Celebrating National School Bus Safety Week: Meet Dispatchers Sandy Asemota and Michelle Muhammad

By: Alicia Sands Lurry

In recognition of National School Bus Safety Week, the following feature is the final in a series of short articles highlighting Atlanta Public Schools Transportation Department employees and their commitment to keep students safe – both on and off the school bus.

NBSW 2017_Sandy Asemota Michelle Muhammad
Sandy Asemota, left, and Michelle Muhammad, work as dispatchers with the Atlanta Transportation Department. 

Meet Sandy Asemota.

In her role as a dispatcher with the APS Transportation Department, Sandy Asemota answers calls regarding buses or students, dispatches buses, and answers messages from schools and the Transportation Call Center. She also informs drivers about weather conditions and makes sure that buses remain on time.

It’s a huge responsibility, but Asemota is more than equipped to do the job.

“I’m the connecting point with bus drivers, children and parents,” said Asemota, who began her APS transportation career as a bus driver before transitioning to a crossing guard and a dispatcher. “It’s important for students to know the rules of entering the bus safely by taking their seats properly and being cognizant of their behavior so they know what the safety rules are: No running, jumping, or standing.”

Asemota’s colleague, Michelle Muhammad, is just as passionate about safety.

A self-described logistics professional, Muhammad said her role as a dispatcher involves making certain that transportation situations are handled and resolved as seamlessly as possibly.

“Our objective is to keep school administrators happy and to bridge a gap or a connection in the community between students, families and bus operators,” Muhammad said. “And as a dispatcher, you do the research and gather all the facts to make proper decisions. We strive very hard to keep everyone safe.”

Congratulations to all of our transportation employees! Be sure to click here for more tips on school bus safety, courtesy of the National Association for Pupil Transportation.

Carver Early College Senior Janae Bethea Receives 2017 National Legion of Valor Bronze Cross Award


Janae Bethea_SYA APS 2017-15

By: Alicia Sands Lurry

Cadet Lt. Col. Janae Bethea, a senior at Carver Early College High School and member of the JROTC (Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps), is the recipient of the 2017 Legion of Valor Bronze Cross Award for Achievement by the Department of the U.S. Army.

Janae, who is known as “Jay” to family and friends, is the only Atlanta Public Schools student and one of 28 recipients to receive the national award this year. Established in 1951, the Legion of Valor Bronze Cross Award for Achievement rewards cadets from the Reserve Officers Training Corps who demonstrate scholastic excellence in military, academic and civic affairs. It is the highest recognition a JROTC cadet can receive.

Chief Warrant Officer Albert Hill, senior Army instructor at Carver Early College, described Janae as a model student with a polite and courteous demeanor. He credits her unwavering work ethic, scholastic achievement, and leadership ability as key reasons she received the award.

Janae was recently recognized for her achievement during the annual Superintendent’s Youth Ambassador breakfast program.

“Jay is well respected among her peers and senior leadership, and I can always depend on her when I need someone to fulfill an obligation that has been assigned to the JROTC department,” Officer Hill said. “She is always a bundle of joy to be around and someone who will ensure the job is done without question or concern. Her inspiration and influence on others help make the entire JROTC program one of the best in the state of Georgia.”

A dual enrollment student at Georgia State University, Janae is currently ranked No. 1 in her graduating class. As a junior, she served as Battalion Commander and Miss JROTC, and is currently rifle captain and a drill team commander. She also participates on JROTC Staff and Color Guard.

“I joined JROTC as a freshman and found a passion and talent for leadership that I didn’t know I had,” said Janae, who plans to study mathematics in college. “One of the greatest things about JROTC is the sense of community it brings to me and everyone in the program. The best feeling comes with helping the community and the people within it through the community service offered in the program.”

In addition to JROTC, Janae is also active in the Helen Ruffin Reading Bowl and chess club. She has received college credits at Stanford University’s High School Summer College and completed a six-month internship at the Office of Congressman John Lewis. Last summer, she received a paid internship with CarterBaldwin Executive Search.

In her spare time, she loves to read fiction.


Celebrating National School Bus Safety Week: Meet Bus Monitor Jaketa Watkins

In recognition of National School Bus Safety Week, the following feature is part of a series of short articles highlighting Atlanta Public Schools Transportation Department employees and their commitment to keep students safe – both on and off the school bus.

NBSW 2017_Jaketa Watkins

Bus monitor Jaketa Watkins loves her job, and she works to make every day as special as possible.

“I try to make my students’ day as joyous and pleasant as possible,” said Watkins, a 14-year veteran who transports special needs students from Usher-Collier Elementary School and Frederick Douglass High School. “They are very sweet kids. I form a relationship with my students to let them know that I’m in control and that there will be respect.”

In her role as a bus monitor Watkins ensures that students abide by bus safety rules at all times.

“I make sure that students sit down, there is no standing, their limbs are not hanging out of the window, and that their seat belts are on at all times,” she said. “It’s extremely important to transport kids to and from home safely.”

Be sure to check out tomorrow’s final feature, which will spotlight transportation dispatchers Sandy Asemota and Michelle Muhammad.


National School Bus Safety Week: Meet Vincent Parks, Master Technician

By: Alicia Sands Lurry

In recognition of National School Bus Safety Week, the following feature is part of a series of short articles highlighting Atlanta Public Schools Transportation Department employees and their commitment to keep students safe – both on and off the school bus.

Vincent Parks, Master technician

NBSW 2017_Vincent Parks

As a master technician, Vincent Parks’ responsibilities range from managing a team of six mechanics and ensuring school buses and seat belts are maintained, to addressing mechanical issues and guaranteeing national safety standards are met.

It is a role that Parks said he truly enjoys.

“My team and I want to make sure kids are picked up and get home safely,” Parks said. “The goal is to make sure kids arrive home safely and that everything works properly. It’s great to know that you’re doing something important and allowing someone’s child to arrive home safely. That makes me feel good.”

Be sure to check out tomorrow’s feature, which will profile Bus monitor Jaketa Watkins.


Celebrating National School Bus Safety Week: Meet Torres Williams, Assistant Supervisor of Transportation

By: Alicia Sands Lurry

In recognition of National School Bus Safety Week, the following feature is part of a series of short articles highlighting Atlanta Public Schools Transportation Department employees and their commitment to keep students safe – both on and off the school bus.

Torres Williams, Assistant transportation supervisor

NBSW 2017_Torres Williams

As assistant supervisor of transportation, Torres Williams ensures that students are picked up on time, and that drivers know what to do in case of an emergency or accident.

For Williams, National School Bus Safety Week serves as a consistent reminder that students are precious cargo.

“Kids are our No. 1 priority, safety is our No. 1 concern, and bus safety is more important than anything else,” said Williams, who is a former school bus driver and has been with the district for 1 1/2 years. “I encourage motorists to be more cautious and pay attention, as most accidents occur when people do not obey stop signs and pay attention to kids crossing the street.”

As for his job, Williams said he loves the interaction with bus drivers and monitors the most.

Tomorrow’s feature will profile Vincent Parks, master technician.

APS Squads Impress at Metro Cheerleading Championships

Mays Cheer 2017 (APS Champions)
The Mays co-ed (above), KIPP Atlanta Collegiate and KIPP Metro squads all took first place in their respective divisions at the 2017 Atlanta Public Schools Metro Cheer Competition, held Saturday at Douglass High School.

Atlanta Public Schools cheerleading squads flexed their muscles and voices at the 2017 APS Metro Cheerleading Competition, held Saturday at Douglass High School.

An APS squad placed in nearly every category, with the Mays co-ed, KIPP Atlanta Collegiate and KIPP Metro Middle School squads taking home championships. Mays won the Co-Ed Division Championship, KIPP Atlanta Collegiate won the AA Division Championship and KIPP Metro won the A Middle School Division Championship.

Other APS squads placing in the top three were:

Atlanta Classical Academy, High School Junior Varsity Division, Third Place
Washington, High School AA Division, Third Place
Maynard Jackson, High School AAAAA Division, Third Place
North Atlanta (Below), High School AAAAAA Division, Second Place

North Atlanta Cheerleading 2017
KIPP Vision, Middle School A Division, Second Place
Drew Charter, Middle School A Division, Third Place
Brown (Below), Middle School AA Division, Second Place

Brown Middle School Cheerleaders 2017
Sylvan Hills, Middle School AA Division, Third Place
Bunche, Middle School AAA Division, Second Place
Sutton, Middle School AAA Division, Third Place

Meet Dr. Dione Simon Taylor, 2018 APS Principal of the Year


Every October the nation honors the hard work and dedication of school principals during Principals Month. Atlanta Public Schools salutes all principals in APS who lead our schools with excellence and dedication. In this article, we highlight Dr. Dione Simon Taylor, 2018 APS Principal of the Year.

As far back as she can remember, Dr. Dione Simon Taylor knew she wanted to work in education. The Towns Elementary School principal, who now carries the distinction of being the 2018 Atlanta Public Schools Principal of the Year, said being a principal is the “best thing ever.” Her bubbly personality and infectious smile will brighten up any room and exudes her passion for education. Prior to coming to Towns, Taylor occupied many roles in education: math teacher, avid coordinator, assistant principal, and principal at Coretta Scott King Middle School.

When it comes to being a principal, Taylor said it can sometimes feel like you are juggling many balls. Taylor, whose Gallup Strengths are: Strategic, Achiever, Futuristic, Learner and Relator, credits her ability to tap into her strengths as one secret to her success. When coming to Towns three years ago, she was confident she could improve performance at the school.  “I’m a learner and I had great support,” Taylor said.  After seven years as a principal, she shared some of her key strategies for leading.

Be All-In. Taylor said being a principal is not a job for the faint of heart, and it is impossible to be successful without giving it all you’ve got.

“My former principal Dr. Tyronne Smith at Mays told me, ‘No matter what you think the principal’s job is, you don’t really know until you are the principal.’ I’ve learned it’s about being all-in.  You can’t do this job halfway and expect to be successful.  You also have to build a team of followers who feel the same way. You’ve got to be all-in and know what’s happening in your building,” said Taylor.

Hire Well and Retain Like-Minded People. Taylor makes it a goal to hire people who work hard, enjoy coming to work, and share a love for a people. Taylor said she has learned that hiring well and retaining talent is a key to achieving the mission.

“You have to give people the opportunity to do their job. When I first came to Towns, I wanted to love on people, make them feel supported and cared for,” she said.  “At the end of the day, we go home and feel good about the work we do.”

Become an Instructional Leader. Taylor credits her new supervisor, APS Associate Superintendent Dr. Emily Massey, as the catalyst who helped her to implement practices to be a more effective instructional leader.

“Dr. Massey changed the game for me.  She has been so supportive and she knows what it takes to move the needle,” said Taylor. “Student outcomes are critically important. Becoming an instructional leader requires me to be in classrooms, keep a focus on results, and have a laser-like focus on what needs to happen.”

Use Every Available Resource to Help Students. With a belief that all children can do this work, Taylor believes we have to get focused on making learning happen.

“We educate kids and parents on what is critically important. We have to give kids choices in life. We take care of all the needs of families so our kids are ready to learn,” said Taylor.

The team at Tiger Town was elated when Taylor was surprised as Principal of the Year. When some were asked for words to describe their leader, the list was illustrious: passionate, thoughtful, teacher, thorough, focused, caring, positive, polished, smart, friendly, dedicated, leader, understanding, considerate,  selfless… We agree to this list and more!

Taylor, along with outstanding teachers and district leaders, will be recognized during the APyeS awards on Wednesday, Oct. 25, at the Woodruff Arts Center.  Congratulations, Dr. Dione Simon Taylor, 2018 Atlanta Public Schools Principal of the Year.