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!

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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

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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. 


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APS provides a “Day One: Be There” Tip Sheet – lots of useful information

July 26, 2014

APS-firstday_Post_side1APS Communications issued a “Day One” Tip Sheet with a summary of many of the items parents need to know in advance of the start of school on August 4th.  The Tip Sheet includes information about the attendance campaign, registration, immunization, school open houses, new principals, new charter schools, new testing, facilities, transportation, nutrition, the function of the new Ombudsman position and more. The following is the Tip Sheet as published by APS (emphasis added):

Day One: Be There. Campaign to get kids in school:

  • More than 5,000 students are absent from school on Day One from APS. Superintendent Carstarphen has launched, Day One: Be There., an attendance campaign aimed at getting kids registered and in class on August 4. For a list of back-to-school events visit, www.atlantapublicschools.us/dayone

Day One: Be There. Registration Drive:

  • Friday, August 1, 2014   9 a.m. – 1 p.m. (All APS traditional schools)

District-wide Open Houses:

  • Friday, August 1, 2014(All APS traditional schools) – High Schools 1-3 p.m.; Middle Schools 3-5 p.m. and Elementary Schools 5-7 p.m.

District Facts:

  • Approximately 50,000 students are projected to enroll for the 2014-15 school year.
  • APS has 107 learning sites.

APS has hired 22 new principals:

  • Tracie Astin – South Atlanta H.S. of Computer Animation & Design
  • Jesse Berger – Gideons E.S.
  • Betsy Bockman – Inman M.S.
  • Tony Lamair Burks II – Douglass H.S.
  • Amia Burnette – Bethune E.S.
  • Charlotte Davis – South Atlanta H.S. of Law & Social Justice
  • Curtis Douglass – North Atlanta H.S.
  • Patricia Ford – South Atlanta H.S. of Health & Medical Sciences
  • Richard Fowler – Mays H.S.
  • Woodbridge Greene Jr. – Sutton M.S.
  • Timothy Guiney – Grady H.S.
  • Marcus Jackson – Carver H.S. of Health Sciences & Research
  • Josie Love – Carver H.S. of Technology
  • Laryn Nelson – Young M.S.
  • Camisha Perry – Deerwood Academy
  • Thalise Perry – Miles E.S.
  • Dawn Parker – Crim Open Campus H.S.
  • Shelly Powell – Therrell H.S.
  • Kara Stimpson – Brandon E.S.
  • Cheryl Twyman – Fickett E.S.
  • Mario Watkins – Bunche M.S.
  • Tasharah Wilson – Washington H.S.

New Charter Schools:

  • Centennial Elementary School has become the first K-8 conversion charter school in the district. Centennial Academy will serve students in grades K-6 during the 2014-15 school year, and add a grade each year until grade 8. The academy’s revamped curriculum will include more project-based learning and extensive professional development, with an instructional focus on science, technology, engineering, arts and math.
  • Drew Charter High School students will move from their temporary location at Kennedy Middle School to their permanent, newly constructed facility at 301 East Lake Blvd., SE 30317.
  • KIPP WAYS will open a primary school, serving kindergarteners in 2014, and add a grade each year thereafter.
  • The Atlanta Classical Academy will open as a new APS charter school, serving students in kindergarten through eighth grades.

Evaluation, Testing and Accountability:

  • For the 2014-15 school year, the state of Georgia will no longer use the Criterion Referenced Competency Test (CRCT) to test students’ knowledge in reading, English/language arts, math, science, and social studies. The Georgia Milestones Assessment System, known as Georgia Milestones, will replace the CRCT, as well as the CRCT-M, the End of Course Test (EOCT) and the writing assessment administered to third, fifth, and eighth graders at APS.
  • The Gifted and Talented program will assess students only during the month of October.  Parent, teacher, and student data referrals are due October 3, 2014.  Students determined eligible will participate during the 2014-2015 school year. APS will launch the Gifted High School Redesign Program. Newly designed gifted delivery models for high school students will include mentorship, internship, resource seminars, and directed studies.

High School Administration:

  • Booker T. Washington High School will transition from three small schools to one comprehensive high school with one principal. The school is also celebrating its 90th anniversary educating high school students in the city of Atlanta.
  • D.M. Therrell High School will operate with one principal to supervise all three schools.

Information Technology:

  • Atlanta Public School students in grades 3-12 will now have access to a secure Microsoft Outlook email account through the APS student portal –My Back Pack. Students will use their APS email to share digital notebooks and collaborate with teachers and other APS students.  The Division of Information Technology is excited to bring 21st century tools to students in Atlanta Public Schools.  Parents will be given the opportunity to opt-out of student email if needed.
  • The Atlanta Virtual Academy (AVA) is increasing the number of courses available online from 12 to 44 courses this fall. For the first time, APS students can take Advanced Placement (AP) classes, gifted honors and world languages courses through AVA

School Closures/Relocations or Construction Projects:

  • Bunche Middle School – Students and staff will remain at their temporary relocation site, the former Archer H.S. facility, until renovations and additions are completed at Bunche M.S. in the summer of 2016. The Archer facility is located at 2250 Perry Blvd. N.W. Atlanta, GA 30318.
  • Coan Middle School – Coan M.S. will close and merge with M.L. King, Jr. M.S. The merged school will be temporarily housed at the original Coan M.S. facility until modifications to the existing M.L. King, Jr. M.S. campus are completed in the summer of 2016. On August 4, 2014, students and staff of the merged M.L. King, Jr. M.S. will report to 1550 Hosea Williams Dr. N.E., Atlanta, GA 30317.
  • Kennedy Middle School – Per the board’s approval in May 2012, Kennedy M.S. will complete its final phase of closing at the end of the 2013-14 school year. On August 4, 2014, students and staff from all grade levels will report to Brown M.S. located at 765 Peeples St., Atlanta, GA 30310.
  • King Middle School – Coan M.S. will close and merge with M.L. King, Jr. M.S. The merged school will be temporarily housed at the original Coan M.S. facility until modifications to the existing M.L. King, Jr. M.S. campus are completed in the summer of 2016. On August 4, 2014, students and staff of the merged M.L. King, Jr. M.S. will report to 1550 Hosea Williams Dr. N.E., Atlanta, GA 30317.
  • Mary Lin Elementary School – Students and staff will remain at Mary Lin E.S. while the school continues to undergo a phased renovation and addition. Mary Lin E.S. is located at 586 Candler Park Dr. N.E., Atlanta, GA 30307.
  • E. Rivers Elementary School – Students and staff will remain at their temporary site, the former Sutton M.S. facility, until the construction of the new E. Rivers E.S. facility is completed December 2014. On August 4, 2014, students and staff will report to 4360 Powers Ferry Road, N.W., Atlanta, GA 30327.
  • South Metro – South Metro will consolidate with North Metro, which is located at the former Oglethorpe E.S. site. On August 4, 2014, students served by both externally operated programs will report to the facility located at 601 Beckwith St. S.W., Atlanta, GA 30314.
  • Sylvan Hills Middle School – Students and staff will remain at their temporary site, the former Parks M.S. facility, until the construction of the new Sylvan Hills M.S. is completed in the summer of 2016. On August 4, 2014, students and staff will report to 1090 Windsor St. S.W., Atlanta, GA 30310.

In addition to the new construction and renovation projects, carbon monoxide detectors are being installed in all APS schools – only district in the state of Georgia.

New Ombudsman Position:

APS has created an ombudsman’s office to address student, parent and community issues. The district ombudsman serves as an independent and confidential resource, providing assistance in resolving problems, complaints, conflicts and other school-related issues.

Nutrition Department:

  • APS will implement the Community Eligibility Provision (formerly called Community Eligibility Option program) for free meal reimbursements during the 2014-15 school year.  In its second year, 57 elementary middle and high school sites will offer breakfast, lunch and snack each day, at no charge to all students. By participating in the program, APS eliminates distributing and processing meal applications and reduces administrative and printing costs at those 57 schools.  Families also benefit by automatically being eligible for free meals for their children who are enrolled at the participating schools.

Transportation Department:

  • The APS Transportation Department will conduct a practice run for bus routes on Tuesday, July 29 beginning at 6 a.m. It is important for motorists to know that 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 evening rush hours. New bell start time for North Atlanta H.S. is 8:45 a.m. – all other high schools start at 8:30 a.m.
  • Forrest Hill Academy students will continue to receive MARTA cards to ride to the East Point MARTA rail station. APS will provide roundtrip shuttle service from the station to the school.
  • APS has added 13 new buses that operate on green diesel technology to its fleet. The 72-passenger, Bluebird buses are also air conditioned and will be added in all quadrants of the school zone.

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