Bunche Middle School Treble Chorus Wins National Competition

Bunche MS Treble Chorus (2017)
The Ralph J. Bunche Middle School Treble Chorus won first place in the 2017 Southern Star Music Festival.

Atlanta Public Schools have won championships in a number of competitions this school year, from sports to science to debate. Now you can add the arts to the list.

The Ralph J. Bunche Middle School Treble Chorus took first place in the Choral Division for Middle and High Schools in 2017 Southern Star Music Festival, held last week in Atlanta at the Riverside Epic Center.  The judges consisted of a three-person panel made up of college music professors.

Performing “Sing for Joy!” by George F. Handel (arrangement by Linda Spevacek) and “Ain’t That Good News” by Moses Hogan, the Bunche Treble Chorus sang its way to a historic victory by outperforming more than 28 school choruses, bands and orchestra groups from seven different states. The group not only won its division but also was crowned the competition’s Sweepstake and Grand Champions.

2017 Ralph J. Bunche Middle School Treble Chorus
Eighth Graders:  Milon Daniel and Kaya Rossman

Seventh Graders:  Iaan Brown, Justice Carswell, Ja’Kobe Graham, Yasmine Moyer, Kashira Johnson, Rakelle Holland, Tiffani Rucker and Brianna Sellers

Sixth Graders:  Paris Battle, Kimora Butler, Kalia Cook, Revelations Deloney, Jasmine Farmer, Myra Gordan, Aline Serge, Rhyleigh Goss, Brianna Grant, Jazmyn Jackson, Makyia King, Winston McKenny, Zyniah Milner, Oscar Oquendo, T’Leah Raven, Courtney Vence, Eva Ware, DeAndrea West, JeQuan Wilburn, Zoe Winston

Amber Stewart Brings Renewed Energy to Role as Partnerships Manger

Amber StewartAtlanta Public Schools proudly welcomes Amber Stewart as Partnerships Manager in the Office of Partnerships and Development. A former APS teacher, learning specialist and gifted coordinator, Stewart comes to APS from the education nonprofit Atlanta Families’ Awards for Excellence in Education (AFAEE), where she served as executive director and program director. She began her new role April 10.

As Partnerships Manager, Stewart will work with schools and community stakeholders to create enriching partnerships that benefit the children of APS. She is honored and excited to begin work learning about the needs of the various school cluster communities, and intends to be a valuable resource in the context of our new charter system by helping school leaders leverage their flexibility and autonomy to solidify partnerships that will strengthen strategic and cluster plans. Stewart believes in being a humble servant and good listener, and is looking forward to meeting with school leaders and teachers to find ways to bring excitement, innovation, and support to classrooms and schools across the district.

“As a former APS educator and nonprofit partner of APS, I am thrilled to join the APS team as Partnerships Manager,” Stewart said. “It has been exciting to see the transformative efforts of the district from the sideline, so I am ecstatic that I now get to roll up my sleeves and jump into the work firsthand. I count it a joy to serve the children of Atlanta and hope to make a deep and meaningful impact through my work in the Office of Partnerships and Development.”

Prior to her role with AFAEE, Stewart served as the founding gifted coordinator and instructor for both KIPP STRIVE Academy and KIPP Vision Academy, during which time she became an award recipient of the Atlanta Families’ Award. Before this, she taught at KIPP STRIVE Academy for four years in various roles. Stewart also served as a first-grade teacher with Teach For America at Brookview Elementary School in Fulton County.

Stewart is a graduate of Northwestern University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in broadcast journalism and minored in French. A wife and mother of a young son, Stewart enjoys serving at her church, reading and dancing.

Atlanta Public Schools Seeks Public Feedback on Proposed Spending Plan for 2017-2018 School Year

The Budget Commission of the Atlanta Board of Education met on Thursday afternoon to review the tentative budget proposal for the 2017-2018 school year. Four community meetings will be held, starting April 27, to garner feedback from the public on the spending plan.

Atlanta Public Schools (APS) will host a series of community meetings to receive feedback from parents and tax payers on its proposed General Fund Budget for the 2017-2018 school year (Fiscal Year 2018).

The meeting schedule is as follows:

School Location Date Time
Mays High School Auditorium April 27, 2017 6 – 7 p.m.
Burgess-Peterson Elementary School Auditorium May 2, 2017 6 – 7 p.m.
Long Middle School Auditorium May 11, 2017 6 – 7 p.m.
Sutton Middle School Auditorium May 18, 2017 6 – 7 p.m.

Proposed budget for FY2018 is $777 million
The proposed spending plan of $777 million is $15 million more than the current budget (FY2017), does not call for a tax increase and includes a 1.5 percent cost of living adjustment (COLA) for all school employees. Other key aspects of the proposed FY2018 budget include:

  • APS continues to reduce administrative costs while increasing spending in the classroom. The proposed budget includes about $8 million in cuts to central office administration while $10.5 million (an increase of $3.5 million from FY2017) is devoted to the continuation of the district’s signature programming (STEM, International Baccalaureate and College and Career Prep), a key component of the district’s cluster model and its effort to improve student achievement.
  • Principals will have even more autonomy and flexibility with their individual school budgets as APS is taking part in a pilot program – commonly referred to as Fund 150 – that allows them to combine federal Title I funds with their general fund school allotment.
  • The budget was crafted as the district continues to be financially challenged by an increasing pension fund and rising healthcare costs.

Community meetings allow for public understanding, input
The scheduled community meetings are a part of APS’ budget-building process. The first meeting (Thursday, April 27) will be held prior to the May meeting of the Atlanta Board of Education (Monday, May 1) where the spending plan will be presented to board members for tentative adoption. Final adoption will take place at the June meeting – Monday, June 5.

“The community meetings are an opportunity for our constituents to learn about our budgeting process, find out some of the key financial challenges and parameters, and provide us with feedback,” said APS Chief Financial Officer Robert Morales, who will deliver the presentation at the meetings with APS Budget Executive Director Lisa Bracken. “At the end of the day, we want to ensure that our process is transparent, professional, and efficient and provides all of our students with a world-class education.”

“When we begin any budget discussion we approach it from the standpoint of what is best for kids. This budget proposal reflects that philosophy,” APS Superintendent Meria J. Carstarphen said. “It is balanced, equitable, and student-centered and focuses our resources in the areas of our greatest needs. We will always put students and schools first in everything we do.”

Grady High School’s Literary Magazine Wins Prestigious Pacemaker Award


Unmasking_GradyHS-238x300By: Alicia Sands Lurry

Henry W. Grady High School’s literary magazine, The Unmasking, has earned a Pacemaker award, widely considered the “Pulitzer Prize” of high school journalism.  The prestigious award is given by the Journalism Educator’s Association (JEA) and National Scholastic Press Association (NSPA), and is awarded at the organizations’ spring journalism convention.

The Pacemaker is a first for The Unmasking, which received the award for its 2016 magazine.

“We are extraordinarily proud of this national award for our literary magazine,” Grady Principal Dr. Betsy Bockman said. “At Grady, student creativity is at the core of what we do; The Unmasking embodies our commitment to writing, the arts, and student expression.”

Each year, the National Scholastic Press Association presents the Pacemaker, scholastic journalism’s preeminent award. There is a category for each type of publication – online, newspaper, yearbook, magazine and broadcast. Entries are judged by teams of professionals based on coverage and content, quality of writing and reporting, leadership, design, photography, and graphics.

The Unmasking Lit Mag 2016-2017 Staff
The Unmasking staff.

Nalin Needham, adviser for The Unmasking, said winning the award was a complete surprise. Since becoming adviser three years ago, Needham said he was initially more concerned with trying to establish basic organizational structures that would allow the staff to produce a quality literary magazine.

“While I could tell that we grew leaps and bounds over this three-year period, I had no real conception that we were producing something that would end up being recognized on a national platform,” Needham said. “The lion’s share of credit for this achievement belongs to the students who have committed their time, energies, and efforts to our magazine. The staff at The Unmasking has been phenomenal. They are the lifeblood of our publication. It was and is through their hard work, dedication, creativity, and collaborative spirit that we have been able to produce our now award-winning publication, and consequently they, more than anyone else, deserve this recognition for their contributions to it.”

Established in 1986, The Unmasking publishes writing and artwork by students throughout Grady High School. It is published in the fall and spring each school year.




It’s Official! M.A. Jones Elementary is APS’ First Certified STEM School

M.A. Jones ES STEM celebration 1
Georgia Schools Superintendent Richard Woods (Back row, left to right), APS Superintendent Meria J. Carstarphen and M.A. Jones Elementary School Principal Margul Woolfolk celebrate with students at a ceremony to honor M.A. Jones’ official recognition as a STEM school.

After five years of hard work, it was party time at M. Agnes Jones Elementary School on Tuesday as the school celebrated becoming the first Atlanta Public School to earn STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) certification.

The school held a pep rally featuring Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Meria J. Carstarphen and State Schools Superintendent Richard Woods. Prior to the raM.A. Jones ES garden (carrots)lly, Dr. Carstarphen and Woods were taken on a tour of the school’s urban farm where students are growing lettuce, spinach, carrots, collards and basil. Students are also caring for the farm’s two chickens – Coco Puff and Valentine.

M.A. Jones Principal Margul Woolfolk said the five-year journey to become a certified STEM school was well worth it. Instead of teaching science, technology, engineering and math in isolation, the STEM schools feature an integrated curriculum driven by problem solving, discovery, exploratory project/problem-based learning and student-centered development of ideas and solutions. It helps prepare students for success in the 21st century workforce.

M.A. Jones ES STEM celebration (Dr. C and robot)“I wanted this to be sustainable for the long term, and so it took some time for all of our teachers to be certified in STEM. Also, being a charter system gave us autonomy with our funds so that we could adequately support STEM,” Woolfolk said. “It’s having an impact on our students and the community.”




M.A. Jones ES STEM celebration 2

Mays Girls, South Atlanta Boys Honored by Fulton County Commission

South Atlanta Boys Basketball Honored by Fulton Co Commission (April 2017)Mays Girls Basketball Honored by Fulton Co Commission (April 2017)
The South Atlanta boys and Mays girls basketball teams were each honored by the Fulton County Board of Commissioners for winning state championships this season.

The Mays girls and South Atlanta boys basketball teams, winners of state championship titles this season, were honored at the Fulton County Government Center on Wednesday by the Fulton County Board of Commissioners, at the request of District 5 Commissioner Marvin S. Arrington and District 6 Commissioner Emma I. Darnell.

The Mays girls became the Georgia High Schools Association (GHSA) Class AAAAAA champs by way of a hard-fought 52-21 win over Harrison (Cobb County), back on March 9. It was the second state championship for the program, which won the Class AAAA title in 2003. The Raiders began the season with a record of 5-7, but rallied to a final record of 22-9, under the leadership of head coach Chantay Frost.

The South Atlanta boys won the GHSA Class AA championship after dismantling Swainsboro (Emanuel County) 68-33, on March 11. The Hornets finished with a record of 29-1 and were the No. 1 team in the Atlanta Journal Constitution’s Class AA Top 10 poll from the beginning of the season until the end. South Atlanta’s boys last won a state championship in 2009 (Class AAA).

The wins were sweet redemption for both programs. This year’s seniors on Mays’ team were sophomores when the Raiders lost the Class AAAAA championship game to Stephenson (DeKalb County). South Atlanta advanced to the semifinals last season, but lost to eventual champion Morgan County.

To view a mini-documentary on both championship teams, click here.

Mays 2016-17 Roster: Seniors Brandi Heard, Kamiyah Street, Kendall Pack and Sierra Loving; juniors Denea Evan, Demeesha Wallace and Meesha Wallace; and sophomores Kyra McWhorter, Jade Bell, Chardae Bell and Natoria Hill. The team is coached by Chantay Frost.

South Atlanta 2016-17 Roster: Seniors Frank Bailey, Acey Brown, Antonio Gay, Freeman Jordan, Devonta Pullins, Demontay Roberts and Tyler Thornton; juniors Dondre Barnes and Jalen Stegall; and freshman Ja’Quavian Florence. The team is coached by Michael Reddick.




SPARK’S Roy Jackson Named APS Library Media Specialist of the Year

Roy Jackson

By: Alicia Sands Lurry

Atlanta Public Schools proudly congratulates Roy Jackson, media specialist at Springdale Park Elementary School, for being named Library Media Specialist of the Year.

Honored in celebration of School Library Month, Jackson was recently recognized at the April 10 Board of Education Meeting. National School Library Month recognizes the contributions of school-based media centers in providing the materials and resources for teachers and students that encourages growth and knowledge and develops literary, cultural, aesthetic appreciation, and ethical standards.

Described as a dynamic media specialist and knowledgeable school leader, Jackson will now go on to represent APS at the Georgia Library Media Association(GLMA) and Georgia Association of Instructional Technology (GAIT), which co-sponsor the Georgia School Library Media Specialist of the Year award. The prestigious award recognizes K-12 library media specialists whose service has resulted in exemplary library media programs.

Warren Goetzel, media services coordinator for APS, said Jackson is an invaluable asset to the entire SPARK learning community.

“Mr. Jackson consistently goes above and beyond the call of duty to ensure that students at SPARK benefit from a wide array of library media programs and services, like coaching the Helen Ruffin Reading Bowl to the state playoffs, to sponsoring award-winning entries like the Ezra Jack Keats bookmaking competition,” Goetzel said. “He is an exemplary instructional leader, teacher, program administrator, and information specialist.”

Jackson and this year’s runner-up – Christine Tigue, media specialist at Hope-Hill Elementary School – will both receive $500 in books for their respective school libraries.

Each school system is allowed to nominate one library media specialist. District Library Media Specialists of the Year are chosen from the system-level nominees. One state Library Media Specialist of the Year is then selected from the district winners. The Georgia Library Media Specialist of the Year Award (LMSOTY) recognizes K-12 media specialists for excellence in their field through service to students, teachers and their communities.

This year’s winner will be selected by May 12.

For more information about National Library Month, visit: http://www.ala.org/aasl/slm.