation a number of years ago, and one of the many salient points that she made was that when children are exposed, they want to know more and learn more. Their own questions become more complex because they begin to make the connections. Also, it was an honor to serve in the role of what I call a cultural and educational ambassador. What I know for sure, is that African and African-American people are not monolithic. Being afforded the opportunity to experience this part of Africa will allow my students to benefit significantly. I made it a priority to bring back copious amounts of artifacts so that they too, will have a more informed and healthy interest in Africa. I encourage more educators to take advantage of these teaching and learning opportunities.

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.

Meet Dobbs Elementary School’s New Principal


Tiffany M. Ragin is the new principal at John Wesley Dobbs Elementary School, located in the South Atlanta Cluster. Ragin has served as assistant principal at Dobbs and will embark on this journey as principal with more than 20 years of service to Atlanta Public Schools.

As assistant principal at Dobbs from 2016 to 2018, she facilitated and led teachers and students to make incremental gains in the core content areas by a minimum 3 percentage points.

From 1998 to 2007, she taught grammar, reading, social studies and writing skills at Jean Childs Young Middle School. As a classroom teacher, she conducted a writer’s professional development workshop that resulted in an eighth-grade data increase from 85 percent to 93 percent passing on standardized testing.

At Sylvan and Bunche middle schools, Ragin coordinated and facilitated schoolwide writing and language arts instruction. As a result, eighth-grade writing test scores increased from 69 percent to 79 percent passing during the 2007-2008 school year.

As a Title I education specialist, Ragin provided school plan guidance and budget support of Title I programs that enhanced opportunities for student growth and improved student performance in 19 schools.

She holds a B.S. in middle grades education from Fort Valley State University, M.Ed. in middle grades education from Brenau University, and an education specialist degree from Lincoln Memorial University.


Favorite ColorOrange
Favorite Past timeShopping and High-Intensity Exercise
Favorite RestaurantCheesecake Factory
Favorite Subject in SchoolLanguage Arts
Interesting Personal Insight“I have a 16-year-old daughter who has traveled the world through Girls Going Global.”
Favorite Advice to Students“Always ask questions and speak up for yourself. It fosters the ability to take ownership and accountability.”

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.