Bunche Middle Sweeps Track and Field Titles, Sutton Middle Takes Both Soccer Championships

The boys and girls soccer teams at Sutton Middle School won the Atlanta Public Schools Middle School Soccer Championships. The boys defeated Inman Middle School while the girls beat Atlanta Neighborhood Charter School.

Sutton Middle School swept the girls and boys titles in the Atlanta Public Schools Middle School Soccer Championships.

The girls blanked Atlanta Neighborhood Charter School, 2-0. Kate Jackson and Josie Bird scored for Sutton. Katie was named Player of the Year.

The boys’ team defeated Inman on penalty kicks (5-3) after the teams finished the game in a scoreless tie. In the penalty kick session, Sutton converted on all five of its attempts with goals scored by Alexi Cesbello, Jesus Moreno, Emi Mendoza, Fernando Nina and Ceasar Montez. Sutton’s goalkeeper, Aidan Moore, was named Player of the Year.

In track and field, Bunche Middle School swept the girls and boys titles in the APS Track and Field Championships. The Bunche girls (68 points) edged Inman Middle (65) for the team championship, while the Charger boys (95) won by a comfortable margin over second place Martin Luther King Middle (75 ½).

Among several outstanding performances in the meet were:

KIPP Metro’s girls 400- and 1,600-meter relay teams took first in both events, posting times of 52.84 seconds and 4:24.58, respectively.

Dequan Tate of KIPP Metro won the 400 meters in a time of 52.95.

Bunche’s 400-meter relay team took first in a time of 45.36.

KIPP Metro’s 1,600-meter relay team edged Bunche’s squad – 3:46.16 to 3:46.30 – for first place in the event

APS Parents Have “Thanksgiving Lunch” with Students for Family Engagement Day


Students and parents at Deerwood Academy and several other Atlanta Public Schools ate lunch together on Thursday for Family Engagement Day.

Thanksgiving Day is Thursday, but students and parents throughout the Atlanta Public School system already have eaten a Thanksgiving meal together.

Scores of schools in the district – including Deerwood Academy, F.L. Stanton Elementary, Fain Elementary and Sylvan Hills Middle – celebrated National Family Engagement Day last week, with a Thanksgiving-style lunch for students and their parents, grandparents and siblings.

Cafeteria staffs prepared turkey, dressing, cranberry sauce, collard greens, green beans, macaroni and cheese, dinner rolls and sweet tea.

One school, Deerwood Academy, had to call in an extra cafeteria worker to help speed hungry students and parents through the line.

“We always have a really good turnout,” said Deerwood school counselor Aleah Brown.


Weekend Sports Roundup: Mays, KAC Play for Region Championships; 10 APS Cross Country Teams Advance to State; KIPP Vision, Bunche MS Compete for APS Middle School Football Title

KIPP Atlanta Collegiate will play for the Georgia High Schools Association Class AA-Region 6 championship against Hapeville Charter, Friday in Hapeville.

K.I.P.P. Atlanta Collegiate (KAC) will challenge Hapeville Charter (Fulton County) for the Georgia High Schools Association (GHSA) Class AA-Region 6 championship tonight at 7:30 p.m., at the Hapeville Recreation Center.

In just their third season of varsity competition, the Warriors have already clinched a spot in next week’s GHSA Class AA state playoffs. Prior to this season, KAC had won just two games.

Also, Mays will attempt to win its first region championship since 2003 by defeating Northgate (Coweta County) tonight on Senior Night, 8 p.m., at Lakewood Stadium.

In other games involving Atlanta Public Schools teams (all games are Friday, unless otherwise noted):

Clarkston (DeKalb County) at Douglass, 5:30 p.m., at Lakewood Stadium

Washington at Therrell, 7:30 p.m., at Grady Stadium

Carver at Decatur, 7:30 p.m., at Decatur High School Stadium in Decatur

North Atlanta at Cambridge, 7:30 p.m., Cambridge High School Stadium in Milton

Maynard Jackson at Riverwood, 7:30 p.m., Bill Hoskyn Stadium in Atlanta

Grady at Banneker, 7:30 p.m., Banneker High School Stadium in College Park


Ten teams from APS will compete in the GHSA State Cross Country Championships, Saturday in Carrollton.

Leading the way for APS are two teams that won their region championship meets – the South Atlanta girls and the Douglass boys. Other teams that advanced to Saturday’s state championships are:

B.E.S.T. Academy
Grady Boys and Girls
KAC Boys and Girls
North Atlanta Boys and Girls
Washington Girls


Bunche Middle School and KIPP Vision will face off for the APS Middle School Football Championship, Saturday at noon, at Lakewood Stadium. Both teams are undefeated at 8-0 entering the title game.

Bunche MS Wins National Construction Award

Bunche MS - After 002
The newly renovated Ralph Bunche Middle School earned an Honor Award last week from the South Atlantic Chapter of the Construction Management Association of America (CMAA). 

An expanded and renovated Atlanta Public School that re-opened in the fall of 2015 after completing construction earned an Honor Award and recognition from the South Atlantic Chapter of the Construction Management Association of America (CMAA).

The renovated Ralph Bunche Middle School located in southwest Atlanta was honored at the organization’s annual banquet and awards ceremony held June 15, at the Carlos Center in Atlanta.

The annual CMAA South Atlantic Chapter Construction Management Project Achievement Awards program recognizes outstanding achievement in the practice of construction management. The awards program is designed to recognize and promote professionalism and excellence in the execution and management of the building construction industry.

Bunche MS - Before 004
Bunche MS prior to the $32.9 million renovation project, funded through SPLOST.

Originally constructed in 1979, Bunche was extensively renovated and expanded including enclosing previously open classrooms, the construction of a new auditorium and gymnasium and additional building improvements designed to meet the current instructional needs of the district as part of a $32.9 million project, funded through SPLOST. The building was designed by Cooper Carry, Architects and built by J.E. Dunn Construction.

This is the sixth such award from CMAA to APS projects. It was among several other recognitions presented to APS by the organization for 2016 representing continuing industry acknowledgement of project achievements in the construction industry and the district’s Capital Improvement Program.

Finishing APStrong: Forrest Hill Academy Continues to Provide Second Chances for Students

Forrest Hill Mentoring Program 2
Forrest Hill Academy students who exhibit behavioral and academic growth are allowed to participate in the school’s mentoring program at Hutchinson Elementary School.

NOTE:  There was a ton of activity throughout the district to close out the school year. We shine a light on a number of those events, initiatives and accomplishments in a series of Talk Ups titled “Finishing APStrong.”

Out of the hundreds of Atlanta Public Schools graduates who walked across the stage at the Georgia World Congress Center last week, two mattered the most to Forrest Hill Academy Principal Dr. Zawadaski Robinson.

It was the two students who, after long stints at Forrest Hill, got back on track academically and behaviorally in time to “walk” with their classmates at their respective home schools.

“That is our goal, that is our target,” said Robinson, who just completed his first year as principal after two years as the assistant principal at Forrest Hill, a non-traditional school for students in grades six through 12. Most of its approximately 300 students were sent there due to discipline infractions at their home schools.

“While they are here, we want to work with them to get them back on track,” Robinson said. “We want to help them make better decisions, so that when they return to their home school they can be successful.”

Robinson said this past school year was a very successful one due to the implementation of two key initiatives:  Social Emotional Learning (SEL) and Restorative Practices.

SEL, which has been adopted by the district as a conflict resolution strategy, is the process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions. Restorative Practices is a disciplinary measure that is less punitive, and focuses on having the child examine ways in which he or she may in the future avoid situations that caused them to be assigned to Forrest Hill.

“We have to get away from the punitive mindset and move toward the restorative,” Robinson said. “It is hard work, because it is a complete culture shift not only for the students, but for parents, teachers and administrators.

“We have to get to the point where we believe that there is no such thing as a bad child, just a child who makes poor choices,” Robinson said. “To do that we have to engage the students, reinforce positivity, get them to feel good about who they are.”

Forrest Hill Job Fair 2
Forrest Hill Academy hosted a career fair, which helped more than 30 students earn jobs with local companies and businesses.

As such, Robinson and his staff have put in place a number of activities designed to bolster student morale and help them make better decisions. For example, students who have shown progress in their classwork and behavior are allowed to visit nearby Hutchinson Elementary School to assist with reinforcing academic skills, reading stories to students, and speaking to the students about the importance of having good character.  This gives the Forrest Hill students an opportunity to serve as leaders while making a positive impact on the community.

Additionally this year, Robinson and his staff:

  • Arranged for local barbers to come to the school twice a month to give free haircuts to students who need them
  • Hosted monthly awards ceremonies for students who displayed good behavior, academic progress and near perfect attendance
  • Organized a career fair, which attracted participation from more than 15 businesses and organizations, including Chick-fil-A and Publix, which hired a combined 30 students, Primerica, Next Step Staffing, Atlanta Metropolitan State College and Atlanta Technical College
  • Worked with the Georgia House of Representatives to provide students who showed exemplary growth with official certificates of achievement
  • Established a relationship with officials at Arkansas Baptist College to help worthy students gain admission

These programs, coupled with hard work from the 55 staff members at Forrest Hill, helped the school have a very successful year, Robinson said.

“Our discipline problems plummeted and student morale is way up,” Robinson said. “We want to build on this success next year. We want to stay focused on our goal of presenting these students with viable, positive options in order to make a difference in their lives.”



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 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 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