Posts filed under ‘Board of Education’
By: Erica Fatima
Running and jumping, and filled with wild exclamations of delight, 157 of APS’ bright Pre-K scholars explored the exciting Children’s Museum of Atlanta .
The energy and excitement filled the room, as students from Perkerson, Parkside, M. Agnes Jones, and Kimberly elementary schools “learned through play,” at various interactive stations.
“I love this game!”…“Let me try, let me try!”…“Hey did you see what I did!”…“This is so fun!” and “Come look at this!” were just a few of the gleeful shouts heard throughout the newly renovated Children’s Museum.
Even APS Superintendent Meria J. Carstarphen, Ed.D. joined in the fun!
The Children’s Museum provides highly engaging, immersive, informal learning focused on the whole child. Children latch on to what is fun and interesting, exploring their world.
By: Erica Fatima
Benjamin Song! “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.
“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!”
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 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
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 http://www.atlantapublicschools.us/page/192 and ASCA’s website, www.schoolcounselor.org.
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
“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.”
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.”
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
Second Place – Pierce Mower, Parkside Elementary School
Third Place – Kamryn Smith, Scott Elementary School
Fourth Place – Colin Forsyth, North Atlanta High School
“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.”
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.
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.
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.”