March SEL Books of the Month Promote Perseverance

This month, our Superintendent Dr. Meria J. Carstarphen encourages everyone across the District to read books that explore problem solving. Our social and emotional learning (SEL) books for the month of March are all written by Malala Yousafzai, the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize: Malala’s Magic Pencil for elementary readers, I Am Malala: How One Girl Stood Up for Education and Changed the World (Young Readers Edition) for middle school readers, and I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban for high school readers.

March: Perseverance

We set and achieve realistic goals, both immediate and long term, by maintaining our focus and using a growth mindset.

Book Summaries

  • Malala’s Magic Pencil (elementary school readers) – As a child in Pakistan, Malala made a wish for a magic pencil. Malala saw a world that needed fixing. This beautifully illustrated volume tells Malala’s story for a younger audience and shows them the world view that allowed Malala to hold on to hope even in the most difficult of times.
  • I Am Malala (for middle and high school readers) is a memoir that details the early life of Yousafzai, her father’s ownership of schools and activism, the rise and fall of the Taliban, and the assassination attempt made against Yousafzai, when she was aged 15, following her activism for girls’ education.

SEL Competency

Self-management skills allow individuals to handle daily stresses and control their emotions under difficult situations. Students’ capacities to regulate their emotions impact student memory and the cognitive resources they use on academic tasks. Self-management skills include the ability to monitor and reflect on personal and academic goal-setting. Academic self-regulation has important implications for student motivation in the classroom, as well as the learning strategies students use to master material.

Several copies of each book are available at school libraries/media centers and can also be found in myBackpack via Class Pass @APS.

Douglass Girls Basketball Team Repeats as State Champions!

The Douglass girls’ basketball team did it … again!

The Astros won their second consecutive Georgia High School Association (GHSA) Class AA state championship on Thursday afternoon, defeating Southwest Macon, 56-46, in what was essentially a home game for Southwest as the state championship games are played at The Centreplex in Macon.

Douglass trailed 13-12 after the first quarter, but fought back to take a 27-21 lead at halftime. The Astros eventually built a 41-28 lead late in the third quarter. Southwest Macon made a run and cut the lead to 46-44 with just under four minutes remaining in the game, but the Astros outscored the Patriots 10-2 the rest of the way to seal the win.

Douglass was led by senior guard Kayla Sesberry, who scored 25 points to lead all scorers. She ended Southwest’s comeback attempt in the fourth quarter by scoring four consecutive points to push the Astros’ lead to 50-44 with a little over two minutes left in the game. Fellow senior Ikenya King scored 13 points and was dominant underneath the basket with 16 rebounds. Also, Destiny McKee scored 10 points, Zhaniya Moreland and Michelle Payne scored four points, and Yolanie Johnson and Ashley McKee each scored two.

The repeat championships by the Astros, who finished the season with a record of 26-5, is the first ever for the school and the first for Atlanta Public Schools since the Maynard Jackson girls track team won the Class AAA championship in 2015 and 2016.

Therrell boys come up just short

The Therrell boys’ basketball team’s bid to join the Douglass girls team as back-to-back state champs fell just short, as the Panthers were defeated, 69-65, by Swainsboro, in the Class AA boys’ finals, following the girls’ game Thursday in Macon.

The Panthers trailed 35-23 midway through the second quarter, but battled back to trim the deficit to 35-29 at halftime. Going into the fourth quarter, the game was tied at 50 and Therrell eventually took a 59-56 lead, but the Tigers closed on a 13-4 run to win the championship.

Therrell, which finished with a record of 26-7, was led by senior Resean Frederick, who scored 23 points to lead all scorers in the game. Fellow seniors Calvin Miller scored 16, Cameron Fortson scored nine, Roman Son scored eight, and Justin Worrill scored five, while sophomore Caleb Smith scored four points. 

As an added honor for the school, the Panther dance team, which finished second in the region and qualified to compete in the state dance competition, was selected by the GHSA to perform at halftime of the game. 

B.E.S.T. Academy Hosts First STEM Invitational

B.E.S.T. Academy hosted its first-ever STEM invitational on Feb. 27, a day-long event where 50 boys from TAG Academy, M. Agnes Jones, Cleveland Elementary, and Centennial Academy flexed their scientific and technological muscles while participating in various coding and robotics competitions.

Sponsored by the Atlanta-based Henry and Beverly Respres Foundation, the program was designed to serve as a pipeline opportunity for STEM education while exposing and providing younger students with hands-on science, technology, engineering and math activities.

During the event, students participated in circuits designed to teach the basics of coding, as well as robotics, mechanical engineering, and computer programming. In addition to making DIY lightsabers and learning about electricity, students also mastered the basics of programming a robot to make a square and travel through an obstacle course.

Other activities included creating makeshift cars using rubber bands, Popsicle sticks and plastic bottle caps to mimic a wheel and axle, as well as assembling airplanes to fly straight across the room.

STEM coordinator Marlon Alfaro said the program was designed to enhance students’ learning in a fun, yet stimulating environment.

“I want students to think that STEM is cool and fun, and that it’s interesting when they see the application,” Alfaro said. “I also want them to feel empowered that the things they’re learning in school they can apply that knowledge and have the ability to do those things. When they learn they can do it, there’s a sense of accomplishment.”

Jeremy Stready says he said a fun time learning new skills.

“I like it,” said Jeremy, a fifth grader at Cleveland Avenue Elementary School. “It’s something new.”

“I like that we can do so many things with coding,” said Randy Rios, a B.E.S.T. Academy sixth grader, who was on hand to assist the elementary students. “I also like that we make planes that can fly.”

His classmate, Vozjeon Cook, helped students build a rubber band-powered car.

“I love building new things, and I love using rubber bands,” he said.

According to Principal Dr. Timothy Jones, the program also served as a recruitment tool to attract prospective students who are matriculating through a STEM pathway.

“We are celebrating achievement and academics, and all the components of a STEM education – whether it be coding, engineering, the design process, innovation and creativity – as an opportunity for kids to work with our students,” Dr. Jones said. “We’re excited. This has been a real foundational opportunity for us to become a direct feeder for STEM pathways for grades 6-12.”

Assistant Principal Dr. Yamilsa Roebuck agreed.

“We wanted to provide seamless transition and let students know that there are options for them,” said Roebuck. “B.ES.T. has always been the best kept secret. We want parents and students to know that B.ES.T. is here, and we are working and pushing through, and we have a lot of options for our young men.”

Following the event, three students were crowned winners and received drones as top prizes. Sidelharth Gupta of Centennial Academy took home first prize, followed by second-place winner Anthony Daniel of M. Agnes Jones Elementary School. Justin Mohammed, who attends TAG Academy, placed third.

Helen Ruffin Reading Bowl Journey Continues for E. Rivers and Sutton

March is National Reading Month, designated to encourage children of all ages to read every day. While the entire District continues to Race2Read 20 minutes daily towards our 10-million-minute goal, two groups of APS students have taken their love of reading to new heights.

The Sutton Middle Cougars and the E. Rivers Elementary Lions took first-place honors at the District Helen Ruffin Reading Bowl (HRRB) on Jan. 25 at Therrell High School and the metro HRRB at Clayton State University on Feb. 8. They now have their sights set on the North Divisional HRRB on March 7 at the University of West Georgia.

 “I enjoy reading because it is like watching a movie in your head but only better because you can do it more often,” said Riley Sipe, a fourth grade, first-year HRRB participant.

Sutton Middle School’s Ella Sipe has been competing in the HRRB for four years.

“I enjoy reading because it is an escape from normal life,” said Ella Sipe, a seventh grade, four-time HRRB participant. “Reading stretches your imagination and shows you the world in a whole other way. Without reading, I don’t think I ever would have learned how to be brave, quick-witted, or hard working, just like the beloved characters in my favorite books.”

In preparation for the bowls, teams read and studied the 2019-2020 Georgia Peach Book Award winners. Elementary and middle school students read a total of 10 chapter books, and high school students read a total of 20.

“I encourage all the students to read each and every book, and we practice sample questions weekly in an after-school meeting and at home,” said Paula Boston, E. Rivers media specialist who has served as HRRB coach for 10 years. “I cannot take credit for my students’ successes so far. It is my students who have read the books and practiced the questions and took the steps to compete.”

From left: E. River’s Elementary’s Avery Price and Riley Sipe are first-time HRRB participants.

“I decided to compete in the HRRB because last year Ms. Boston was teaching us a class, and she told us all about it,” said Avery Price, a fourth-grade, first-time HRRB participant. “I really liked that it was all about reading and remembering the details, because I love to read, and I’m really competitive.”

“Ms. Boston has done a phenomenal job of recruiting and teaching her team, and I am certain that Sutton would not be as successful if it weren’t for her and the other coaches at our feeder schools,” said Melanie Burdis, who has served as Sutton Middle School HRRB coach for two years. “It is so important for students to love reading so that they can learn new vocabulary words, learn about characters that are unlike people they meet in their community, and [reading] fosters imagination.”  

The diverse collection of Georgia Peach books included Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed, Clayton Byrd Goes Underground by Rita Williams-Garcia, and The Parker Inheritance by Varian Johnson at the elementary level; Harbor Me by Jacqueline Woodson, Rebound by Kwame Alexander and Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani at the middle school level; and Barely Missing Everything by Matt Mendez, Internment by Samira Ahmed and Pride by Ibi Zoboi at the high school level.

Sutton Middle School’s Isaiah Inyang has been competing in the HRRB for two years.

Sutton Middle School sixth grader Isaiah Inyang’s favorite book was “definitely Rebound, because the protagonist and other characters share my ethnicity,” said the two-time HRRB participant. “I also like the time period in which the book takes place. My mom was born in 1989, so I thought that was a cool coincidence. Another reason I love this book is because Kwame Alexander wrote it in a creative way—it made reading it fun and interesting. Lastly, I have a similar taste in music (Michael Jackson, the King of Pop) to the character, Skinny.”

“I liked the Parker Inheritance the most because I liked the meaning,” Riley said. “It was very deep because it talked a lot about segregation. The difference between reading books and living it are two different things.”

The elementary, middle, and high school teams with the highest overall scores at the end of the March 7 divisional bowl at the University of West Georgia will advance to the state final March 28 at the University of Georgia.

The Helen Ruffin Reading Bowl is open to students in grades fourth through 12th. It was initiated by its namesake, who, as a media specialist in DeKalb County, noticed that a little healthy competition helped students become more enthusiastic about reading. She died in 2014.

CTAE Month Celebrates APS Career Pathways

Allied health is a CTAE career pathway offered at South Atlanta High School.

Atlanta Public Schools celebrated Career, Technical and Agricultural Education (CTAE) Month by providing APS staff and stakeholders with a firsthand look at CTAE pathways and students.

Held across the District on Feb. 12, CTAE Demonstration Day 2020 invited guests to experience engineering at BEST Academy, business/computer science at Brown Middle School, audio/video technology and film at Maynard Jackson High School, graphic design at North Atlanta High School, and allied health at South Atlanta High School.

“The purpose of the [inaugural] Career, Technical and Agricultural Education Demonstration Day was to invite stakeholders into our classrooms to witness the CTAE instructional delivery model in action,” said CTAE Director Dr. Dwionne Freeman. “CTAE classes are unique in that they teach career-related skills through an integration of project-based learning, academic competencies and employability skill development via real-world applications.  We hope that as a result of the demonstrations, visitors were able to glean a better understanding of how CTAE programs are meeting industry needs and preparing our students for college, career and life.”

CTAE pathways help students successfully enter the workforce or transition into post-secondary education by providing classes with rigorous academic standards, hands-on projects and labs.  These opportunities include, but are not limited to, advanced curriculum, dual enrollment, work-based learning, career awareness, career exposure and employability skill development.  Learn more.

Douglass Girls, Therrell Boys Two Wins Away from Back-to-Back Championships

The Douglass girls will face Early County on Saturday, February 29, 6 p.m., in the GHSA Class AA semifinals at Georgia College and State University.

The Douglass girls and Therrell boys are two wins away from repeating as state basketball champions!

Both teams advanced to Saturday’s Georgia High School Association (GHSA) Class AA state semifinals with wins this week in the quarterfinal round over Washington County High School; the Douglass girls won Washington County, 56-53, while the Therrell boys won, 57-55.

The Douglass girls, who have a record of 24-5, will face Early County (26-4), Saturday, February 29, 6 p.m., at Georgia College and State University in Milledgeville. Early County is the same team the Astros defeated in last year’s state championship game. Immediately following that game, the Therrell boys, who have a record of 24-7, will face Chattooga County (24-6).

The Therrell boys will face Chattooga County on Saturday, February 29, 8 p.m., in the GHSA Class AA semifinals at Georgia College and State University.

The two defending state champions are the last of 10 Atlanta Public Schools teams that advanced to the state playoffs this season. The list includes the Maynard Jackson girls, winners of the Region 6 title in Class AAAAA, along with the girls teams from Grady, South Atlanta and Therrell, and the boys teams from Carver, Douglass, Drew Charter and Maynard Jackson.

APS was represented in the GHSA state wrestling championships, which took place February 13-15, by the following student athletes:  Seth Fagin, North Atlanta; Lamedia Hughley, Washington (girls’ division); Sophia Little, Grady (girls’ division); and R-Son Stone and Earnest Wilson, South Atlanta.

Grady and North Atlanta High School represented APS in outstanding fashion at the GHSA state swimming and diving championships, which took place February 6-8.

The the North Atlanta girls placed seventh and the boys placed eighth in Class AAAAAA, while the Grady girls team placed ninth and the boys placed 12th in Class AAAAA. Here are some of their outstanding results:


Boys 200 meter Freestyle Relay – 5th

Girls 200m Freestyle Relay – 12th

Boys 400m Freestyle Relay – 10th

Girls 400m Freestyle Relay – 2nd

Boys Medley Relay – 11th

Girls Medley Relay – 11th

Maggie Watkins (500m Free) – 4th

Maggie Watkins (200m Free) – 9th

Jory Richardson (200m Individual Medley) – 12th

Jory Richardson (100m Backstroke) – 11th

Ari Ramsey (200m Individual Medley) – 21st

Ari Ramsey (100m Freestyle) – 10th

Kai McGale (50m Freestyle) – 10th

Keaton Tsepas (500m Freestyle) – 14th

Liam Bray (500m Freestyle) – 17th

Liam Bray (200 Individual Medley) – 14th



200m Medley Relay – 9th

200m Freestyle Relay – 6th

400m Freestyle Relay – 6th

Erin Hicks 200m Freestyle – 7th; 100m Butterfly – 5th

Taylor Hicks 100m Backstroke – 7th

Hannah Dabney 50m Freestyle – 6th 


200m Medley Relay – 7th

200m Free Relay – 9th 

400m Free Relay – 4th

Ben Aspinwall 100m Freestyle – 12th 

Ben Steele 200m Freestyle – 9th; 500m Freestyle – 9th; 400m Freestyle Relay – 4th

Matt Steele 200m Individual Medley – 3rd; 100m Breast stroke – 3rd 

Burgess-Peterson Academy Receives IB Authorization

It’s official! Burgess-Peterson Academy (BPA) has become the first Jackson Cluster traditional elementary school to earn the IB World School designation! Led by Principal David White, Burgess-Peterson has received authorization to offer the Primary Years Programme (PYP) as an International Baccalaureate (IB) World School.

“Burgess-Peterson Academy is thrilled to gain authorization from the International Baccalaureate Organization to offer the PYP (Primary Years Programme),” said Principal White. “We’ve been working toward this goal for four years and are so proud of our students and staff for achieving this milestone. We’re especially enthusiastic that our students at BPA will now have the opportunity for an IB experience K-12 since our feeder schools, King Middle School and Maynard Jackson High School, offer the Middle Years, Diploma and Career – Related Programmes respectively.”

The International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme is a curriculum framework designed for students ages 3 to 12. The programme challenges students to think for themselves and take responsibility for their learning as they explore local and global issues and opportunities in real-life contexts.

Implementing the PYP at Burgess-Peterson Academy will ensure that students can thrive in the Middle Years Programme (MYP) at King Middle School as well as the International Baccalaureate Programme at Maynard Jackson High School.

We are extremely proud of Burgess-Peterson Academy and look forward to seeing the BPA school community continue to excel as they prepare students for college and career!