Even amid the Tumult … So Many Reasons for APS Thankfulness


When you constantly face the fire in public education, you don’t always have time for reflection and appreciation. All of us in Atlanta Public Schools – with the difficult charge of turning around our district and schools – know this all too well.

We can come out of announcements about encouraging news about progress and gains with our kids and schools (see my recent CCRPI blog, our Georgia Milestones results and my blog about graduation rates) and then immediately turn right into gut-wrenching news about delayed tax receipts and the need for two days of furloughs (see here, here, here and here).

But then we get some fantastic news when the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement TODAY announced its Single Statewide Accountability System Award (SSAS), which honored seven of our schools for greatest gains and highest performance on the CCRPI. These schools are:

  • Carver Early College, Bronze for Highest Performance
  • Cleveland Avenue Elementary, Gold for Greatest Gain
  • Jackson Elementary, Bronze for Greatest Gain/Gold for Highest Performance
  • Mary Lin Elementary, Bronze for Greatest Gain/Gold for Highest Performance
  • Morningside Elementary, Platinum for Highest Performance
  • Morris Brandon Elementary, Bronze for Greatest Gain/Gold for Highest Performance
  • Springdale Park Elementary, Gold for Highest Performance

That’s the rollercoaster existence of working within APS. Amid the tumult, it is hard to even think about the blessings in our lives, much less express thanks. Thus, one of the reasons of the season: Taking time to truly be thankful.

When I count my blessings at the start of this holiday season, I will start with saying I’m thankful for our parents, our caregivers, our grandparents, our families and friends who do everything they can to get our children to school each day ready to learn. I am thankful for them trying to find teachable moments in every day.

ThanksgivingDeltaI am thankful to our amazing partners, who have joined the APS Journey of Transformation to make game-changing forays into literacy, early childhood education and college and career  readiness. Our partners have also come through for us in light of the furloughs as well—Family First Credit Union is providing relief loans to staff members and the Atlanta Community Food Bank which will provide pre-packaged bags for food items for 400 impacted employees in December for the holidays to make their season a little brighter. Publix will also be donating holiday goodies for these staff members. Another one of many examples that warms my heart involves Delta Airlines preparing and delivering more than 1,200 bags of food for the families of students at Dobbs and Hutchinson elementary schools in South Atlanta.

I am thankful that we are doing more and more for our families with new care centers, vision screenings and mobile medical opportunities!

I am always thankful that I follow the wisdom of Aristotle – “Where your talents and the needs of the world cross, there lies your vocation” – and found my way to Atlanta more than three years ago. This has been both the most challenging and most rewarding part of my career, and I have zero regrets coming to Atlanta to be a part of our community and this school district.

I am thankful to my APS colleagues, from our teachers at the frontlines to the folks in our central office working behind the scenes, who strive every day to help APS become a high-performing district where students love to learn, educators inspire, families engage and the community trusts the system. They have truly faced adversity over the years – most recently, these budget challenges and the furloughs next week. Without my colleagues’ patience and generosity, our current cash flow woes could have felt worse. I have learned that I can depend on them to put these uncontrollable distractions into perspective and work through it professionally.

But most of all this season, I am thankful for Atlanta taxpayers who have heeded the call to pay their delayed Fulton County tax bills as soon as possible. Based on our typical collection trends, we had anticipated $2.5 million in this first week. As of this afternoon, we learned that we had collected … drumroll, please  … $3.7 million! As long as we stay ahead of the trend on our collection of future revenues, we will be good to repay our Tax Anticipation Note and other December obligations, including payroll!

Thank you all for being #APSimIN. And most of all, have a Happy Thanksgiving!


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