Schools Throughout the District Celebrate Black History Month

Mason Muhammad Royal portrays famed scientist and inventor Dr. George Washington Carver in the Continental Colony Elementary School Black History Wax Museum.


The auditorium at Continental Colony Elementary School was transformed into an interactive, African American “wax museum” last week, as nearly 50 students posed as famous and influential African Americans in history.

The event is part of the school’s Black History Month celebration during the month of February. Continental Colony Principal Dr. Kristen Vaughn said the school always goes all out to pay homage to the great African American leaders and events of the past.

“Our school population is 98 percent African American. It is important for us to relate our history to our students,” Vaughn said. “If we don’t tell our stories, then who will? Also, we find that many of our parents learn a great deal from our programs and displays, and so it is good to know that we are educating the community as well.”

Tylar Woods portrays Atlanta’s first female mayor Shirley Franklin at the Continental Colony Elementary School Black History Wax Museum.

In the wax museum, students took on the persona of individuals such as Louis Latimer (scientist, inventor), Hosea Williams (civil rights leader), Andrew Young (former Atlanta mayor and Secretary to the United Nations), Sarah Boone (inventor of the ironing board), Mary McCloud Bethune (educator, stateswoman and civil rights leader) and Sojourner Truth (abolitionist and women’s rights advocate). Visitors pressed a “button” located on the hand of the statues/students, which caused them to move and quote interesting facts about the characters they were portraying.

The top winner/performer in the wax museum was Jade Evans for her portrayal of Sarah Boone. Other students receiving awards for their portrayals were Kayla Sanders as Mary McCloud Bethune, Serena Booker as Serena Williams, Christian Murray as Andrew Young, Kevin Rose at Hosea Williams, and Jayla Graham as Sojourner Truth.

Zaire Parris portrays brilliant scientist and inventor Louis Latimer at the Continental Colony Elementary School Black History Wax Museum.

Additionally, Continental Colony is continuing its annual tradition of decorating its entire foyer with homages to African American history.

Here are several other Black History Month celebrations occurring throughout Atlanta Public Schools (in chronological order):

Forrest Hill Academy | February 1-28
Students are filming a documentary titled “What Black History Means to Me.”

Grady High School | February 1-28
Teachers are incorporating African-American history facts throughout the curriculum, and a date for the annual Black history play is being developed.

Morningside Elementary School | February 1-28
Reading quotes or brief bios on morning announcements and on the school’s daily message board; Kindergarten does a unit of study on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and creates hallway bulletin boards in his honor; Kindergarten and first-grade students are being taught a song about Dr. King and will read “Martin’s Big Words”; Books related to African-American history and heroes are on display in the media center; Fifth graders will analyze quotes by Dr. King as an ELA assignment.

South Atlanta High School | February 1-28
Black history facts are broadcasted over the public address system during the day.

Morris Brandon Elementary School  | February 3-28
First Street: Students are invited to research an African American who was the “first” African American to achieve a specific accomplishment. The student will create a poster detailing the individual and his/her accomplishment. The posters will be on display in the school’s “First Street” exhibit.

Mary Lin Elementary School/Inman Middle School | February 11
Psi Phi Beta Step Team performs at the monthly “SPARK Saturday” at the Center for Civil and Human Rights. This month’s “SPARK Saturday” event teaches youth about African American culture through rhythm and movement, and illustrates how today’s music and dance movements are inspired by African traditions.

Whitefoord Elementary School | February 16
(Grades 3-5) Guest speaker Nettie Washington-Douglass, great, great granddaughter of Booker T. Washington and Frederick Douglass.

Young Middle School | February 20-24
“Celebrating Black History in Atlanta”: A series of performances and guest speakers throughout the week.

Bunche Middle School | February 23
“Sankofa – Go Back and Get It.” Performing arts performances featuring dance, drama and chorus.

Long Middle School | February 23
“Remember the Times”: Thematic, living timeline created by students, highlighting moments in African-American history.

Benteen Elementary School | February 24
Essay competition and family movie night.

Brown Middle School | February 24
“Sankofa”:The annual Black History Program (sankofa translates to “recovering or retrieving the past”).

Scott Elementary School | February 24
“Lift Every Voice”: The annual performing arts program for Pre-K through fifth grade.

Whitefoord Elementary School | February 24
Black History Bowl

Continental Colony Elementary School | February 28
Pantherville Poetry Café.

Hope Hill Elementary School | February 28
Annual Black History program.

West Manor Elementary School| February 28
Annual African-American history program.

Whitefoord Elementary School| February 28
Black History Performing Arts Program.









Morningside Elementary Named a 2016 National Blue Ribbon School


For Immediate Release September 28, 2016

ATLANTA – U.S. Secretary of Education, John B. King, Jr., announced today that Atlanta Public Schools’ Morningside Elementary School has been named a 2016 National Blue Ribbon School. Morningside Elementary is among 279 public and 50 private schools receiving this honor.

Principal Audrey Sofianos and a teacher will represent Morningside Elementary at a two-day awards ceremony in Washington, D.C. Nov. 7-8, where the school will be formally recognized by the Department. “Our school is honored and thrilled to be recognized as a National Blue Ribbon School!” said Sofianos. “I am so proud of our students and their love of learning. This national award honors our entire school community – teachers, parents, volunteers, partners and our school system, who come together each day in support of our young people and their education.”

The school was nominated by the Georgia Department of Education, and then was required to complete a comprehensive application about school practices. All schools are recognized in one of two performance categories, based on all student scores, subgroup student scores and graduation rates:
· Exemplary High Performing Schools are among their state’s highest performing schools as measured by state assessments or nationally normed tests.
· Exemplary Achievement Gap Closing Schools are among their state’s highest performing schools in closing achievement gaps between a school’s subgroups and all students over the past five years.

Now in its 34th year, the National Blue Ribbon Schools Program has bestowed this coveted award on fewer than 8,500 public and private schools. A total of 420 schools nationwide may be nominated each year.

About the National Blue Ribbon Schools Program
The National Blue Ribbon Schools Program honors public and private elementary, middle, and high schools where students achieve very high learning standards or are making notable improvements in closing the achievement gap. The award affirms the hard work of students, educators, families, and communities in creating safe and welcoming schools where students master challenging content. The National Blue Ribbon Schools flag gracing a school’s building is a widely recognized symbol of exemplary teaching and learning. National Blue Ribbon Schools are an inspiration and a model for schools still striving for excellence. For more information about the National Blue Ribbon Schools program, please visit

About Atlanta Public Schools
Atlanta Public Schools is one of the largest school districts in the state of Georgia, serving approximately 50,000 students across 98 learning sites. The district is organized into nine K-12 clusters with 87 schools, 17 charter schools and two citywide single-gender academies. For more information, visit

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.”

Beecher Hills Elementary Using New Initiative to Increase Parental Involvement, Student Achievement

APTT at Beecher Hills ES (Parents in class 1)
Parents at Beecher Hills Elementary School participate in an Academic Parent-Teacher Team (APTT) meeting. The innovative program is designed to improve student achievement by strengthening the relationship between schools and families.

By Seth Coleman

As schools throughout the district administer various tests this spring designed to measure student growth, Beecher Hills Elementary School hopes a new initiative implemented this year will boost test scores the way it has improved parental involvement.

The Academic Parent-Teacher Team (APTT) concept is an innovative program designed to build and enhance school-family partnerships. APTT operates from the premise that schools function best when families and teachers work collaboratively to help maximize student learning in the classroom and at home. The program was created by WestEd, a non-profit youth education group that is a longtime partner of Atlanta Public Schools.

The Georgia Department of Education has partnered with WestEd to train and support Title I schools in the APTT concept. Beecher Hills is one of just 33 schools statewide, and the only Atlanta Public School, implementing the APTT concept. This summer, Beecher Hills teachers will train teachers at Heritage Academy Elementary on using the APTT concept, which will be implemented at that school starting in the fall.

The APTT model supplements the efforts of traditional parent conferences with whole-class meetings where parents learn exactly where their child is in comparison to academic standards, where their child needs to be by the end of the school year, and how they can help support their child’s learning outside of the classroom.

APTT at Beecher Hills ES (Art room 1)
Beecher Hills students spend time doing arts and crafts and other activities during APTT meetings.

Additionally, at the beginning of the school year, grade-level teams select a critical, grade-specific standard and then focus their quarterly APTT meetings on concepts that will help students master the standard. During the APTT meetings, parents sit in their child’s chair in the classroom and participate in the same learning activities. Also, parents are shown how their child is progressing in class compared to the other students.

“It lets parents see exactly what their children are learning and how they are learning,” said Beecher Hills Principal Crystal Jones, who noted that parental involvement has grown exponentially with the implementation of APTT. Last year, about 30 percent of the school’s parents participated regularly in school activities. This year that number has increased to over 70 percent.

APTT at Beecher Hills ES (Bounce House 1)
Beecher Elementary students spend time playing in a bounce house and other physical activities during APTT meetings.

While parents are in the classrooms during APTT meetings, students rotate through various activity stations set up throughout the school.  The stations feature arts and crafts, snacks, movies and a play room featuring various physical activities, such as a bounce house and jump rope station.

“The kids love it because all of the activities are a lot of fun,” Jones said. “The parents love it because they can experience what their child is learning and see the progress their child is making. We think it has made a difference in our school and we hope our test scores reflect that.”



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


APS Partners with City of Atlanta, Launches the Atlanta ConnectHome Program

By Erica Fatima

The digital inclusion program brings high-speed Internet and technology education to low-income families throughout Metro Atlanta 

Click here to see the ConnectHome video

On Wednesday, Jan. 27, Mayor Kasim Reed announced—to a packed house of eager APS students and their families—the launch of the Atlanta ConnectHome pilot program. ConnectHome is an initiative to narrow the digital divide by providing low-income families and school-age children in the City of Atlanta with Internet services and devices to improve educational outcomes. Mayor Reed was joined by officials from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the Atlanta Housing Authority (AHA), Atlanta Public Schools (APS), as well as various local businesses and community stakeholders for the launch of the ConnectHome program at the Center of Hope at Dunbar Recreation Center in Southwest Atlanta.

Left to right: Dr. Rubye Sullivan, Executive Director of Data and Information Group; Dunbar ES Principal Karen Brown-Collier; and Dunbar Elementary students

“We are excited and honored to be selected to participate in the #ConnectHomeATL Initiative,” said Mayor Reed. “The Internet is an indispensable tool for accessing educational resources, employment opportunities, health care services, and so much more. Our families and children who now have the opportunity to participate in the ConnectHome program will realize that high-speed broadband is not a luxury, it’s a necessity.”

Dr. Rubye Sullivan, Executive Director of APS’ Data and Information Group, along with APS’ Instructional Technology team presented the new tablets to the families, and provided one-on-one tutorials. The tablets are equipped with APS’ MyBackPack program, Infinite Campus app, Google Chrome and much more.

“Atlanta’s ConnectHome is an awesome program that will provide the connectivity necessary to allow our families the ability to leverage the virtual educational tools available within APS,” stated Dr. Sullivan. “Now our parents can have immediate access to the Internet and can readily connect to the APS Parent Portal and MyBackPack; these tablets bridge the digital divide. All of these tools help us become APS strong!”

Dr. Rubye Sullivan; Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed; and APS Technology Staff

APS Parkside Elementary parent Patricia Ward stated, “I’m glad that we are getting these tablets and access to free internet. My daughter is in second grade and she will be so happy to have her own tablet. But for me, this is a great teaching tool—I can show her how to search the web—and continue to stimulate her thirst for knowledge.”

Atlanta is one of 27 U.S. cities and one tribal nation chosen by the White House and HUD to participate in the ConnectHome pilot program. The Obama Administration announced the program in July 2015, and will initially provide over 275,000 households and nearly 200,000 children, with the support they need to access the Internet at home.

As part of the launch of the ConnectHome pilot program, more than 100 families received computer devices, free internet service, and digital literacy training that will connect families with educational resources as well as job training.

“We are excited to work with the Mayor to provide Internet access to our families,” said Joy Fitzgerald, Interim President and CEO of the Atlanta Housing Authority. “Access to technology and the Internet put our parents and students on an equal footing, ultimately leading to enriched educational experiences and job opportunities. Digital literacy is the stepping stone for our families to achieve their dreams.”

The City will launch the second phase of the ConnectHome pilot program this summer at the Center of Hope at Adamsville Recreation Center, when more than 500 low-income families who live in HUD-assisted homes will receive the same services.


Cascade Elementary Receives Additional Holiday Gift from Concerned Black Clergy

Cascade ES gets $1K from CBC 1
Cascade Elementary School received a $1,000 donation from Willard Bolden, chaplain at the Veterans Administration Hospital in San Francisco, through the Atlanta Concerned Black Clergy’s “Bring a Toy to Bring Joy” initiative.

School is back in session but it still feels like the holiday season at Cascade Elementary School, thanks to another generous gift made possible by the school’s partnership with the Concerned Black Clergy of Atlanta.

Cascade Elementary received a donation of $1,000 Jan. 6, from Willard Bolden, chaplain at the Veterans Administration Hospital in San Francisco, through the Concerned Black Clergy’s “Bring a Toy to Bring Joy” initiative. Bolden, a Navy veteran, is good friends with Atlanta CBC member Mike Barber, who solicits donations from friends, fellow veterans and businesses in order to provide gifts for Cascade students during the holiday season. Even though Cascade is 1,000 miles away from him, Bolden, a Virginia native who visits Atlanta frequently, is committed to helping the school be successful.

“It is the same type of school as the one I grew up in,” said Bolden, who became friends with Barber nearly 30 years ago while they both served in the Navy. “It takes all of us working together to raise our children and this is the commitment I have made.”

Cascade ES gets $1K from CBC 2
Cascade Elementary School Principal Dr. Sylvia Hall said the $1,000 donation will fund the school’s Student of the Month Luncheons and provide students with snacks during the spring testing period.

During the four years of the “Bring a Toy to Bring Joy” initiative, Bolden has donated nearly $4,000 to Cascade. Barber, who collected more than 200 gifts from churches and community organizations, said he was happy to receive another donation from his friend.

“We want these kids to know that someone cares about them and their futures,” Barber said. “We don’t want them to become statistics of the streets. We want them to have a positive vision for their lives.”

Cascade Principal Dr. Sylvia Hall said the funds, just as they have in past years, will allow the school to provide students with snacks during the spring testing period and will fund the Student of the Month Luncheons.