Atlanta Public Schools Seeks Public Feedback on Proposed Spending Plan for 2017-2018 School Year

The Budget Commission of the Atlanta Board of Education met on Thursday afternoon to review the tentative budget proposal for the 2017-2018 school year. Four community meetings will be held, starting April 27, to garner feedback from the public on the spending plan.

Atlanta Public Schools (APS) will host a series of community meetings to receive feedback from parents and tax payers on its proposed General Fund Budget for the 2017-2018 school year (Fiscal Year 2018).

The meeting schedule is as follows:

School Location Date Time
Mays High School Auditorium April 27, 2017 6 – 7 p.m.
Burgess-Peterson Elementary School Auditorium May 2, 2017 6 – 7 p.m.
Long Middle School Auditorium May 11, 2017 6 – 7 p.m.
Sutton Middle School Auditorium May 18, 2017 6 – 7 p.m.

Proposed budget for FY2018 is $777 million
The proposed spending plan of $777 million is $15 million more than the current budget (FY2017), does not call for a tax increase and includes a 1.5 percent cost of living adjustment (COLA) for all school employees. Other key aspects of the proposed FY2018 budget include:

  • APS continues to reduce administrative costs while increasing spending in the classroom. The proposed budget includes about $8 million in cuts to central office administration while $10.5 million (an increase of $3.5 million from FY2017) is devoted to the continuation of the district’s signature programming (STEM, International Baccalaureate and College and Career Prep), a key component of the district’s cluster model and its effort to improve student achievement.
  • Principals will have even more autonomy and flexibility with their individual school budgets as APS is taking part in a pilot program – commonly referred to as Fund 150 – that allows them to combine federal Title I funds with their general fund school allotment.
  • The budget was crafted as the district continues to be financially challenged by an increasing pension fund and rising healthcare costs.

Community meetings allow for public understanding, input
The scheduled community meetings are a part of APS’ budget-building process. The first meeting (Thursday, April 27) will be held prior to the May meeting of the Atlanta Board of Education (Monday, May 1) where the spending plan will be presented to board members for tentative adoption. Final adoption will take place at the June meeting – Monday, June 5.

“The community meetings are an opportunity for our constituents to learn about our budgeting process, find out some of the key financial challenges and parameters, and provide us with feedback,” said APS Chief Financial Officer Robert Morales, who will deliver the presentation at the meetings with APS Budget Executive Director Lisa Bracken. “At the end of the day, we want to ensure that our process is transparent, professional, and efficient and provides all of our students with a world-class education.”

“When we begin any budget discussion we approach it from the standpoint of what is best for kids. This budget proposal reflects that philosophy,” APS Superintendent Meria J. Carstarphen said. “It is balanced, equitable, and student-centered and focuses our resources in the areas of our greatest needs. We will always put students and schools first in everything we do.”

Atlanta Public Schools Announces Partnership with PUMA, David T. Howard High School Alumni Association

APS Superintendent Meria J. Carstarphen (front row, third from left) is joined by David Ballin of PUMA (front row, first on the left) and Gloria Williams, president of the David T. Howard High School Alumni Association (front row, orange sweater) and the members of the Atlanta Board of Education at the announcement of a partnership between PUMA, the David T. Howard High School Alumni Association and Atlanta Public Schools at the February meeting of the Board.

Before there were Air Jordans, there was “The Clyde.”

Now that iconic shoe is an important link to a new and historic partnership between Atlanta Public Schools (APS), the David T. Howard High School Alumni Association and PUMA, the athletic shoe and apparel company. APS Superintendent Meria J. Carstarphen officially announced the partnership on Monday at a morning press conference and again in the evening at the monthly meeting of the Atlanta Board of Education.

“We are thrilled to announce this partnership with PUMA and the David T. Howard Alumni Association, and to do it during Black History Month makes it extra special,” Dr. Carstarphen said. “David T. Howard High School and the David T. Howard Alumni Association are woven into the fabric of Atlanta. They are Atlanta. Additionally, PUMA, through its five-decade relationship with Walt “Clyde” Frazier, one of Howard’s and APS’ most accomplished and distinguished graduates, is inextricably linked to Atlanta as well. We look forward to a long and fruitful partnership.”

Last week PUMA launched the rebranding of one of its first signature shoe and apparel lines, “The Clyde”, worn by Walt “Clyde” Frazier, a National Basketball Association Hall of Famer and graduate of David T. Howard High School, class of 1963. The line is called the “Puma Legacy Collection” and is designed to honor the history, legacy and contributions made to Atlanta by David T. Howard and David T. Howard High School.  The Collection may be found in Foot Locker stores around the nation and in special display rooms called “PUMA Labs” in selected cities, including Atlanta. The “Puma Labs” in our city are at Greenbriar Mall and South DeKalb Mall.

Historic partnership will benefit all children in Atlanta Public Schools

As a result of the partnership, APS will receive $30,000 in direct support of the Atlanta Public Schools/Atlanta Partners for Education Whole Child Fund, which provides experiences for students to support their academic and social/emotional development and well-being. Some examples of what this fund provides include field trips, cultural experiences and enrichment activities, and critical emergency support such as uniforms and MARTA cards.

Joshua Moore, head football coach at BEST Academy, models the PUMA Legacy Collection at the February meeting of the Atlanta Board of Education.

Additionally, as part of the terms of the partnership agreement, PUMA will pay eight percent royalties on net wholesale sales of all co-branded PUMA products worldwide to PUMA wholesale accounts, and four percent royalty on net retail sales of all co-branded PUMA products sold via PUMA-owned retail stores and PUMA’s online store. Each royalty payment made by PUMA will be split equally, with 50 percent paid to APS/Atlanta Partners for Education and 50 percent paid to the David T. Howard Alumni Association.

The David T. Howard Alumni Association will receive a $50,000 fixed-compensation payment as well as the 50 percent royalty mentioned above.

Historic Howard High School building to be reborn as a new APS middle school

Just as PUMA is reviving “The Clyde,” APS will refurbish the historic David T. Howard High School building (551 John Wesley Dobbs Avenue) and reopen it as a new middle school in the Grady High School Cluster. The construction project is scheduled to begin in July 2018 and is being paid for with funds from the recently-approved 2017 Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST).


Facts about David T. Howard

  • David T. Howard was born in 1849 as a slave.
  • Howard became a free man after the Civil War, and he used $200 inherited from his father to start his life.
  • Howard worked as a railroad porter in Atlanta before becoming a mortician. His mortuary business eventually made him one of the city’s first black millionaires.
  • Howard donated the land upon which David T. Howard High School was built.
  • Howard was a founder of the city’s first black-owned bank, Atlanta State Savings Bank.
  • Howard died in 1935.

Facts about David T. Howard High School

  • The building opened as the David T. Howard Colored Elementary School in 1924.
  • The school became a high school in 1948.
  • Prominent David T. Howard attendees and graduates include Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Atlanta Mayor Maynard Holbrook Jackson, NBA Hall of Famer Walt Frazier, presidential advisor Vernon Jordan, Atlanta real estate entrepreneur Herman J. Russell, former Atlanta police chief and Clayton County Commission chairman Eldrin Bell and student civil rights organizer Lonnie King.



New Playground at FATE Allows All Kids to Play Together

Fred A. Toomer Elementary School now has a new playground with features that make it more accessible for students with special needs and mobility issues. Teacher Emily Max won a $100,000 grant from Farmers Insurance to fund the project.

Now ALL the students at Fred A. Toomer Elementary School can play together, thanks to the vision of a teacher and a gift from Farmers Insurance®.

Monday morning, a ribbon cutting ceremony was held to officially open a new, inclusive playground behind the east Atlanta school. The area has a soft rubber floor and is constructed to make it easily accessible for students with special needs or mobility issues.

The project is the brainchild of Toomer kindergarten teacher Emily Max, who was one of six nationwide winners of the Farmers Insurance® Dream Big Teacher Challenge in 2015. Max began thinking of the idea when she noticed that the school’s large playground was not completely accessible to all of the students at Toomer. For example, the area’s floor of soft wood chips made it extremely difficult for students with wheelchairs or other mobility issues to move around freely.

“This is what I dreamed about,” said Max. “I especially like that all the equipment is designed for the students to make eye contact with each other.”

Max said that subtle aspect of interaction can be difficult, especially in the classroom, for some students who do not want to appear as if they are staring at one of their peers who is different from them.

“That can be a struggle sometimes,” Max said. “But out here everything is designed in such a way that that eye contact will come naturally. To see all of our kids be able to play together independently, that was my true vision.”

Toomer Principal Ashley Adamo agreed.

“I think this playground will help all of our kids see more of how they are alike, instead of seeing their differences,” she said. “I think it is going to foster more and greater interaction between all of our students, and allow them to play independently, together.”

Part II: Get to Know Your Atlanta Board of Education Members

By: Alicia Sands Lurry

As School Board Appreciation Week comes to a close, Atlanta Public Schools salutes the Atlanta Board of Education members who work tirelessly to improve education and provide quality resources for all children. Yesterday we profiled five board members. The following are profiles of the four remaining members.

Eshé Collins
Eshe Collins (District 6, Seat 9)

Eshé Collins (District 6, Seat 9) ran for school board because she believes that all children should have equal access to quality education in their community. “I know all of Atlanta’s children can excel with a supportive school system and community,” she said. “I simply want every child to have the resources and support that will engage and challenge them.” As a board member, she also realizes that every decision she makes impacts APS children. She notes: “I must be open to all ideas and perspectives, but my decisions must be centered on what’s best for our children or how this will impact the educational experience for APS students.”

An Atlanta native and former teacher in Atlanta Public Schools, Eshé never wavered from her strong passion for education. Beginning at a young age, she always knew the value of a solid education: a challenging curriculum, a system of great teachers, and strong family and community involvement. Eshé understands the impact of quality education in realizing the potential of the city, and is excited to leverage her passion and experience to provide all students in Atlanta with the education they deserve.

Leslie Grant
Leslie Grant (District 1, Seat 7)

With a mandate from city residents to bring about positive changes for in District 1, Leslie Grant (District 1, Seat 7) stepped up to the challenge. “I knew it was important to have a candidate who understood the district, who would listen to and represent this diverse set of needs and perspectives – from the South River to Piedmont Park,” she said. “There were so many opportunities that were not being afforded to all of the children in our schools and I felt very passionately about helping to fix some of the ‘adult issues’ that seemed to be consuming the district. And while we aren’t perfect and won’t get there overnight, I do believe we’ve made a lot of progress in two years.”

A resident of historic Grant Park since 1995 and mother of two children who attended Atlanta Public Schools, Leslie firmly believes the work of the board is to support student achievement. “I strongly believe that a decision we made last Monday, March 7th, 2016, will have a very significant positive impact on the children in the the south part of my district,” she said. “The Turnaround Strategy that was unanimously approved, includes two partnerships that will bring a marked improvement for the students and their families in the Carver Cluster.”

Cynthia Briscoe Brown
Cynthia Briscoe Brown (At-Large Seat 8, Districts 3 & 4)

Since the early 1990s, Cynthia Briscoe Brown (At-Large Seat 8, Districts 3 &4) has worked publicly and behind the scenes for all kids, devoting herself to making sure every child gets everything he or she needs to succeed. A graduate of Davidson College and Vanderbilt Law School, Cynthia uses her 27 years of experience as an attorney to help students, teachers and families across the city. She has assisted several APS schools in forming their own nonprofit foundations and frequently donates her expertise to students with legal issues related to college and scholarship applications.

Cynthia serves or has served on the boards of the Calvin Center, the Atlanta Partnership for Arts in Learning, the Committee for Teaching About the United Nations/Atlanta, and the Alliance Francaise d’Atlanta, creating partnerships with each organization and opportunities for students and teachers across the city to improve their skills and enrich their lives.  As a volunteer with Young Audiences of Atlanta, Cynthia helped develop and implement the smART stART program, using visual and performing arts experiences to improve and encourage the reading skills of economically disadvantaged kindergarten students.

Jason Esteves
Jason Esteves (At-Large Seat 9, Districts 5 & 6)

Jason Esteves (At-Large Seat 9, Districts 5 & 6) was elected to the Atlanta Board of Education in 2013 and is serving his first term as the board member for At-Large Seat 9.

After graduating from the University of Miami, Jason devoted himself to teaching at a public middle school in the Houston Independent School District as part of Teach for America. Today, Jason is a practicing attorney at the Atlanta law firm of McKenna Long & Aldridge, LLP, where he brings businesses, nonprofits and individuals together to solve problems and get results. Jason has also served on the boards of KIPP South Fulton Academy, Georgia Appleseed’s Young Professionals Council, and the Georgia Hispanic Bar Association.



Get to Know Your Board of Education Members During Appreciation Week

By: Alicia Sands Lurry

School Board Appreciation Week is a weeklong observance dedicated to recognizing the contributions of local boards of education. As Atlanta Public Schools proudly celebrates this occasion, be sure to get acquainted with the nine board members who establish and approve the policies that govern the district. Today we will take a closer look at five of those members who are dedicated and committed to providing quality education and resources for the children they serve. Tomorrow we will feature the remaining four members.

Courtney English
Board Chair Courtney English (At-Large, Seat 7, Districts 1 & 2)

Prior to his election, Board Chair Courtney English (At-Large, Seat 7, Districts 1 & 2) was a founding teacher at B.E.S.T. Academy at Benjamin S. Carson, the first all-male school in the city of Atlanta, and actually taught seventh-grade social studies in the same room he took seventh-grade social studies as a student. In addition to his role as coach of the football team and championship baseball team at B.E.S.T., Courtney has championed school autonomy; increased rigorous course offerings throughout the district; commissioned a district-wide equity audit to close longstanding resource and achievement gaps; fought to give parents more options for their kids; and instituted a number of policies to clean up years of administrative mismanagement – including a widespread cheating scandal.

Currently one of the longest-serving board members, Courtney has worked to build public-private partnerships to address the city’s drop-out crisis. To date, his efforts have generated over $2.5 million in additional resources and resulted in the launch of Atlanta’s first drop-out prevention and recovery program. As chairman, Courtney has fought to ensure the equitable distribution of resources to Atlanta’s neediest students, grew the system’s reserves from 44 million to over 90 million dollars without raising taxes, and put the district on track to pay down its unfunded pension fund liability after decades of neglect.

Nancy Meister
Board Vice Chair Nancy Meister (District 4)

As a parent and stakeholder, Board Vice Chair Nancy M. Meister (District 4) is passionate about the future of Atlanta Public Schools, and has been personally involved in the district for many years and recognizes the importance of public education. She and her husband have watched their children grow and thrive in the Atlanta Public Schools system. As a residential real estate agent, she understands and appreciates the importance of great neighborhood schools, their impact on attracting new businesses to the city, and their contribution to the overall sustainable growth of the metro area.

Some of Nancy’s community activities include the following: president, North Atlanta Parents of Public Schools (2006-2009); founding member, North Atlanta High School Foundation (2006); PTA president, North Atlanta High School (2007-2008); PTA president, Sutton Middle School (2004-2006); member, Northern Corridor Task Force (2003); and participant, Susan G. Komen 3-Day Walk, Seattle, Washington, (2007) and San Francisco (2008). As a member of the Atlanta Board of Realtors, Nancy is currently a residential real estate agent with Beacham and Company. Prior to joining Beacham, she worked in the Buckhead office of Harry Norman Realtors.

Byron Amos
Byron Amos (District 2)

With deep roots in the Atlanta community, Byron D. Amos (District 2), is chief executive officer of Capacity Builders Inc., and has been involved in community organizing for over 20 years. A dedicated father, community leader and resident of Vine City, he has demonstrated a passionate commitment to service that comes from a desire to see the residents of his community grow and prosper.

Byron has served as the chairperson of Neighborhood Planning Unit L and as president of the Vine City Civic Association, Inc. In these positions, he served the interests of the community with a deep sense of commitment, dignity, integrity and dedication over the past several years. As a result of his stewardship, Byron has received many honors and awards, including being recognized as a WATL 36 Unsung Hero, as well as an Outstanding Atlantan. Both awards were a testament to his unwavering commitment to community service and leadership. He is also a graduate of the FBI Citizens Academy and the city of Atlanta Citizen Police and Fire Academy. A proud father of three daughters and one son, he is a member of Beulah Baptist Church in Vine City, where he serves on the trustee board.

Matt Westmoreland
Matt Westmoreland (District 3)

Matt Westmoreland is the District 3 representative on the Atlanta Board of Education, where he serves as chair of the Budget Commission and Legislative Liaison to the Georgia General Assembly. He also serves as assistant director of Horizons Atlanta, an educational non-profit serving low-income students across Metro Atlanta through summer enrichment programs. An Atlanta native, Matt attended Atlanta Public Schools and received his bachelor’s degree in history from Princeton University, where he served as editor-in-chief of The Daily Princetonian.

After graduation, Matt returned to Atlanta as a Teach for America Corps member and taught history at Carver Early College High School in southeast Atlanta. Named one of the “20 People to Watch” in 2014 by Creative Loafing and one of the “Top 30 Under 30” by the Atlanta Business Chronicle in 2015, Matt is a graduate of LEAD Atlanta and New Leaders Council-Atlanta, and serves on the Atlanta Regional Commission’s Millennial Advisory Committee.

Steven Lee
Steven Lee (District 5)

Steven Lee ran for school board because he believes that every child deserves a champion: an adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of prayer and insists they become the best they can possibly be. A community advocate, business owner and father of four, believes his work as a board member impacts students because he makes it a point to listen. “We meet, they talk and I listen,” he said. “I carry their voice and concerns with me when I make decisions and cast votes.”

With a passion for gospel music and serving his community, Steven has worked as a mentor, youth counselor, community volunteer and business owner. His community service experience includes serving as the past president of the board of directors of People TV; chairman of the board of Unity Network and Counseling Center; president of the Martin Luther King Merchant Association; member of the Fulton County Juvenile Court Community Restoration Justice Board; director of the In the Zone After School Program; member of the Zoning Review Board for the city of Atlanta; member of the Hollowell/ML King TAD Advisory Committee; board member of Youthfest; and director of the A Guiding Hand Mentoring Program.


By: Erica Fatima
ben big picture winnerBenjamin
 “Ben,” as his friends call him, appeared unflappable as he spelled “V-I-G-I-L-A-N-T-E” and secured the victory after nine harrowing rounds of spelling. Ben, a fifth grader at Brandon ES, will represent Atlanta Public Schools in the District 4 Bee, which will be held Saturday, Feb. 27, at North Atlanta High School.

Upon being declared the winner, Ben exclaimed, “This is great! I can’t believe I won! At first I wasn’t going to participate in the Bee, but my teacher, Ms. Brown, said that I should try; so I did and I won. Wow!”

When asked how he practiced, Ben stated, “I see the words in my head. I visualize them and then spell them in my hand before I spell them out loud. I can actually see [words] them.” 

More than 35 schools were represented at APS’ 55th Annual Spelling Bee, including several APS charter schools. The event took place Tuesday, Feb. 9 at the Lester W. Butts Auditorium at Frederick Douglass High School. spelling bee all

“I am so proud of Ben and all of my students,” Brandon ES teacher, Ms. Brown said. “I assigned the spelling list to the entire class as homework for the week, no exceptions. Ben initially didn’t want to participate, but once he started practicing he began to show real interest; and now here we are—he’s representing the entire system! I’m so proud of him!”

spelling bee 2 winner
2nd place winner:  Maya Ratchev and her mom

Maya Ratchev, from Jackson ES, was named the second-place finalist; showing great spelling prowess as she advanced to the final round. 


Spelling the words kabuki, juggernaut, vulnerable and triumvirate, the top four APS spelling champions: Harris Romas Tsiotras, Morningside ES; Timothy Salter Sliger, Springdale Park ES, will also attend the District 4 Bee. Kayla Mickens, Long MS will serve as the alternate.

Bee winners, left to right: Harris Romas Tsiotras, Morningside ES; Timothy Salter Sliger, Spingdale Park ES; Maya Ratchev, Jackson ES; Benjamin Song, Brandon ES

Dr. Zackory Kirk, APS Literacy Coordinator for grades 6-12, and this year’s spelling bee coordinator stated,“The spelling bee is a great opportunity to recognize some of our most studious learners. It also builds community within classrooms and schools while incorporating the family and community into the work of educating the whole child.”

Special thanks to this year’s distinguished judges: 

bee judges standing up
Above, left to right: Dr. Deborah Stephens; Dr. Zackory Kirk; Melissa Davis; Dr. Aleigha Rosser; Cheryl Collier; Natasha Daniels; Marcus Bivines, Esq.

Spelling Bee Judges 2016

  • Bee Master-Dr. Deborah Stephens-Lattimore (APS Speech Pathologist);
  • Head Judge-Cheryl Collier (President, Atlanta Association of Black Journalist);
  • Dictionary Judge-Natasha Daniels (Senior Council Aide at City of Atlanta); 
  • Listening Judge-Dr. Aleigha Henderson-Rosser (APS Executive Director, Instructional Technology); 
  • Scoring Judge-Melissa Davis (APS Science Coordinator, K-5);
  • Recording Judge-Marcus Bivines, Esq. (APS HR Training & Communications Specialist). 

“Congratulations to all of our spelling juggernauts. We wish Ben and our four APS Bee winners great success in the next competition,” -Atlanta Public Schools.

The top two finalists from District 4 will advance to the state spelling bee, which will be held on Monday, March 18, at Zoo Atlanta. The state winner will then advance to the National Spelling Bee in Washington D.C., which began in 1925.

Contributing writer: Alicia Sands Lurry