Delta Reading Buddies Return to Dobbs and Hutchinson Elementary Schools

The red shirts are back and ready to launch into literacy! The Delta Reading Buddies Program has returned to Dobbs and Hutchinson elementary schools.

In 2017, Delta Air Lines committed to a five-year partnership with Atlanta Public Schools – providing books, resources, hundreds of thousands of dollars, and dedicated Delta employees who volunteer their time twice monthly to read to their APS buddies throughout the school year.

“Many of our students do not have an opportunity to explore the world or visit unique places because their caregivers are working so hard to provide the bare necessities for them,” said Principal Tiffany Ragin, Dobbs Elementary School. “Through our partnership with the Delta Reading Buddies Program, our students’ worlds are enlarged. They are using their wildest imaginations to take trips where only books can take them. Our buddies are not only helping our students to love reading, but the relationships they are building will change their lives forever. We are forever grateful for this partnership and our awesome reading buddies.”

Not even a new school site could waver Delta’s commitment to APS scholars. Hutchinson Elementary is temporarily housed at 220 Northside Drive while its campus is undergoing renovations.

“The Delta Reading Buddies Program has grown from over 100 Buddies to 250 this year. It warmed my heart to see the Delta Reading Buddies return,” said Dr. Shuanta Broadway, principal of Hutchinson Elementary School. “Witnessing the joy between a buddy and a student they’ve connected with for the past two years is impactful. I am especially grateful our buddies came to our relocation site. Our regular site is right near Delta’s headquarters. This shows the commitment Delta Reading Buddies have to the partnership with Atlanta Public Schools.”

LaSandra Boykin, Delta’s lead project manager of community engagement, says Delta volunteers have expressed positive feedback about their experiences. The only thing they wanted to change was getting an opportunity to spend more time with their students.

That’s a great problem to have.

Honoring Rev. Lowery: APS Scholars Join Debate on Reparations for Slavery

“The U.S. federal government should provide direct compensation to all African-Americans who descended from slaves as reparations for slavery.”

That was the debate resolution at the district-wide 17th Rev. Dr. Joseph E. Lowery Lecture Series on Civic Engagement, held Tuesday, Oct. 8, at Daniel McLaughlin Therrell High School in honor of the 98-year-old civil rights living legend.

Though Rev. Lowery was unable to attend, his dynamic presence was forever felt.

“The Atlanta Board of Education developed and sponsored this lecture so our students and community could leverage the wisdom and experience of Dr. Lowery and his colleagues from the struggles of the Civil Rights movement for the benefit and betterment of our future generations,” said Atlanta Board of Education Vice Chair Eshe’ P. Collins (District 6) in her remarks. “To the students here today, I hope you fully understand and appreciate that you are in the presence of history, witnessing a type of civic engagement as Dr. Lowery himself engaged. Dr. Lowery, in his life and work, demonstrated the courage and bravery to step up and make a real and necessary difference in the world. And he spoke openly, honestly and bravely about important issues of his day just as you will today.”

Hundreds of high school students from across the District were enthralled by the debate as two-person teams from Georgia State University, University of West Georgia and Morehouse College went toe-to-toe. Georgia State University argued in favor of direct compensation, the University of West Georgia argued in favor in indirect compensation, and Morehouse College argued against reparations as compensation for slavery.

A true highlight of the program, APS students were allotted time to put debate teams in the hot seat, directing comments and posing questions to all three teams.

Blanche Blackwell Payne, director of operations for the Joseph and Evelyn Lowery Institute for Social Justice and Human Rights, provided remarks on behalf of the institute. A product of Atlanta Public Schools, Payne is an alumna of Northside High School.

APS Superintendent Dr. Meria J. Carstarphen also provided remarks.

“As a daughter of the Deep South and a native of Selma, I am proud that Atlanta Public Schools created this program to honor Dr. Lowery, who was among the leaders who did the critical work in the Civil Rights era to bring systematic change in our country,” Carstarphen said in her remarks. “I am a product of Dr. Lowery’s work. Board Vice Chair Eshe’ Collins, an Atlanta native, is a product of Dr. Lowery’s work. And every single one of you, who are all also sons and daughters of the Deep South, are products of the work of Dr. Lowery.”

Pep Rally for Pre-K: Why Continued Emphasis on Early Education Matters

Guest Post By: Erica Fener Sitkoff, Voices for Georgia’s Children

Erica Fener Sitkoff, executive director of Voices for Georgia’s Children

Years of experience advocating for quality early learning in Georgia has revealed the incredible work being done, by so many, to emphasize the importance of a quality early childhood education to successful lifetime outcomes.

As a mother of a 5-year-old child, and as executive director of Voices for Georgia’s Children, a nonprofit working to advance laws, policies, and actions that improve children’s lives, both my personal and professional lives are directly affected by our continued prioritization and support of essential programs such as Georgia Pre-K.

Each year, I look forward to the first week in October, which signifies a weeklong celebration of early learning called Georgia Pre-K Week.

Georgia Pre-K Week is in essence one big pep rally for Georgia pre-K. Centers across the state host their legislators and local community leaders to read to children and see firsthand the benefits of quality early learning.

There is no other opportunity like it where Georgia’s policy makers and leaders experience at this scale the value of early education and the importance of continued investment in it.

It is one thing to spend my days in meetings discussing policy solutions which benefit children, but it is a completely different thing to spend time visiting with children and teachers in centers, witnessing firsthand the benefits of these solutions — learning programs that promote students’ physical, behavioral, and cognitive development. I get to experience quality-rated childcare and early learning in action – I love that, through Georgia Pre-K Week, others get to do the same. The staff is consistently welcoming and friendly, the pre-K teachers are high-skilled and well-trained, and the students are engaging in an age-appropriate curriculum which best prepares them for kindergarten.

I have been so proud to see Georgia set itself apart as a leader in providing pre-K to 4-year-olds. I’m also excited to see districts like Atlanta Public Schools commit to strengthening both their own pre-K programs and their partnerships with community-based providers.

With continued investment and access to quality early care and learning for ALL of our youngest learners, no matter their background, we can ensure our children are equipped with the tools they need in early years and well beyond.

For more information, helpful tools, and free resources on Georgia Pre-K Week, please visit If you are a Pre-K center, and would like to register to participate in Pre-K Week and receive free tools and resources, please register here. If you are an organization or community leader and would like to be involved, please email

SEL Reads. Dr. C Leads. October Books of the Month Highlight Diversity and Acceptance

This month, our Superintendent Dr. Meria J. Carstarphen encourages everyone across the District to read books that promote diversity and acceptance. Our social and emotional learning (SEL) books for the month of October are The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson and Rafael López for elementary readers, Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai for middle school readers, and Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult for high school readers.

October Theme: Diversity and Acceptance

We show appreciation for diverse perspectives and experiences.

Book Summaries

  • The Day You Begin (elementary selection), is a beautiful and inclusive story that encourages children to find the beauty in their own lives and share it with the world. Each child feels very alone until they begin to share their stories and discover that it is nearly always possible to find someone a little like you. López’s vibrant illustrations bring the characters’ hidden and unspoken thoughts to light with fantastic, swirling color. Shifting hues and textures across the page convey their deep loneliness and then slowly transition into bright hopeful possibilities.
  • In Inside Out & Back Again (middle school selection), for all the 10 years of her life, Hà has only known Saigon: the thrills of its markets, the joy of its traditions, and the warmth of her friends close by. But now the Vietnam War has reached her home. Hà and her family are forced to flee as Saigon falls, and they board a ship headed toward hope. In America, Hà discovers the foreign world of Alabama: the coldness of its strangers, the dullness of its food . . . and the strength of her very own family.
  • Small Great Things (high school selection), is a thought-provoking example of racism in America. A nurse in Connecticut with more than 20 years of experience is forbidden by parents to touch their newborn child.

SEL Competency

Social awareness allows individuals to take others’ perspectives into account and to empathize with others. Socially aware students are more likely to recognize and appreciate the similarities and differences of others. Social awareness is particularly important for students as they participate in new instructional shifts. Students need to take the perspectives of their classmates during classroom discussions and attempt to empathize and relate with characters during analysis of texts.

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

In Other SEL News …

Last month, the SEL team and Fine Arts department collaborated in supporting APS art classes across the District to make pinwheels with ideas of peace, love, hope and harmony on them. When creating the pinwheels, students were asked to draw on their SEL core competency of self-awareness to design or write a message on their pinwheel, using the prompt, “What Peace Means to Me.”  

SEL collected almost 1,000 pinwheels, which will be sent this week as an art installation to the El Paso Independent School District, an SEL CASEL sister city, as an offering of peace during the city’s time of healing after the tragic events in August. This project was based on the Pinwheels for Peace project, which aims to help students make a public visual statement about their feelings about war, peace, bullying, tolerance, cooperation, harmony, unity, and, in some way, maybe, awaken the public and let them know what the next generation is thinking.

For more information on Pin Wheels for Peace, click here.

We Are APS: T. Roberts

Oct. 2 is National Custodial Worker’s Recognition Day, and Atlanta Public Schools is grateful to all of our maintenance staff who work tirelessly to keep our schools and offices clean.

This year, we give special recognition to Mr. T. Roberts of Cleveland Avenue Elementary School.

Roberts doesn’t like to be in the spotlight, declining an interview and photo shoot. Though a man of few words, he has enormous dedication to his South Atlanta community.

“Mr. Roberts is dedicated to the community because he lives in this community,” said Dr. Anyee` D. Payne, Cleveland Avenue Elementary principal. “He goes above and beyond to make sure that we have a safe and clean learning environment for all students and staff.”

His Cleveland Avenue colleagues appreciate him so much that they requested a proclamation after electing him Education Support Person of the Year for the 2018-2019 school year.

Roberts is a native of Atlanta and an APS alumnus, graduating from Walter F. George High School, which is now South Atlanta High School.

Thank you, Mr. Roberts, and thank you to all of our custodial workers who make APS a cleaner and more productive environment for work and education!

We Are APS highlights APS visionaries (parents, students, teachers, principals, support staff, community members, partners, etc.), who exemplify our vision of a high-performing school district where students love to learn, educators inspire, families engage, and the community trusts the system. To recommend an APS visionary for a We Are APS feature, contact your communications liaison or email

Atlanta Fire Chief Talks Career Pathways with Seniors at Therrell High School

A career in fire and rescue is well within reach for 19 seniors at D.M. Therrell High School.

Through a partnership between Atlanta Fire Rescue Department (AFRD) and Atlanta Public Schools (APS), 19 seniors at D.M. Therrell High School are enrolled in the fire pathway class and AFRD Delayed Entry Program.

“I really didn’t know what I wanted to do until I heard about the fire department, and I think it may be a good career for me because I love to help people so much,” said one fire pathway student.

On Sept. 26, Fire Chief Randall B. Slaughter stopped by D.M. Therrell High School to discuss career options with fire pathway students and their parents.

He shared his journey from roaming the halls of D.M. Therrell High School to climbing the ranks and becoming fire chief.

“This is one more vehicle by which you may decide you want to make a living,” Chief Slaughter told students. “Whatever it is you decide, I want you to be the best you.”

After graduating from Therrell in 1986, Chief Slaughter had a brief stint at Georgia State University but admits he was not focused at the time and flunked out. In 1990, after completing an active tour of duty with the United States Marine Corps, he began his career with AFRD and never looked back. He completed three degrees (an associate’s, bachelor’s and master’s) all while working full time on the force. He has served in each division of labor and at every rank within the organization.

 “Whether I say I can or I can’t, both is true,” said Chief Slaughter, while explaining to students the importance of self-motivation and determination.

Students also had the opportunity to ask questions, both personal and professional. Chief Slaughter answered them all – from questions regarding his relationship with his family, his plans for retirement, and advice for young people.

His advice: “First of all, stay out of trouble. Second, start taking care of yourself health-wise. Third, if people aren’t adding value in your life, cut them.”

The AFRD Delayed Entry Program is composed of both a fire pathway curriculum (or technical education) offered in a classroom and a summer internship opportunity with AFRD, where students can earn EMS certification.

“It’s an opportunity for our scholars to be exposed to fire safety and professions,” said Principal Shelly Powell.  A career with the Atlanta Fire Rescue Department is a valuable option for any scholar. I am committed to keeping this program at Therrell High School.”

The AFRD Delayed Entry Program, in partnership with APS, provides career exposure to fire and emergency services, mentoring, leadership development, team building, guest speaker sessions, preparedness training, EMS credentialing, and a pathway to employment opportunities as a firefighter with AFRD. 

Starting next school year in 2020-2021, the fire pathway and AFRD Delayed Entry Program will be open to APS students district-wide through the Atlanta College and Career Academy.

APS Honored at 2019 Golden Radish Awards

On Sept. 17, Atlanta Public Schools was honored with a platinum award for excellence in farm to school at the 2019 Golden Radish Awards at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

APS was among 90 Georgia school districts recognized at this year’s awards ceremony. Collectively, APS and other districts served over 2 million meals featuring local food and tended 4,646 school gardens while conducting 4,432 hands-on food and gardening activities.

Most notable farm-to-school achievements from the 2018-2019 school year include:

  • APS students participated in farm-to-school lessons 85,601 times through classroom and hands-on gardening activities.  
  • APS partnered with the Wylde Center in Edgewood to complete 11 school-wide taste tests featuring local produce, including corn salad and mango avocado salsa.
  • In 2019, 52 kindergarten classes visited the Atlanta Botanical Gardens, which features an edible garden exhibit. The Wylde Center in the Edgewood Community Garden hosted 41 class field trips, which featured chickens, a pollinator garden, a rain garden, fruit trees, berry bushes, mushroom logs and compost bins. The Wylde Center also visited more than 500 classrooms and school gardens.
  • Lunch at APS includes a daily vegetarian entree and a daily salad bar, known as the APS Salad Bowl, which includes locally grown vegetables.

The Golden Radish Award is given to Local Educational Agencies (LEAs) in Georgia who are doing extraordinary work in farm to school. This work includes best practices in farm-to-school programs, such as local food procurement, exposing students to new foods through taste tests and incorporating gardening and cooking activities in curriculum. LEAs are recognized at five levels. Platinum, Gold, Silver, and Bronze and Honorary Radishes are awarded to recognize LEAs with varying levels of farm to school programs.

Georgia Organics created the Golden Radish Awards in 2015 to raise awareness for Georgia’s emerging farm-to-school programs and share the best practices among awardees. Georgia Organics’ chairs the Golden Radish Committee and facilitates the awards process annually to recognize Farm to School excellence across Georgia.

The award is presented by Golden Radish partners (Georgia Organics, Georgia’s Departments of Agriculture (GDA), Education (GaDOE) and Public Health (GDPH), the Department of Early Care and Learning (DECAL) and University of Georgia Cooperative Extension (UGA Extension).

“Farm to school teaches our children the importance of food that helps bodies grow healthy and strong and food that promotes learning,” said Kathleen E. Toomey, M.D., M.P.H., commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Health. “When children learn as early as possible where their food comes from, they are more likely to eat fresh, nutritious foods that will sustain healthy choices as they grow.”

One of the many ways that APS students participated in hands-on, farm-to-school activities included the 2019 ACE Junior Chef Competition held at Finch Elementary. Justin Chelliah, a student from Smith Elementary, won first place in the competition with his Caribbean lettuce wrap.