Carstarphen issues update on back to school readiness

August 1, 2014

APS-firstday_Post_side1Atlanta Public School Superintendent Carstarphen issued an update this morning at Talk Up APS on the status of preparations for the first day of school on August 4th. In the update, she continued to focus on the concept that it,

 “is not only the first day of school; it’s the first day of instruction. We’re relying on you to join the Atlanta Public Schools Day One: Be There campaign by attending school on the first day and every school day afterward.

She also reminded everyone that the district is holding open houses today at high schools (1 p.m. to 3 p.m.), middle schools (3 p.m. to 5 p.m.) and elementary schools (5 p.m. to 7 p.m.). In addition, Carstarphen updated the status of seven key items necessary to get ready for Day One, including:

  • Hiring New Teachers – 310 new teachers hired with only 23 positions remaining vacant.
  • Hired New Principals – 22 newly appointed school principals to fill the ranks of a total of 81 school principals
  • Inspected Buses, Practiced Bus Routes and Updating Bus Schedules – bus drivers practiced routes, completed over 1,100 maintenance and repair orders, and passed more than 600 state-mandated safety inspections.
  • Creating Master Schedules for Studentsevery registered elementary, middle and high school student will have a schedule and homeroom assignment on the first day.
  • Delivered School Building Suppliessupplied all schools with toiletries (bath tissue, paper towels and hand soap).
  • Delivered Textbooks and Other Instructional Resources – there will be a delay in receiving some textbooks, which are scheduled to arrive during the first quarter of the 2014-15 school year. Teachers are moving toward hard copies of state-approved educational materials and curriculum units that are newer, higher quality, more detailed and easier for students to take back and forth to school. Teachers will use textbooks as supplemental—but not the main—resources.
  • Equipping Our School Campuses – an effort is being made to provide air conditioning on Day One.  Not all schools will have fully operational systems and, in the interim, APS will deploy spot coolers and dehumidifiers as soon as possible. All furniture has been provided to each school.

Carstarphens’s entire statement can be seen below and at Talk Up APS.

Superintendent Carstarphen gives APS community anupdate on back to school readiness

A message from superintendent Meria Carstarphen

Dear Students and Families of Atlanta Public Schools,

We’re only a few days away from the first day of the 2014-15 academic year! We want to make sure you know that Monday, August 4 is not only the first day of school; it’s the first day of instruction. We’re relying on you to join the Atlanta Public Schools Day One: Be There campaign by attending school on the first day and every school day afterward. As we count down to August 4, please be aware of two important matters:

  • Our back-to-school districtwide open houses
  • Our around-the-clock effort to get schools and classrooms ready for Day One


Upcoming districtwide open houses and other back-to-school events

You’re invited to attend an open house at your local school on Friday, August 1. At the open house, you will be able to meet your principal and some of your child’s teachers, as well as learn about your school’s unique features and programs for students. Open house times are as follows:

  • High schools: 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.
  • Middle schools: 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Elementary schools: 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

In addition, on August 1 and August 2, school employees, members of the Atlanta Board of Education and community partners will host several back-to-school events throughout the city. For a complete list of events, please visit

Status of our efforts to be Day One ready

To make sure our schools are Day One ready, we’ve identified close to 10,000 back-to-school tasks.

So far, we’ve completed nearly 70 percent—more than 7,700 tasks—compared to the 65 percent of tasks completed by this time last year. We’ve made progress, but we still have much more ground to cover. Professionals in our schools and offices have been working together every day, including weekends, to track and troubleshoot challenges as they arise. Listed below is the status of our work in the seven key areas that many parents and employees have brought to our attention:

Atlanta Public Schools

Day One Update – As of July 31, 2014

Hiring New Teachers                                                                                                      

  • We’ve hired 310 teachers who are new to the system.
  • As of today, out of our 3,200 teaching positions, 23 positions—under 1 percent—remain vacant. Principals want the best talent, so they continue to interview candidates for the open position.
  • Our human resources department has updated its process for attracting qualified substitute teachers. Therefore, for positions that may remain unfilled, we will make sure a qualified substitute serves the classroom on a temporary basis. 

Hired New Principals                                                                                                      

  • We’ve hired 22 school principals.
  • We’re pleased to report that we’ve filled all of our principal positions. In all, 81 principals serve in our schools.                                                                               

Inspected Buses, Practiced Bus Routes and Updating Bus Schedules                             

  • We believe in safety first and have completed more than 1,100 maintenance and repair orders, and passed more than 600 state-mandated safety inspections on our buses.
  • In an effort to reduce our environmental impact, we’ve added 13 new green diesel buses to our fleet, bringing our total number of green technology buses to 30 and the grand total number of buses in our fleet to more than 400.
  • We’re updating our bus route schedules. Earlier this week, all of our bus drivers practiced their updated routes and made any necessary adjustments. Students and parents will be able to view the schedules online or pick up a hard copy at the open house that will be held at every school on Friday, August 1.
  • We’re exploring enhancements to our parent notification system to allow families to be alerted when their child’s bus is late. This messaging feature will be activated later this school year.    

Creating Master Schedules for Students                                                                          

  • This year, every registered elementary, middle and high school student will begin Day One with a schedule and homeroom assignment.
  • Students who register late may experience a slight delay in getting their final class assignments, yet all students will begin learning on the first day of school. 

Delivered School Building Supplies

  • We’ve supplied all schools with toiletries (bath tissue, paper towels and hand soap

Delivering Textbooks and Other Instructional Resources

  •  Some classrooms will experience a delay in receiving textbooks, which are scheduled to arrive during the first quarter of the 2014-15 school year.
  • We want parents to know that across Atlanta Public Schools, our teachers are moving away from relying on textbooks, which become outdated quickly and may not align with the new Common Core Georgia Performance Standards. Instead, teachers are moving toward hard copies of state-approved educational materials and curriculum units that are newer, higher quality, more detailed and easier for students to take back and forth to school. Our teachers will use textbooks as supplemental—but not the main—resources.
  • To ensure that students have the information they need to complete homework and learning activities outside the classroom, teachers will provide worksheets, class notes, sample problems, websites and other instructional resources for students.

Equipping Our School Campuses

  • We are working diligently to ensure that all of our schools have air conditioning on Day One.  As of today, we are aware that some schools have air conditioning units that have malfunctioned. In a few cases, the units can be repaired quickly; however, in other cases, repair delays may occur because we need to order and await the delivery of specialized mechanical parts. So that our schools are at a comfortable temperature for students and staff, teams have already been alerted to service the units or deploy spot coolers and dehumidifiers as soon as possible.
  • We’ve equipped all schools with the desks, chairs and other furniture our students and teachers need for instruction.
  • Landscaping for all schools will continue to occur over the next two weeks.

In the next few days, I will share another update with you. You have my commitment to be open and honest about where we stand in getting our schools ready for teaching and learning. We are working to make sure our schools are safe, supportive environments that nurture the greatness that exists in every child.

Day One: Be There. See you August 4!


Meria J. Carstarphen


Timothy Guiney – new principal at Grady High School

July 31, 2014

Timothy Guiney Grady

Picture credit – APS

Talk Up APS is running a series of new principal profiles and published a profile on Timothy Guiney, the new principal at Grady High School. The following is the article in full (republished with permission).

New Grady High School principal takes school slogan to heart

Principal Timothy Guiney admits there is some pressure in taking over a post that was held by the last principal for 23 years. Principal Guiney’s approach is simple and speaks directly to the school’s cherished slogan, “Individually we are different… together we are Grady.” He plans to embody this creed stating, “I understand I need to be myself and take the appropriate action to try and uphold that standard.”

The standards already established at Grady High School include challenging advanced placement classes in addition to established drama, debate and arts programs, along with an award winning journalism program.

Principal Guiney is looking forward to advancing Grady from a premiere high school in APS, and metro Atlanta, to a premiere high school in the Southeast. And he believes the school is well on its way. A big part of making that happen involves community. Principal Guiney is grateful to have an active parent base and diverse student group. With their collaboration, he plans to establish a shared mission and goal.

In his introductory letter to the Grady community, Principal Guiney also reinforced the importance of both instruction and extra-curricular activities. He wrote, “From a philosophical standpoint, I believe that a safe and secure learning environment is necessary for children to effectively learn. Further, I believe that rigorous instruction and active engagement are the foundation of a quality 21st century education. This is especially important as we continue implementation of the Common Core Curriculum, with a more challenging assessment system beginning in 2014-2015.”

His letter continued, “By setting high expectations, and challenging our students to meet them, I am confident that Grady High School will continue to grow as a learning community. In order to foster your child’s social and emotional growth, please encourage him or her to get involved in extra-curricular activities. Students who play sports, participate in Fine Arts, and join Clubs tend to enjoy their high school experience, while achieving a higher level of success.”

The 2014-15 school year will be Principal Guiney’s thirteenth year as an educator.

Principal Guiney is the father of two elementary-aged school children and began his coursework this year to earn his doctorate in Educational Leadership and School Improvement at the University of West Georgia. He also holds a specialist and master’s degree in Educational Leadership from the University of West Georgia. Principal Guiney earned his Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington.

In addition to the information above, Guiney served as principal at Adamson Middle School for the past four years in the Clayton County Public Schools. Previously he served as the Assistant Principal at Adamson for three+ years and as a Language Arts Teacher for nearly five years and in 2013, Mr. Guiney was selected as the Clayton County Public School Principal of the Year.

Welcome aboard!

[Follow me on Twitter @Financial_Decon & Facebook]

Mario M. Watkins – principal at Ralph J. Bunche Middle School

July 31, 2014

Mario M Watkins Bunch MS

Picture credit – APS

Talk Up APS is running a series of new principal profiles and published a profile on Mario M. Watkins, the principal at Ralph J. Bunche Middle School. The following is the article in full (republished with permission).

  New principal Mario M. Watkins announces open door policy at Ralph J. Bunche Middle School

Mario. M. Watkins was recently appointed principal of Bunche Middle School in southwest Atlanta. An innovative veteran educator with 20 years of public education experience, Principal Mario M. Watkins has served for over 10 years in K-12 administration.

During the past two years, Principal Watkins has served as the interim principal at Ralph J. Bunche Middle School and is excited to now make Bunche his permanent home. Watkins says that during his tenure, Bunche has made significant gains on their CCRPI (College and Career Readiness Performance Index) from a 48 to 71. Bunche has also greatly reduced the number of disciplinary infractions and tremendously improved their school-wide climate and culture. 

Watkins’ personal academic background includes a Bachelors of Science in Biology from Xavier University, Masters of Public Health, Policy and Management from Emory University, Broad Field Secondary Science Teacher Certification from Oglethorpe University, Educational Leadership Certification and an Education Specialist in Biology degree from Jacksonville State University. He is currently pursuing his Ph.D. in Science Education at the University of Georgia and has taught science at the collegiate level at Atlanta Metropolitan College. 

Principal Watkins’ passion for education stems from his deep desire for all students attending Bunche to get a quality education. 

As a dedicated father and prideful member of the local Ralph J. Bunche community, Watkins continues to remind his staff to deliver instruction to their students in a way that they would like to see delivered to their own children. 

As he enters the 2014-2015 school year as the appointed principal, Watkins says the main goal for Bunche Middle School is student academic success. 

“As we enter year three under my leadership, we are making quality classroom instruction our number one priority,” says Watkins.  “The second overarching goal will be to implement a school-wide writing program that will be taught throughout all four core content areas.” 

In a letter to parents Principal Watkins lays out a list of upcoming changes and improvements for the 2014-2015 school year at Bunche Middle School. The changes are a part of an effort of moving the school towards becoming a GA School of Choice and national school of excellence. Some of the changes include better communication with parents, utilizing the school’s Facebook page, monthly newsletter and school website. The letter mentions an “open door” policy where parents are welcome to visit the school to provide continuous input for change. In the letter Principal Watkins states “As your facilitator for change, I look forward to meeting you and establishing a partnership for promoting student success.”

A complete list of changes and improvements for the 2014-2015 school year at Ralph J. Bunche Middle School is below:

  • Newly implemented Professional Learning Communities to give teachers the opportunity to effectively plan and implement the new GA Common Core Curriculum
  • Higher academic expectations for our teachers and scholars focusing on positive school culture and climate using Positive Behavior Intervention Strategies.
  • A concerted effort to improve the overall customer service experience among students, parents, community members, and other stakeholders
  • Better communication with parents using our new Facebook Page, monthly digital Parent Newsletter, and regular website updates
  • 150 newly purchased iPads for teachers’ classrooms to inspire a world-class, 21st century learning atmosphere
  • Two newly hired connections teachers to provide a foundational exposure student to the fine arts and to health and wellness
  • An “open door” policy where parents are welcomed and invited to visit the school to provide continuous input for change

Bunche Middle School is currently undergoing construction. The new Ralph J. Bunche Middle School is slated to open in July of 2015. 

Along with the construction of a new campus, Bunche was selected as the winner of the ASIS Foundation School Funding Competition, winning $20,000 worth of security equipment to support their efforts in providing a secure learning environment for their children. The award is presented to a school whose administration has clearly demonstrated the challenges they’ve faced to ensure the safety of their students, parents and staff. The security equipment will be installed by September 5, 2014, and the formal presentation of the award will take place on September 26, 2014.

Principal Watkins stated that the equipment would be moved and installed in the new Ralph Bunche Middle School campus once the renovation is complete.

Bunche students and staff will remain at their temporary relocation site during the 2014-2015 school year, the former Archer H.S. facility, until renovations and additions are completed in the summer of 2016. The Archer facility is located at 2250 Perry Blvd. N.W. Atlanta, GA 30318.

Mr. Watkins – we look forward to your continued success at Bunch Middle School.

[Follow me on Twitter @Financial_Decon & Facebook]

Tracie Astin – new principal for South Atlanta Computer Animation and Design

July 30, 2014

Tracie Y Astin

Picture credit – APS

Talk Up APS – the communications website for the Atlanta Public Schools – published a profile of Tracie Austin, the new principal for South Atlanta Computer Animation and Design. The following is the article in full (published with permission).

New Principal at South Atlanta Computer Animation and Design (CAD) committed to continuing a Legacy of Excellence

South Atlanta High School of Computer Animation and Design welcomes new principal Tracie Astin.

Not only is Principal Tracie Astin a proud product of Atlanta Public Schools, but her parents are as well. That family history makes her genuinely invested, not only in the district’s future, but in her commitment to continuing a legacy of greatness.

Her hope for the next generation is central to her introductory letter to students for the 2014-15 school year. Principal Astin writes, “It is with a renewed sense of pride and purpose that I ask each of my students to genuinely think about their stake in this journey and the level of excellence and performance that will be expected and indeed demanded of them.”

Principal Astin hopes to establish a culture of excellence. She also wants to ensure a prioritized focus where students are valued and graduate able to competitively pursue their post-secondary explorations. Principal Astin believes all students are capable of achieving success.

“Research confirms what we have known for years; that effort often surpasses ability,” Astin writes in her introductory letter.

In addition to engaging with students, Principal Astin is looking forward to working collaboratively with faculty/staff, students, and the community, and she is eager to gain their feedback. Principal Astin has already begun an exercise in postcard feedback, asking staff to think about what they value most about the school and conducting focus groups for feedback articulations. She hopes this step gets her closer to what she wants to eventually become a mantra at South Atlanta CAD, “A Vision in Motion: Building Our Bridge through Excellence!”

Principal Astin earned an Educational Specialist and master’s degree from the University of West Georgia. She holds a Bachelor of Science in English and History Secondary Education from Alabama A&M University.

In all pursuits, Principal Astin aspires for students to be the core of the district’s work and the nucleus of every decision.

In addition, there is a video developed by Astin at this link – it’s a very professional job.

Ms. Astin – we wish you well as you begin your work with a bunch of great kids!

[Follow me on Twitter @Financial_Decon & Facebook]

Atlanta Public Schools tests bus routes today [Update]

July 29, 2014

APS-firstday_Post_side1The Atlanta Public Schools announced that it would be fully testing all the bus routes in advance of the first day of school on Monday, August 4th.



[Update] Talk Up APS reports that,

The day started at sunrise with a visit from Superintendent Dr. Meria Carstarphen. She energized the crowd of about 400 with a message to drivers about their important role. “You are the first teacher a student sees at the start of the school day,” Dr. Carstarphen emphasized. The superintendent concluded her remarks with a simple, “please be safe” as the drivers headed out.

Per the news advisory,

Tomorrow, the Atlanta Public Schools (APS) Transportation Department will conduct a practice run on all bus routes from 6 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.  

The purpose of the practice run is for bus drivers to familiarize themselves with routes within the school neighborhoods, improve accuracy of timing during current traffic patterns, and to approximate pick and drop off schedules for students with parents and guardians.

APS’ fleet of 333 buses, which includes 13 new buses that operate on green diesel technology, will travel 21,904 miles per day transporting 22,000 students to and from school. APS bus schedules for the 2014-15 school year will be available on the district’s website Friday, August 1.

Motorists should be aware that APS bus drivers will run their routes in real time, making stops, dropping bus arms and opening doors on the busy streets of Atlanta during morning and afternoon rush hours.

It is interesting to note that the bus fleet is now at 333 versus the “over 400” that was touted by APS in prior years. Per the APS Transportation Department website (see here – emphasis added),

The Transportation Department, Atlanta Public Schools, is preparing for a successful Day One on Monday August 4.  To effectively communicate bus stop, numbers and times, postcards with information for students eligible for regular bus transportation will arrive by mail this week.  Additionally, information will be on the APS website by Thursday, July 31, 2014.  You can also go to your open house on Friday, August 1st to get bus information. 

In addition, per the APS website,

  • All bus stop changes are updated and posted on all school websites by 8:00 am every Friday.
  • New/modified bus routes become effective Monday of each week.
  • The transportation department will send the school bus passenger lists to principals every Friday morning after 8:00 am.
  • New students can expect a 3-5 day waiting period before new bus stops are assigned.

The APS Transportation website also lists some changes for the upcoming year (see here – emphasis added),     

  • All students must register for school by July 10 in order to receive a bus stop prior to the first day of school. The Bus Routes will be posted on August 1, 2014
  • Students who do not register by July 10th will be assigned a bus stop on August 15th when updated bus routes are posted. There will not be any adjustments made to bus routes from July 30 – August 23.
  • After August 15th, bus routes will be updated on a weekly basis.
  • Students who do not have a bus stop and are eligible for APS transportation will be allowed to use the nearest bus stop until a permanent bus stop is assigned
  • APS will only transport students who are eligible for APS school bus transportation. 
  • Students who live within the walk zone of their school will not be eligible for bus transportation.
    • The walk zone for elementary students is one (1) mile within the school zone.
    • The walk zone for middle and high school students is one and one half (1 ½) miles within the school zone.
  • Bus drivers will have a list of students who are eligible to ride their bus.
  • APS will mail bus stop cards to parents with children who are registered and eligible to ride an APS school bus

Hopefully the testing this year will avoid some of the problems encountered with bus routes in the last two years. It should go much smoother this year as there is no change in the bell schedule (except at NAHS) and the bus routes should be reasonably consistent with the routes from this past year.

[Follow me on Twitter @Financial_Decon & Facebook]

Round-Up of APS Headlines from the Past Week

July 26, 2014

APS News

*** GA Student Growth Model

***Day One: Be There – First Day of School Campaign

*** Board of Education & Committee Meetings

***Other APS News

State School Superintendent Race

Non APS News and Opinions of Interest

[Follow me on Twitter @Financial_Decon & Facebook]

Metro Atlanta KIPP Charter Schools names new executive director

July 26, 2014

KIPP Metro Atlanta charter schools announced,

 The board of KIPP Metro Atlanta has unanimously appointed Kinnari Patel-Smyth as its new executive director. Patel-Smyth is succeeding David Jernigan, who recently was approved by the board of the Atlanta Public Schools to serve as its new deputy superintendent…Kinnari will assume the role of executive director on July 28. “I am humbled to have this opportunity to serve our 2,500 KIPPsters as executive director,” Patel-Smyth said. “I look forward to building on the successes of the past 12 years.”

Patel-Smyth has served as the chief academic officer for KIPP Metro Atlanta over the past two years. Prior to joining KIPP, she taught in Atlanta and Fort Worth for six years and served as a principal and managing director of programs for Explore Schools in Brooklyn, N.Y., for eight years.

“We are thrilled that Kinnari is willing to step up to the challenge of leading our organization,” said Craig Jones, the KIPP Metro Atlanta Board Chairman.  “She has a proven track record with KIPP and has been a part of an intentional succession plan over the past two years.  This is a natural next step for Kinnari and for the organization, and the Board has complete confidence that she is the right leader to take KIPP Metro Atlanta to the next level of excellence.” 

This leadership transition comes at a time when KIPP Metro Atlanta is opening the final school in its eight school organization growth plan.  KIPP Metro Atlanta Schools continue to post exceptional academic results and has a very stable financial position. 


[Follow me on Twitter @Financial_Decon & Facebook]


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 545 other followers

%d bloggers like this: