Posts filed under ‘Board of Education’


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


February 11, 2016 at 7:28 pm Leave a comment

APS Celebrates National School Counseling Week “School Counseling: The Recipe for Success”

By Erica Fatima

National School Counseling Week (Feb. 1-5), sponsored by the American School Counselor Association (ASCA), highlights the tremendous impact school counselors within U.S. school systems have in helping students achieve academic success and plan for a career. This year’s theme is “School Counseling: The Recipe for Success.”

Notably, Atlanta Public Schools own Dr. Sheryl Neely, a professional school counselor at Frederick Douglass High School has been named National Counselor of the Year by The Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE), and was awarded the Region II 2016 ACTE Career Guidance Award! Click here to read the press release.

This year, APS will celebrate National School Counseling Week by highlighting signature programs and community partnerships throughout all school campuses and the CLL building. For example, on Tuesday, all schools will participate in No Place For Hate campaigns, and upon successful completion each school will earn a No Place For Hate designation. The Maynard Jackson Cluster will host a basketball night to celebrate their inaugural designations as “No Place For Hate.” Thursday is the REACH Scholar Parent Night in which REACH scholars and parents will participate in a meeting regarding HOPE scholarship updates, advanced learning opportunities, Move On When Ready program and the APS College and Career Academy.

We invite parents and community members to learn more about school counseling programs by contacting your local APS School. General information can be found on the APS website at and ASCA’s website,

Special Profile: APS Communications interviewed three APS Counselors and asked them to share their experiences; here’s what they said:


Above, left to right: Darryl Robinson, North Atlanta HS; Petrina Howard, D.H. Stanton ES; Shalonda Stinson, Crawford Long MS


APS Communications: How long have you been a school counselor?

Robinson: “I have been in the profession for nine years. I initially started my career in APS as a substitute teacher for middle and high school. In 2007, I completed my counseling internship at APS’ Carver Early College. Upon completion, I received and accepted an offer with a neighboring school district. Recently, an opportunity opened for me to return to APS as an experienced counselor. I gladly accepted.”

Stinson: “I have been a counselor for one year. I began my career in education working for a national non-profit drop-out prevention agency, helping at-risk students remain in school.”

Howard: “I started my career in school counseling 14 years ago with Atlanta Public Schools.”

APS Communications: What are the benefits of working with APS?

Stinson: “There are many benefits of being an educator in the Atlanta Public Schools system. There are numerous opportunities to collaborate with veteran counselors, teachers, students, and other educators that have the same common goal—the success of all our scholars. Additionally, APS offers a variety of professional development programs; e.g., Social Emotional Learning, College and Career Readiness, and the Personal and Social Growth programs, which are very beneficial.”

Howard: “One of the main benefits of working with APS is seeing positive results when working with students who may experience a dearth of basic needs regarding safety and belonging. Once our students realize they can trust you and know you truly care, they are more willing to work on improving academically and behaviorally. From a staff perspective, professional development opportunities abound at APS. Improving your skill set benefits you as a professional and the students you serve.”

Robinson: “Working for APS provides you with the chance to participate in progressive, next-level focus groups. We (counselors) are afforded the opportunity to actively engage in the decision making process, determining what technological tools will best assist us in managing our caseloads with fidelity.”

APS Communications: In what way does your work impact APS students?

Stinson: “There are currently three counselors at Long Middle School and we work as a team! I currently serve as the 8th grade counselor. I’m responsible for administering the 8th grade Career Assessment (GA College 411) and the Individual Graduation Plan (IGP), which helps students assess their gifts, strengths and future interests. This work is awesome and truly has a major impact on our student’s future.”

Robinson: “As the 12th grade counselor, my top priority is ensuring our seniors meet all graduation requirements. Through college tours, workshops, internships and scholarship opportunities, I make sure our seniors are exposed to, and ready for, post-secondary options. My role as school counselor doesn’t end everyday at 4 p.m. I have incorporated relevant technology such as Remind101 and SnapChat so students and parents can contact me at anytime. Even on the weekends, I’m in constant communication with students and parents, working to guarantee seniors are on track for graduation, and deadlines for scholarships and college applications are met. I want students prepared for life beyond high school.”

Howard: “My work as an elementary counselor impacts students in a variety of ways. Teaching basic social skills at the elementary level is key to student success. When a student is able to work collaboratively, in a positive environment, school is more enjoyable and instructional time is enhanced. By advocating for wraparound services like school supplies, food, clothing, and mental health care, I hope to provide an equitable learning environment for all students. Finally, I try to influence student perceptions so that they make the connection; college and successful careers are within reach.”

APS Communications: What is the importance of the role of counselor in the schools?

Robinson: “School counselors play a vital role in addressing the social, emotional, and academic needs of the student. In many cases, school counselors wear multiple hats. Some counselors are utilized to serve as an administrator/disciplinarian, which can be confusing for the student. We have to continuously strive to build trust; knowing that when a crisis occurs, it’s extremely important for students to view counselors as their advocate, not as their enemy.

Howard: “In my opinion, counselors play a vital role in student success. Counselors assist teachers with student behavioral issues, classroom management and closing the achievement gap. Counselors collaborate with administrators and the community in providing support for students. Counselors also work closely with parents at the elementary level to stress the importance of parental involvement and student attendance.”

Stinson: “Being an advocate for children is one of the most important characteristics of a counselor. It is important that children know that they are being heard. Some students speak with their voices, while others have been harmed so deeply that they only speak through subtle body clues. Counselors must be discerning. We must have a commitment and passion for helping students to overcome challenges, so that they are successful academically and in life. Many may not realize the gift true counselors have…the gift to be that ear and see the depths of their student’s needs.”

APS Communications: Please share with us a memorable counseling moment.

Howard: “The most memorable moments in my career as a school counselor continue to be to be the, end-of-the-year 5th Grade Awards and Promotional Program. Watching 5th grade students showcase academic excellence, with pride and confidence, is always an emotional time for me.”

Robinson: “There are so many memorable moments that it’s a challenge to select only one. Recently, I had a homeless student in my caseload that was helping her mom raise her 8 siblings. This student was extremely intelligent, she had a 3.8 GPA, but wasn’t planning to attend college because she was the primary support system for her mom. She struggled with the idea of leaving her family to attend college, and shared these concerns with me. I counseled her on the importance of setting an example for her younger siblings; but most importantly, by furthering her education she could change the trajectory of her life. I helped her apply for prestigious schools, right here in GA, where she could remain close to her family. She was accepted into both Georgia State and Spelman, but even with financial aide, she couldn’t afford to attend. I was determined to help her. I kept pursuing until we were able to secure a full academic scholarship to Spelman College. She graduated last year, Magna Cum Laude with a degree in Early Childhood Education.”

Stinson: “There are many memorable moments during my tenure as an educator and counselor. Of note, there was a particular student who seemed to stay in trouble and often disrupted her class. She was sent to my office on a regular basis. I reached out to her family, but there was little support there, and our counseling sessions appeared to be of no avail. However; years later this young lady wrote me a beautiful letter stating; (“You thought I wasn’t listening, but I was. Its because of you that I am the woman I am today. Now I successfully serve in the Armed Forces, and I have children of my own.”) I believe that if we can save one “little starfish,” the world will be a much better place to live in!”

APS Communications: In closing, do you have an inspirational quote that motivates you?

Howard: “Be the change you want to see in the world.” – Mahatma Gandhi

Robinson: “Surround yourself with only people who are going to lift you higher.” – Oprah Winfrey

Stinson: “Above all be true to yourself, and if you cannot put your heart in it, take yourself out it.” – Author unknown

February 1, 2016 at 2:30 pm 1 comment

Male Mentoring Initiative Building “W.A.R.R.I.O.Rs.” at Hutchinson Elementary School

Hutchinson ES Male Mentorning program

Atlanta Public Schools Chief Schools Officer Dr. Donyall Dickey (seated left) and Core Content Instructional Specialist Dr. Bobby Allen (seated right) were the featured speakers at Hutchinson Elementary School’s W.A.R.R.I.O.R. Male Mentoring Program.  Hutchinson physical education teacher Dr. John Beliard (standing center) created the program, which targets third through fifth grade boys.

“Trouble is easy to get into, but hard to get out of.”

“Don’t let temporary people in your life, cause permanent problems.”

“Plan for greatness every day.”

Those were among the many messages of wisdom and encouragement delivered by Atlanta Public Schools (APS) Chief Schools Officer Dr. Donyall Dickey to third-, fourth- and fifth-grade male students at Hutchinson Elementary School as a part of its male mentoring program called W.A.R.R.I.O.R., which stands for “We Are Relevant Respectful Individuals of Righteousness.”

The initiative is the brainchild of Hutchinson physical education teacher Dr. John Beliard. He came up with the idea because he wanted to counteract many of the negative portrayals and images of black males in the media and in other areas of society. Along with Dr. Dickey, other guest speakers have included APS Core Content Instructional Specialist Dr. Bobby Allen and Atlanta Board of Education At-Large Seat 9 Representative Jason Esteves.

The students are asked to wear a shirt and tie for the sessions, as are the speakers. Twice a month, the male faculty and staff members at Hutchinson meet with the students in the school gym to reinforce the value of education, appropriate behavior and social interaction with peers, and being respectful to adults and law enforcement.

“The images of black men in our society that are perpetuated to these kids too often involve guns, violence, violence toward women and so much that is negative,” Dr. Beliard said. “Unfortunately in this community, those images can be reinforced with what they see. Some of them think it’s normal, cool to be in jail, breaking in cars. Most of them don’t have a father at home, and so here at school is the best place for them to see role models.”

Dr. Beliard said Hutchinson Principal Dr. Shuanta Broadway has been a huge supporter of the initiative from Day One.

“A lot of the behavioral issues we deal with here in school are a result of what is going on at home,” Dr. Broadway said. “I can see that our suspension rate is down, and I think the program is helping students make better decisions.”

Dr. Dickey is a living, breathing example of the importance of making good decisions. He grew up in Texas without a father and with a drug-addicted mother. He was raised by his grandmother in a house so small that he had to sleep on the floor in the living room throughout middle school and high school. But he made a decision to focus on education as his way to a better life.

“I wanted to make a personal connection with them and impress upon them the importance of education,” said Dr. Dickey, who has earned degrees from the University of Texas in Austin, Loyola University (Maryland) and George Washington University. “When you are their age, you don’t see how what you are doing in school now is connected to adult outcomes. High school graduation, certainly, and college are the gatekeepers for a productive life. I want to make sure I am doing everything I can do to make sure our students know that.”

Hutchinson ES Male Mentoring program 2

Third-, fourth-, and fifth-grade boys pose for pictures with guest speakers after a W.A.R.R.I.O.R. Male Mentoring program session at Hutchinson Elementary School. The initiative is designed to help counter negative images of males of color and illustrate to students the importance of education and making proper choices.

Dr. Allen echoed Dr. Dickey’s sentiments when he spoke to the students. Like Dr. Dickey, the path to his success included a key decision and education as well.

“When I was a junior in high school, our counselor looked at my school record and told me to go into the military. I took advantage of that opportunity, but I also made the decision to be more focused as a student and get a college education as well,” said   Dr. Allen, who grew up in Yazoo City, MS, and has earned four degrees. “I want to make sure I steer as many of our students as possible in the right direction.”

“When they see these men who look like them, it sends the message to them that you can do it, too,” said Dr. Beliard, who is working on a fifth degree. “We want this program to help them change their lives and their futures for the better.”

January 14, 2016 at 6:53 pm Leave a comment

APS Winter Card Contest Winners Honored

2015 Winter Card Winners with MJC and Board

The winners of the APS Winter Card Contest were honored by Superintendent Dr. Meria J. Carstarphen and the Atlanta Board of Education, at the December meeting of the Board. 

Four Atlanta Public Schools students have been selected as winners of the APS Winter Card Contest, and were honored recently by the Atlanta Board of Education and APS Superintendent Dr. Meria J. Carstarphen.

More than 100 students throughout the school district submitted drawings and paintings, and Dr. Carstarphen and her senior staff narrowed the list to four. The student designs were then converted into the school district’s official greeting cards.

The winning entries were created by:

First Place – Elizabeth Mori, North Atlanta High School

2015 Winter Card Winner (Elizabeth Mori, North Atlanta HS, 1st Place)

Elizabeth Mori







Second Place – Pierce Mower, Parkside Elementary School

2015 Winter Card Winner (Pierce Mower, Parkside ES, 2nd Place)

Pierce Mower






Third Place – Kamryn Smith, Scott Elementary School

2015 Winter Card Winner (Kamryn Smith, Scott ES, 3rd Place)

Kamryn Smith

Fourth Place – Colin Forsyth, North Atlanta High School

2015 Winter Card Winner (Colin Forsyth, North Atlanta HS, 4th Place)

Colin Forsyth






“The contest is critical because it gives every student who chooses to participate the opportunity to use visual art to communicate an idea and cultivate their voice as they express themselves,” said APS Fine Arts Coordinator Dr. Betsy Eppes. “We have very creative and talented students throughout our school district.”

December 17, 2015 at 4:06 pm Leave a comment

Smiles and strides motivate APS Special Education teachers

By Leslie Rivera, Communications Officer 

Inclusive Schools Week is an international event celebrated the first week in December. It’s a time to acknowledge the hard work and commitment of teachers, administrators, students and parents in making their schools more inclusive.

A resolution to be approved by the Atlanta Public Schools Board of Education acknowledges, “that each child is unique, learns differently and therefore, learns better if teaching is tailored to their abilities and interests and electronic and information technology is accessible.”

Shontelle Lampkin-Jackson is among those teachers dedicated to providing a supportive and quality education to all students. Lampkin-Jackson is an Autism teacher at Inman Middle School who admits special education found her. She moved to Georgia after serving in the Air Force for six years. She began working with students with severe and intellectual difficulty (SID) and moderate and intellectual difficulty (MOID) as a paraprofessional in Newton County.

Ms. Shontelle Lampkin-Jackson is an Autism teacher at Inman Middle School.

Ms. Shontelle Lampkin-Jackson is an Autism teacher at Inman Middle School.

As a teacher, she worked with MOID students as well as students with an emotional and behavior disability (EBD). After teaching five and a half years, she decided to focus solely on students with autism. “I like the fact that at the end of the day they make me appreciate the little things,” Lampkin-Jackson explains.

Middle school is her ideal place to teach because of the progression she witnesses during that time. She remembers one student who began sixth grade unable to navigate the halls because of his fear of crowds. By eighth grade that student was not only able to walk the halls by himself but he was also able to watch the clock and get to class on time.

Lampkin-Jackson says there is no standard approach to teaching special education but she finds her military background and its focus on structure to be a benefit. “I teach every one of them five different ways. It may be different today than yesterday but some things stay the same, morning routine stays the same,” she explains.

Lampkin-Jackson is married to a middle school social studies teacher. The couple has two sons, ages 9 and 10. She is also working on earning her doctorate degree in administrative teaching and learning.

Inclusive Schools Week is special to her, “My goal is to understand the world we live in… I think it’s important to teach our kids how to be included because they are taught so much how to exclude.”

Monetia Hollie has spent her entire 12 -year teaching career in Special Education. She is currently the lead special education teacher at Burgess-Peterson Elementary School.

Monetia Hollie is the lead Special Education teacher at Burgess-Peterson Elementary School.

Monetia Hollie is the lead Special Education teacher at Burgess-Peterson Elementary School.

Hollie was introduced to education at an early age by her grandmother who owned a daycare. Hollie then learned basic nursing skills and served in a hospital as a member of H.O.S.A.(Health Occupations Students of America). The program allowed students to use their skills at the Gene Stallings Rise Center on the campuses of University of Alabama.

“This school served children with physical disabilities yet mainstreamed an equal percentage of children with ‘typical’ development. The environment was loving and learning was absolutely enjoyable for everyone who walked in that building,” Hollie remembers.

She finds the smiles on the faces of children with disabilities to be the most rewarding part of her job, “Our students’ exhibit tenacity and compassion that is unwavering. All I have to do is instructionally prepare myself and never lower my expectations. All of America’s children can achieve. No exception.”

“One School Community” is the 2014 Inclusive Schools Week theme. It’s a message that Hollie takes to heart, “It’s like having a family member’s back and going the extra mile to ensure that no harm comes their way… Our educators promote unity and differentiation is our strength. It’s our goal to increase parental support of families of children with disabilities. I’m thankful for the one-week celebration, yet we must continue to strive to provide equal education to all students. We must teach the whole child which means supporting families, educators and students to ensure that success for all invested parties.”

Hollie was born and raised in Tuscaloosa, Ala. She is married with a teenaged son. They enjoy college football and serving at their church.

The Atlanta Public Schools’ Department of Special Education offers a broad continuum of services for students ages three through 21. There are approximately 400 special education teachers in the district who work with students in the general education and special education environment.

Vickie Cleveland, Executive Director of Special Education at Atlanta Public Schools, is looking toward a more inclusive future. She says the district is working on initiatives to enhance Autism programming as well as working with businesses in the community to provide more transition services to students with disabilities.

Cleveland reminds us all about the significance of this week, “All schools and the community should create a culture where students with disabilities feel welcome and their ‘abilities’ are highlighted and appreciated.”

December 1, 2014 at 12:57 pm Leave a comment


board notice

October 6, 2014 at 9:32 am Leave a comment

LIVE BLOG: December Board of Education Meeting – December 2, 2013

Thank you for following our live blog of the November Board of Education Meeting for Atlanta Public Schools.

View today’s agenda here:

REFRESH your browser often for updates.

2:16 pm:  Meeting called to order


School Closure – Repurposing Committee Update – Steve Smith, Associate Superintendent

The purpose of the school closure repurposing committee is to identify educational and/or operational usage opportunities for the seven school buildings that the board voted to close in April 2012.

The primary objective of the committee is to provide the superintendent a school facility repurposing recommendation plan for each school facility.

Established in May 2012.  Two phases, phase 1:  2012 Board approved closures.  Phase 2:  Properties from past closures.

There are three tiers for usage.  Tier 1 is APS use, tier 2 is charter school use and tier 3 is community interest.


Kinnane:  The tier one, how do we ensure…the tier 2 being the charter schools, how will we make certain within this, there is going to be a changing landscape of which facilities we need to use, how will we plan for that?

Superintendent Davis:  If we need to reserve buildings, we will reserve them and not put them into surplus.

Kinnane:  I guess I’m asking for unforseen needs.  I know we have a plan in terms of the construction plan, but making sure properties are available if the need arises.

Smith:  If we have an administrative use and we designate the building as such, we reserve the right to place an administrative tag on it.  At that point the charters have the right to use that facility.

Davis:  We would have to look back at how many are being reserved at any given time.  Generally speaking we should have at least 2 buildings available to us at any given time.  That is a good point [Ms. Kinnane].

Muhammad:  I’m looking at the Wesley building on page 6.  Under phase 2 properties you list among those there the Wesley building…

Smith:  I see the phase 2 properties.  I see the Wesley building.  It says community use Wesley building.  Your question?

Muhammad:  I want clarity around what Wesley building we are referring to here.

Smith:  Carla Pennyman manages our day to day and speak to the question on the table.

Pennyman:  The Wesley building is on Wesley Ave. behind Coan.  It is a vacant building and at one time was used as a reloaction building.

Muhammad:  Is it just Wesley?

Pennyman:  Wesley Elementary

Smith:  We can list it moving forward as Wesley Elementary.

Butler-Burks:  On page 6 under phase 2 properties, I see both AD Williams and Carey…I am confused as to why the company listed, Northwest Business, is still being considered for both.

Smith:  They are listed in that way because those individuals in the community recommended that use for both of them.

Butler Burks:  This says deferred.

Smith:  Right, we did have the building tour on Nov. 18 which is pending, what we don’t have is the outcome from that tour.  What delayed that process was they wanted a tour.

Butler-Burks:  Is there a recommendation from the community…will they [NW Business] have to choose one?

Smith:  They would have to choose one to utilize.

Butler-Burks:  Is this the English Ave….is this the….I see Mr. Hoskins shaking his head no so that answers my question.

Smith:  In terms of next steps, once the recommendations come from the community we will go thru the process of vetting the physical capacity of the building for the entity requesting the property.  The repurposing committee makes the recommendation to the superintendent and the superintendent makes the recommendation to the BOE.

Muhammad:  That is the next steps for phase 2, correct?

Smith:  Yes.

Muhammad:  You have one here that is open thru 2014…if something else is done differently than what’s here…anything done differently than what’s here comes back to the board?

Smith:  Yes.

Note:  The full presentation will be posted after updates have been made.

Fiscal Update – Chuck Burbridge, Chief Financial Officer

Burbridge:  Right now we have no changes to the revenue or expenditure forecasts.  View the Summary of FY2014 Activity HERE or here 2014 Financial December 2 Board Meeting 11 27 2013.pdf



Ms. Kinnane is making a motion to look at status of K-8 in the Jackson cluster.  Motion carries.

Kinnane;  I notice we don’t have an update on the superintendent search and this being our December meeting and not knowing where we stand with the timeline…

McDaniel:  I do plan to discuss that.

Kinnane:  Just to see if it needs to be in discussion and action.

McDaniel notes that a special called meeting will take place after the search committee meets.

There are no speakers tonight for this portion of the meeting.

Davis will now read the consent agenda.

Item 2.02

Recommended Action
That the Atlanta Board of Education accept the recommendation of the superintendent to approve the conversion charter petition for Centennial Place School, and that the board chair and superintendent be authorized to sign any documents required for the charter school including, but not limited to, the APS charter agreement, state charter documents, state or federal grant applications, grant budget forms, and minor modifications to the charter agreement.


On May 6, 2013 the Atlanta Board of Education passed a resolution encouraging the exploration of a public/private collaborative K – 8 pilot program at Centennial Place Elementary. Over the past few months, Atlanta Public Schools Office of Innovation staff and our external partner, Integral New Schools Atlanta, have worked closely together with Centennial Place staff, parents, community members and other stakeholders, developing a K – 8 plan for Centennial Place. The goal of this plan is to give the school greater flexibility, higher levels of accountability, and deeper relationships with external partners targeting and supporting the school’s STEAM focus.

The school will open with 585 students in grades K -6 and add one grade each year until reaching full capacity in Year Three with 775 students in Grades K – 8. The current Centennial Place building will be expanded to serve these additional students.

A conversion charter school model was chosen for this pilot as this model gives the school broad flexibility and sets aggressive performance targets within a site-based management model. Centennial Place will be governed by a local board constituted of members representing Atlanta Public Schools and the Integral Group and other key strategic community and business partners.

Several community meetings have been held to gather community input on this project. As required by law, Centennial Place parents and school staff participated in a secret ballot with two-weeks’ notice and the majority support the conversion plan.

The school has proposed several innovative measures including the creation of enhanced career pathways for teachers, numerous hands-on learning experiences for students and the creation of “Data Days” embedded in the school calendar allowing decision-making to occur immediately following data-collection periods.


That the Atlanta Board of Education accept the recommendation of the superintendent to approve the conversion charter petition for Centennial Place School, and that the board chair and superintendent be authorized to sign any documents required for the charter school including, but not limited to, the Atlanta Public Schools charter agreement, state charter documents, state or federal grant applications, grant budget forms, and minor modifications to the charter agreement.


Georgia law requires local boards to approve or deny charter school petitions submitted locally within 60 days of submission.

Another vote was taken today and the item passed 108 to 6.

Kinnane:  I just want to say, I think the board knows my feelings on this, when this item was pulled we left that day thinking we would have a board work session around this item.  My first question is around the vote itself.  I asked the question about the number of parents being represented around the vote.  This time there are fewer parents that voted.  I understand it is the day after Thanksgiving, that it is a re-vote.  We are being asked to make a decision to convert one of our exemplary schools into a charter and I don’t think we have a representative number from that vote.  How do you feel about that number?

Mueller:  Typically revotes will have a lower attendance.  This is only my opinion.  It is still right after the holidays and that is a factor as well.  I want to make it clear, obviously I’m not an attorney, but the language in the statute is clear that it is the number of parents present.  If I were a parent and I felt strongly about it in a negative sense that’s when I would have come out to vote.  A simple majority is what is needed to pass this.  That is the law and that is what was understood by the parents.

Kinnane:  The community itself is not allowed to vote on this yet they are being affected by this vote.  I would think not having that large a number of parents that are at the school be representative is a bit of a concern.  My next point of concern about the petition is the governance board.  Let me ask you a question, we have a petition before us…the petition did not change since last month and we cannot change anything on the petition because it has been voted upon, right?

Mueller:  I would have to leave that to the General Counsel.

Counsel:  I don’t see anything in the statute that speaks to that but I will look into it now.

Kinanne:  So the two APS representatives, what does that mean?  Who would be the APS representatives?

Mueller:  The discussion we had internally is that the senior cabinet would nominate 1-2 individuals and then the senior cabinet will choose that person.  We ran it by the state and there is nothing in the law that says that employees of the district cannot serve on the board.

Kinnane:  In terms of the relationship between the Local School Council and the governance board, would there be any restriction disallowing a stronger relationship between the two?  In terms of recommendations coming from the LSC?

Mueller:  You are talking about an entity that is not the governing board recommending individuals to sit on the governing board?  I don’t think that is possible.

Kinnane:  This is a start-up governing board…

Mueller:  I can’t think of an example…

Kinnane:  I guess the concern is how the parents and community members that serve on the board will be chosen.

Mueller:  So you’re thinking that that would be the group to nominate parents?

Kinnane: (inaudible)

Kinnane:  It will be expected that everyone living in the zone can attend the school, but it talks about a number of students.  As the zone grows, if it grows, how will that be handled?

Mueller:  If more children live in the zone the number will be expanded.  In order to have a lottery there would have to be a threshold number.  I don’t think there is a way to exclude children that live in the zone.

Kinanne asks about the choice to attend Inman vs Centennial Middle.  Mueller explains that the intent is that there is no grandfathering to Inman unless the children are currently enrolled there.  If the grade is offered at Centennial Place the students will go to Centennial Place.

Kinnane:  Can you require a child to attend a charter school?

Mueller:  Yes.  If that is there zoned school.

Muhammad:  (inaudible)

Mueller:  It would work like an administrative transfer but would work like a lottery.

McDaniel:  Ms. Muhammad is asking if someone is the Centennial zone and does not want to attend Centennial…

Mueller:  They would need an administrative transfer just like they do now.

Muhammad:  In the traditional schools we ask for administrative transfers for specific reasons…

Mueller:  I don’t think there will be any difference between someone this year who wished to transfer to Benteen and next year, when its a conversion charter, the same criteria would apply.

English:  The difference would be that I am now trying to transfer into Inman which has significant crowding issues.  The point she’s getting at is that if I’m attending 5th grade and want to attend Inman…

Kinanne:  Right now families have chosen to move into the Centennial zone because it is a high performing school in APS.  With this petition, that could change drastically.  It is a different structure than what they thought they would be a part of.

Mueller:  I don’t understand what is meant by drastically.  I see now a deepening of relationships, but a lot is similar to what they have today.

Meister:  Is there any way to modify the charter so that there is a win-win for 4th graders opting out of Centennial so that they can go to Inman for middle school?  That would help us with planning.

Mueller: I think this falls into whether the charter can be changed at this point.  We asked for community support framed in a certain way.  My feeling is that changes probably could be made, but it is possible that they might not be able to be made.

Counsel:  I think this is something that should be discussed in executive session.

Meister:  Was that issue brought up at all in the survey?  Do you know?

Mueller:  I do know there has been ongoing discussion from the beginning.  I believe we articulated very clearly.  I know the question has been discussed between parents, staff…I know its been an open discussion.  My response I sent to folks who asked from the school was articulated that way, if the grade is offered at Centennial, you will go to Centennial.

Butler-Burks:  Is the review 5 years or annual?

Mueller:  There is a 5 year term for the charter but we as a district do an annual review.  The reporting is financial, operational and academic.

Butler-Burks:  So it does not come back to the board annually.

Mueller:  No, that’s once every 5 years.

Kinnane:  Question about the teacher contract piece of it.  My understanding is that the statute says that the teacher contracts would be held thru the school system..but that doesn’t seem to be happening.

Mueller:  The waiver dictates what can go in the contract.  My understanding is that that cannot be waived.

Conversation now taking place around teacher benefits and plans.

Kinnane:  So the teacher, in terms of what it states in the petition, that 75% of the teachers will have math or science…be highly qualified…what does that mean for present and future teachers?  They are not going to be all math and science classes at the school.  It seems like a high number of teachers when we traditionally have a hard time getting teachers in those fields.

Mueller:  I think that as the school grows they will need to focus on hiring math and science teachers.  I don’t know if you are imagining that that they will fire the teachers who don’t.  They have always been a STEM/STEAM school.

Kinanne:  I just wondered because it seems like a high number.

Muhammad:  There has been so much focus on…a lot of questions…why would you say that as a school system this would be a good recommendation for us to try?

Mueller:  In reading this, what encouraged me, first of all I like the conversion method.  You are actually encouraging folks that work in the district…they get a little autonomy and sharper focus.  That really seems to be to me something we should invest in.

Mueller explains the innovative facets of the school and that they have been working towards this goal for 18 years.

Butler-Burks:  [Compliments Ms. Kinnane for her diligence on this issue] We’ve been on this for an hour and had we had a work session we may not have been here.  Thank you Ms. Kinnane for combing thru the petition and coming up with some questions that are still unanswered.

Kinnane:  When Centennial came into existence it was given freedom and unique opportunities so that it could grow in a unique way and not go to a conversion charter.

English:  The school went from being in the top 10% in Georgia to being ranked 894 out of 1100.

English says that the school has lost leaders, Muhammad says the school has lost resources.

Davis:  We are trying to run a pilot that compares governance.  Is performance a function of governance or structure?  That is the question we are seeking to answer.  We want to have a pilot so that we can inform a future policy.  We want to run a limited pilot here.

Kinnane:  I don’t think it is a pilot when we are talking about the approval of a charter petition.

Davis:  We are talking about one learning site with this structure out of 90+ learning sites.

Mueller:  If there were another conversion charter that came down the pike, it would come the way this one did.  This is not a slippery slope in that sense.

Muhammad:  I want to make sure we are not leaving Toomer out of this.

Davis:  We are talking about traditional board governance in the Jackson cluster.  K-8, but different governance.

Muhammad:  I think the fact that we are having to go thru this is speaking volumes.  I think it is saying that we need to revisit how we are doing what we are doing at our schools and are we meeting the needs of all of our kids.

This item has been moved off of the consent agenda.

Item 9.05 Construction Status Report

CLICK HERE to view the latest construction report or visit$file/Dec_2_2013_Const_Status_Report.pdf

Item 2.02 has been pulled for executive session, Item 2.03, gains and losses for discussion and action.


Update on K-8 in the Jackson Cluster.  Ms. Kinnane has requested the update today or at least by the next meeting of the board.  She would like to see a plan of action and timeline for this plan in the cluster.  “It is never healthy for a community to live in limbo.  They need to know where things are going.”

Davis:  We’ve had a number of community meetings and I am waiting for one additional piece of data and after that I will make a recommendation back out to the community this month for comment.  It will go to the community for comment and then board for action.

Kinnane:  In that there will be a plan of action, something so that we not only know what the recommendation is but also when it will happen.

Davis: Yes

Kinnane:  Thank you.


Superintendent Search Committee Update

McDaniel:  The committee met in November and was presented with approximately 15 or so candidates to the closed session.  The search committee reviewed those names.  All 15 have been talked to.  We will meet again on December 17th after they have vetted those candidates and we will continue narrowing down candidates.  It is my recommendation that this board meets as soon as possible after December 17th so that the board.  We would want all board members present at that meeting between December 17th and 19th.

The board will now enter into executive session.

6:18pm – Board meeting continues with public comment.

Washington High Parent requests that her child be moved out of Washington High School and into Carver Early College due to health conditions.  Says that only Carver EC can address her child’s academic needs.

Community member says that traditional schools need the autonomy that charter schools have.  “Give traditional schools what they need.”

Toomer Elementary Parent:  My daughter is currently in kindergarten and I would like to ask the board to support the proposal of K-8 at Toomer.  I understand parents are concerned about the impact to the Jackson cluster as a whole.

Toomer Elementary Parent:  I have a 4th grader and kindergartener.  I’ve watched parents as they struggle with the choice of staying at Toomer vs going to the other myriad choices of middle schools that they have.  Toomer being able to offer K-8 will make a big difference in our school.  We need APS to do their part and I see that it is not on the agenda tonight.  We are asking for a slow adoption, we have submitted a wonderful plan. As parents and the community we’ve done our part and we need the board to do their part.

Toomer Elementary Parent:  I am here to promote the K-8 model at Toomer.  I think Toomer is an amazing school.  We had a really rough year last year with the merging of East Lake but we’ve come back strong.  I think we are a perfect place to do the K-8.  We have a great core body of students even though we have lost many students to Drew.  The reason we’ve lost many students to Drew is that they don’t want to go to middle school at Coan.  I feel we need to become K-8 because we were in a really great place before redistricting and we need that extra core thing that will make us stronger.  I certainly, along with the parents here tonight, we’ve been working very hard for this, but we all have our heart in this school and want to keep it going.  The momentum will get lost without this.

Kirkwood Resident:  I come to speak with you with no children in APS schools but I chair the Kirkwood education committee and I really believe that sowing the seed early will yield great results down the road.  I for one could not argue against the Drew Charter expansion.  I believe that Drew is doing a lot of excellent things, but I’ve seen how it has impacted my community and neighbors.  Our community is tight knit and I am here to advocate for K-8 at Toomer.  If you provide the opportunity for K-8 at Toomer you will not regret it.

The next speaker is principal Alison Shelton of Centennial Elementary School.  She asks for support from the board as Centennial seeks to become the district’s first conversion charter school.

6:35pm Parents continue to speak out on behalf of K-8 at Toomer Elementary School.

Community member, who is a former history teacher, asks that the board of education considers precedent when deciding to convert Centennial to a charter school.  “When a group of parents and teachers manages to convert a school into a charter school, parents are faced with the decision to accept the lead of the charter or to transfer out of the school and hope that they can find transportation.”  She says that simply because the process is legal, does not make it right.

1965 graduate of David T. Howard High school speaks to the board about his experiences as a student in the district.  “History and literature teachers would almost go into acting mode to put you in the mood for the lesson.”  He asks that the Howard building be put back into service.  “I would also like to thank Brenda Muhammad.  For 14 years she has been a fierce advocate for our children.”

D.H. Stanton Community Advocate:  Stanton is rising.  We have worked on this school as a community.  We have embraced it when faced with a challenge and our embrace has not weakened.  We have an excellent dual immersion program at the school as well as the Leader in Me program.  We are also working with Graduation Generation.  We have a few outstanding items, including the early learning center.  We hope we can get issues on this resolved in the not too distant future.  Stanton has become that small school for innovation and as we move forward we have an excellent opportunity to leverage a small school and do those things we know will be successful.

Washington High Alumni Association Board Member:  I came tonight to personally thank Mr. Davis for correcting the situation at Washington High School.  I had an opportunity to walk through the school with the president of the alumni association and had a chance to see the work that was done at the school.  I would like to personally thank him for correcting the issues.



Board now discusses Centennial K-8 conversion charter.  BOE member Kinnane says that she will not vote in favor of this item.  “I don’t necessarily think we’ve done our due diligence around having the first conversion around this piece.”

Kinnane:  Having a vote with less than 200 people does not set a good precedent when it comes to taking one of our schools and turning it into a charter school.

E. Johnson:  I also have a concern about what the governance board will look like.

Vote taken.  Passes.  Centennial Elementary School has become the district’s first conversion charter school in the history of APS.

This ends our live blog for the evening.  Please watch the legislative meeting beginning tomorrow night on Comcast’s channel 22.


December 2, 2013 at 3:15 pm Leave a comment

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