It is with tremendous humility and great excitement that I address you today as the new Superintendent of Atlanta Public Schools. I want to sincerely express my gratitude to the Atlanta Board of Education and the Atlanta Public Schools (APS) community for believing in my vision for this school district and creating this opportunity for me to serve as its new leader.
I have long admired APS, and I am honored to now be an official part of this team.
Even in the excitement of this moment, I must acknowledge the current civil unrest in our community as we grapple with racial injustice, and the trauma our families face as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
With so many competing priorities in our lives, we must still remember the importance of creating the space for our students, staff, and families to express their feelings, process what is occurring around them, and begin their journey toward both an emotional and physical healing. This is no easy task and it will take time to complete, but the path forward must include those steps.
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted all sectors of our economy, and in public education, it has amplified the importance of decision making through the lens of equity. In some ways, it has created an opportunity for innovation in this space, and while technology will play a key role in that work, it won’t be the only solution. I look forward to collaborating with the Board, the team at APS, our students, parents, and the community on forging the right path forward for our most precious commodity: our student scholars at APS.
Soon, we will be coming back to the community to share our decision regarding the reopening of school for the 2020-2021 school year. First and foremost, we want to ensure that our students and staff can return to school safely. Any decision we make will be heavily driven by the public health guidelines provided at that time. That decision will also include best practices for instruction and effective ways to bring students back to school with a combination of academic, social-emotional, and wraparound supports.
We are currently preparing for three potential reopening scenarios: virtual, traditional, or a hybrid of both. Given the unpredictable nature of the pandemic, APS will need to be flexible and able to move from one scenario to another, depending on the spread of COVID-19 at any given time. That flexibility must be in place at the start of our school year, and any time during our school year.
As part of our engagement with the community, APS held several virtual town hall meetings and sent surveys to parents and staff in recent weeks. We remain committed to that engagement as we finalize a decision.
Today’s swearing-in ceremony at the Alonzo A. Crim Center for Learning and Leadership created a heartfelt homecoming for me. As a Georgia native, born and raised in Macon and a graduate of Southwest High School, and as someone whose undergraduate and graduate education includes degrees from Spelman College, the University of Georgia, and Georgia Southern University, my career has come full-circle in taking on the role of Superintendent at APS.
My roots are in Georgia, and I’ve lived and worked in Atlanta for portions of my career. Today isn’t just about my coming to APS. Today is about my coming home, and I am so grateful that I was able to share this moment with my family by my side.
I want to recognize and thank Dr. Meria Carstarphen for her leadership and guidance and for the work done to transform APS. I am excited about the work ahead and the way forward as outlined in the District’s 2025 strategic plan and the Board’s equity policy.
Some of our most impactful strategies will emerge through the work we do together. That work must also include the voices of our students who can serve as change-agents and co-creators of everything we do.
Once again, I send a heartfelt thank you to this community, and I invite you to learn more about me on the Meet the Superintendent page on our website.
Be well, stay healthy, and have a blessed day.