Office of Student Services Hosts Volunteer Appreciation Ceremony

2018 Volunteers - group shot
The Office of Student Services hosted the annual Student Services Volunteer Appreciation Ceremony on Thursday, April 19, to honor APS volunteers, donors and partners.

By: Alicia Sands Lurry

Volunteer Appreciation Program On Thursday, April 19, the Office of Student Services hosted its annual Student Services Volunteer Appreciation Ceremony to express gratitude to Atlanta Public Schools volunteers for the amazing work they do to support schools and improve students’ lives.

Held at the Cleveland L. Dennard Conference Center at Atlanta Technical College, the ceremony honored 20 individual volunteers, donors and partnering organizations. The event was held in recognition of National Volunteer Week, April 15-21, to celebrate people in action and the importance of community outreach.

During the ceremony, APS social workers demonstrated their appreciation by offering remarks and presenting their school’s respective partners and donors with commemorative plaques. Associate Superintendent of Student Services Tammie Workman also recognized several APS partners and volunteers for collectively making a difference in students’ lives.

“Thank you for spreading kindness, concern, effort, resources, time, and your commitment for APS schools, students, and families,” Workman said. “I read somewhere that ‘success means we go to sleep at night knowing that our talents and abilities were used in a way that served others.’ You all should be able to sleep well as you are using your own special talents and abilities for the betterment of our future…and that is the investment in our kids. We are so very thankful for you and all that you do.”

Some of those partners include:

  • The Atlanta Police Department and MARTA truancy officers;
  • Vision To Learn and Onsite 20/20 for providing students with free eye exams and glasses;
  • The Anti-Defamation League for working with school counselors to implement inclusive and supportive activities for all students through the “No Place for Hate” campaign;
  • The Atlanta Community Food Bank for feeding nearly 10,000 APS students and families;
  • Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., for collecting hygiene packs and backpacks for homeless children; and
  • Watchman Warriors for donating coats, hats, scarves, backpacks and school supplies to students in need

“This was a valuable opportunity to recognize our partners and to show how much we appreciate and value their work,” said Social Work Services Coordinator Dr. Jacquelyn Anthony,  who coordinated the event. “We are so grateful to them for helping meet the needs of our students.”

Click here for a complete list of this year’s honorees.




APS Salutes Paraprofessionals: Meet Regina Edward of Garden Hills Elementary School

Regina Edward

By: Alicia Sands Lurry

Atlanta Public Schools proudly salutes paraprofessionals across the District. In recognition of Paraprofessional Appreciation Day, which was celebrated earlier this month, APS honors the nearly 600 full-time and hourly paraprofessionals who provide support to our teachers in the classroom every day to ensure every student succeeds.

One such paraprofessional is Regina Edward, who works as a pre-K parapro at Garden Hills Elementary School. A paraprofessional since 2016, Edward previously served a pre-school director, pre-school teacher, and an applied behavior analyst for children requiring specialized behavioral and academic therapy before starting her career at APS.

Having spent her entire career working with young children, Edward will tell anyone who asks that her work as a paraprofessional is more than just a job – it is a mission.

In fact, it was Edward’s love for education, as well as her passion and commitment to working with children in the public sector that ultimately led her to APS.

“This is where I wanted to be,” said Edward, who is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree in general and special education from Mercer University. “I love seeing children’s growth and I love working with English Language Learners. To see these children blossom to where they begin talking and writing sentences is amazing.”

In her role as a pre-K paraprofessional, Edward assists lead teacher Jessica Bergstrom with a classroom of 22 children in providing small-group instruction, classroom management, as well as addressing behavioral issues.

“She’s an awesome teacher,” Edward said of her colleague. “Our goal is to do what’s best for the children.”

Garden Hills Principal Stacey Abbott contends that Edward is just as talented of a professional.

“Regina is amazing,” Abbott said. “When you’re in the classroom, you never know who is the teacher and who is the parapro. She and the teacher both equal. In addition to that, our parents love her. She’s really an angel. You can see the wings as she walks down the hall.”

Edward aspires to become the type of educator who inspires students based on her belief that all children can succeed.

“I want to be that teacher who goes the extra mile, and I hope to live up those expectations,” said Edward, who will graduate in 2019. “The day I lose passion for what I do is the day I no longer want to work with children.”


Hollis Academy Teacher Surprised With Donors Choose Award

Donors Choose_Hollis Academy.LaKeesha Jones
LaKeesha Jones (third from left), a Hollis Innovation Academy pre-K teacher, was surprised with a $2,000 Donors Choose gift card from representatives with PNC Bank. Also pictured is: Sydney Ahearn (second from left), director of Early Learning for APS; Hollis Academy Principal Dr. Diamond Jack; Erica Dechicchis, senior vice president of Client and Community Relations for PNC Bank; and Tabetha McCracken, also of PNC Bank.

By: Alicia Sands Lurry

On Friday, April 13, Hollis Innovation Academy pre-K teacher LaKeesha Jones received one of the best surprises any educator could ask for: a $2,000 gift to fund the classroom project of her choice.

Thanks to a donation from PNC Bank and Donors Choose, Jones was surprised with a  $2,000 gift card, a red super hero cape, flowers, special plaque, and dozens of cupcakes to share with students and staff. The surprise also includes an additional $2,000 gift to a pre-K teacher of Jones’ choosing.

“Early education is very important to us,” said Erica Dechicchis, senior vice president of Client and Community Relations for PNC Bank. “Our goal is to recognize awesome teachers. Ms. Jones is our teacher hero.”

The donation comes as part of the PNC Bank’s “Grow Up Great” initiative, which focuses on early childhood education and brings arts and sciences into the classroom.

“This is awesome,” said Jones, who has worked as a pre-K teacher for the past nine years. “I’m at a loss for words.”

Grady High School Robotics Team Captures 2018 Peachtree State Championship

Grady_2018 Peachtree District State Championship

By: Alicia Sands Lurry

Last weekend, the award-winning Henry W. Grady High School G3 Robotics team put their programming skills to the test to capture the 2018 Peachtree State District Championship in Athens.

Held on Saturday, April 6, at the University of Georgia Stegeman Coliseum, the championship victory marked a first for the Grady team, which ended its state competition with four blue banners, two qualifying tournament wins, and a qualifying Chairman’s Award. The team has also been honored twice with the Gracious Professionalism Award at the qualifying and state level.

Grady will now go on to compete with students from across the country at the FIRST Championship, April 18 – 21, in Houston, Texas.

G3 Robotics is currently ranked first in the state by qualifying points, edging out its alliance partners in Duluth and Athens, Team 1102 M’Aiken Magic. The executive leadership team includes: senior Hannah Prausnitz-Weinbaum, team captain; junior Emma Zuniga Martin, engineering operations lead; senior Jacob Salomon, non-engineering operations lead; senior Zoie Nichols, drones operations lead; and sophomore Anthony Cochran, junior varsity team captain.

Grady’s head coach Andrew Nichols said he couldn’t be more proud of his students.

“I am so proud of the members of G3,” Nichols said. “This win is the culmination of three years of hard work developing engineering, project management, and collaborative problem-solving skills. We are ranked first of 82 teams in Georgia and 98th of 4,500 teams internationally going into the FIRST Championship in Houston. This is our fourth year in a row qualifying for FIRST championships, and I am very excited to see the team excel on the ultimate level of competition.”

The mission of FIRST (For Inspiration & Recognition of Science & Technology) is to inspire young people to be science and technology leaders and innovators. Elementary, middle and high school students engage in exciting, mentor-based programs that build science, engineering and technology skills, which inspire innovation and foster well-rounded life capabilities, such as self-confidence, communication and leadership.

For more information about watching the FIRST championship via live stream, be sure to visit:










APS Students Take a Stand During National School Walk Out Day

Gradystudents335On March 14, thousands of students across Atlanta Public Schools made their voices heard as part of National School Walkout Day to protest school violence and in support of stricter gun laws. It is estimated that more than 16,000 APS students from 24 schools participated in the student-led demonstrations.

Brimming with demonstrations and civic engagement activities, students’ participation in the national initiative comes on the heels of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Broward County, Florida, where 17 students were gunned down in February. From speeches and marches, to moments of silence, students coordinated peaceful protests in honor the 17 shooting victims.

APS was supportive of this momentous opportunity for students to engage in safe, structured, student-led civic activities around a national dialogue. Student participation was optional. Student leaders from each school developed their own plans for how their school would protest.

At North Atlanta High School, hundreds of students gathered on the football field, where they observed a moment of silence in honor of the victims. Members of the North Atlanta High School Student Government Association gave short speeches, while dozens of other students held large orange flowers to symbolize the peaceful call to end gun violence.

“As students, we’re here to say we’re tired that the gun violence continues to happen,” said North Atlanta High School SGA president and senior Chandler Smith. “We want to usher in a new movement and spread passion to spark the change we want to see.”

At Grady High School, about 500 students gathered in the football stadium for the protest. Many of them wore orange, which has become the official color of the national student-led protest movement. Most all of them wore an orange ribbon in honor of the Parkland victims. The students listened to speeches by the leaders of the Grady Student Government Association and then took two laps around the track before returning to the building. They were joined on the field by a group of about 30 adults – made up of parents, grandparents, Grady alumni and community residents —  who supported their cause.

At Washington High School, about 600 students decided to remain inside the building and filed into the hallways and walkways and silently kneeled and bowed their heads in honor of the victims in Parkland.

Washington students kneeled and bowed their heads to protest the gun violence in Parkland, Florida and around the nation. 

Check out a video of the Washington events here:

Inman Middle School students held a spirited rally and formed a human chain around their school. Check out some of the photos from the day.

View a video of the Inman events here:

In her blog on, APS Superintendent Meria Carstarphen wrote, “As the birthplace and school district of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Atlanta Public Schools takes seriously our responsibility to prepare our students to succeed beyond high school and to help them become well-rounded individuals equipped with the knowledge and tools necessary for actively engaging in society.”

She continued, “APS is focused on graduating every student ready for college and career. But, at the same time, we know that for our students to succeed, they must also be able to engage in the world around them. We believe that by creating opportunities for safe, structured, student-led civic engagement around a national dialogue such as this one, we are ultimately helping our students develop social and emotional learning skills and be informed residents in our democracy.”

There were so many activities from schools around the district. Click here to view more highlights on the March 14 activities in Atlanta Public Schools.


APS Recognizes Atlanta Board of Education Members During School Board Appreciation Week March 12-16

(From L-R) Atlanta Board of Education Members Leslie Grant, District 1; Byron D. Amos, District 2; Michelle D. Olympiadis, District 3; Vice-Chair Eshé P. Collins, District 6; Board Chair Jason F. Esteves, At-Large, Seat 9 (Districts 5&6); Nancy M. Meister, District 4; Erika Mitchell, District 5; Kandis Wood Jackson, At-Large, Seat 7 (Districts 1&2) and Cynthia Briscoe Brown, At-Large, Seat 8 (Districts 3&4). Photo Credit: APS

ATLANTA – Atlanta Public Schools honors members of the Atlanta Board of Education (ABOE) during School Board Appreciation Week, March 12-16, 2018, for their commitment to providing a quality education for the students they serve. This week celebrates the substantial contributions of the local boards of education.

The ABOE is made up of nine members representing six geographical areas and three “at-large” districts. The school board members are responsible for establishing and approving the educational policies that govern the Atlanta Public Schools system. As community leaders, school board members serve as advocates for the children in local public schools and must study, evaluate and decide what actions are in the best interest of those students.

Jason F. Esteves, At-Large Seat 9, Districts 5&6, serves as the chair of the board, and the current vice chair is Eshe’ P. Collins, District 6. Other members of the ABOE include:

  • Leslie Grant, District 1
  • Byron D. Amos, District 2
  • Michelle D. Olympiadis, District 3
  • Nancy Meister, District 4
  • Erika Mitchell, District 5
  • Kandis Wood Jackson, At-Large, Seat 7 (Districts 1&2)
  • Cynthia Briscoe Brown, At-Large, Seat 8 (Districts 3&4)

Not only do members of the Atlanta school board serve on behalf of their respective geographical districts, ABOE members also serve on various board committees such as:

  • Accountability Committee – Jason Esteves, Eshe’ P. Collins and Kandis Wood Jackson
  • Audit Committee – Leslie Grant (Chair), Eshe’ P. Collins, and Michelle Olympiadis
  • Budget Committee – Nancy Meister (Chair), Byron Amos, Michelle Olympiadis and Jason Esteves (Ex Officio)
  • Policy Review Committee – Cynthia Briscoe Brown (Chair), Kandis Wood Jackson, Erika Mitchell and Jason Esteves (Ex Officio)
  • Legislative Liaisons – Byron Amos and Kandis Wood Jackson (2018-2019)

Additionally, members of the ABOE represent the district on the boards of several external organizations from the National School Boards Association, the Council of Urban Boards of Education to the Council of Great City Schools and Invest Atlanta. School Board Appreciation Week is sponsored by the Georgia School Boards Association.



Atlanta Public Schools Celebrates Public Schools Week


Atlanta Public Schools joins national education groups representing principals, superintendents, parents and other civic organizations for Public Schools Week, March 12-16, 2018, which celebrates the achievements our public schools are making in this country and the critical roles they play in developing future generations of successful students.

As part of Public Schools Week, 50 national organizations have issued a joint statement in support of public education to promote the positive impact public schools have on our nation’s young people and the communities in which they live. To maintain this momentum, Members of Congress supporting this movement will share success stories about the schools and students from their respective districts throughout the week.

Advocates of public education believe to create stronger communities it starts with each of us working collaboratively to create stronger public schools.  A high-quality education provides students with the skills to give them choices in life. In every school, no matter their economic status, school cluster or zip code, students are equipped with the academic, career, and social-emotional skills to achieve. Public Schools Week celebrates the contributions made by America’s public schools and the potential of our schools to continue to change lives and communities for the better.

On Thursday, March 15, from 1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. (EDT), members of Congress, educators, students, parents and other supporters of public education across the country are encouraged to join the conversation via Twitter (#PublicSchoolsWeek) and share why they support this initiative and the outstanding work accomplished by public schools.

Click here to view the list of organizations participating in Public Schools Week.