Page 1

vol. 2

august 2013

Fulton County School System

INSIDER Teachers compete in the Amazing Race, Sandy Spring style When most teachers return to school after summer for preplanning, they’re anticipating a week of meetings, time to work in their classrooms and catching up with colleagues. But this year when Sandy Springs elementary teachers reported to their schools on August 1, they found themselves contestants in The Amazing Race. “We started planning this last spring,” says Lisa Nash, principal at High Point Elementary School. “Teachers are familiar with their peers at their own school, but they rarely get the chance to get to know teachers at other schools or to really see the community in which they’re working.”





River Eves teacher leads summer tech training

An update on our progress so far and where we’re headed next

Banneker students preview course during summer session

Meet the central office employee who is this month’s award winner





a publication of Fulton County Schools

2 Nash and the principals at Heards Ferry, Ison Springs, Lake Forest, Dunwoody Springs and Woodland elementary schools wanted to solve this problem. They put their heads together and the idea for The Amazing Race, Sandy Springs style, was born. On August 1, as teachers filed into their respective schools, they were divided into teams, given team T-shirts and their first clue. They were also given “car chat” cards, topics of discussion for when they were riding from one destination to another. Topics focused on work for the upcoming year such as TKES and Common Core. This contest differed from that of the

Amazing Race Sponsors Jason’s Deli Optimist Club Sandy Springs Education Force Rotary International 5 Seasons Brewing Liberty Mutual State Farm

popular television series in several ways, one of which being that there wasn’t a large prize awarded to the race’s winner. “We thought about having a prize for the winner, but it was more important to make sure everyone arrived at each destination safely instead of competing against each other,” Nash says. Red, black, blue, silver and white cars darted around Sandy Spring making a total of seven stops during the morning hours. Teachers visited the middle and high schools that their students will one day attend. They made a stop at the City Council where board member Gail Dean was waiting to greet them. They also made a few stops that gave them a chance to meet community groups who support their schools – Sandy Springs Parks and Recreation, the Local YMCA and the Community Action Center.

The final stop was at a local church, where participants were treated to lunch from Jason’s Deli and 5 Seasons Brewery. The meal was provided by the Rotary Club, the Optimist Club and the Sandy Springs Education Force. Teachers and administrators from Spalding Elementary School joined up with the rest of the group at this point to eat lunch and hear a presentation by Kim Bearden with the Ron Clark Academy. “It was so motivational,” Nash says. “Listening to her speak really fired everyone up, which was exactly what we all needed.” According to Nash, there’s already talk of planning a similar event for next year. “We don’t know what we’re going to do next year, but we know we have to do something,” she says. “It was just a good day and we all left with a positive, great feeling.”

McClarin High School gears up for a transformation McClarin High School received a School Improvement Grant (SIG) funded by the Georgia Department of Education valued at $3,413,689 over three years. McClarin’s SIG proposal provides students more flexibility to earn course credits, fosters a culture of success and focuses on literacy and numeracy. “This grant will allow us to provide additional support and flexibility to meet the needs of our students,” says Charles Gardner, McClarin’s principal. “I’m excited because it is the catalyst for meaningful and lasting change.” School Improvement personnel will conduct on-site visits throughout the implementation period to ensure that the School Improvement Grant 1003(g) funds are expended in accordance with federal guidelines. In addition, renewal of the grant is based upon improved student academic achievement, as well as successful implementation of the selected intervention model; thus, funding is not guaranteed for the second or third years of the grant.


Banneker’s AP Chemistry bootcamp School started a little earlier than usual this year for a group of Banneker High School students. With the school offering AP Chemistry for the first time, teacher Michael Rozier decided a two-week summer boot camp would be in order. “I wanted to spend some time before the start of school to get them acclimated to the AP environment,” he says. “I also knew if I could work with them during the summer it would give them a leg up in August and they’d be able to hit the ground running.” Rozier says he’s also hoping that fewer students will drop the class because they’ll have a good foundation in place after the summer camp and know what it will take to be successful. Some students would flinch at the idea of spending the summer working on science labs, but not senior Rogelio Frederick. “I could be out having fun like a typical teenager, but I have three months to do that,” he says. “This is only for two weeks, and the skills Mr. Rozier is teaching me – organization, computers – will help me in the long run.” Frederick says he’s not planning on pursuing a career in chemistry (he wants to design software), but he knows that taking this class will benefit him later on. The camp was held for two, non-consecutive

weeks, one week in June and the other in July, meeting Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. until Noon each day. Campers were mainly juniors and seniors, but there were two freshmen who attended as well. During the camp, they participated in AP laboratory exercises as well as handson activities each day. One activity that the students participated in was using the VSPER (valence shell electron pair repulsion) model to determine the shapes of molecules. Other areas of focus included molar concentration, empirical formula, acid bases and titration. Students learned how to determine the empirical formula of a known substance. According to Rozier, many students have difficulty drawing graphs and interpreting results from the data depicted in graphs. So, students spent half a day completing an exercise on graphing electronegativity and ionization energies and interpreting the results from the graph. Although laboratory safety was not a focus of the workshop, it was intertwined throughout it. One of the most interesting labs that the students performed was

the “Rainbow Connection”. Many of the students posted the results of their lab for this one on the Internet for their friends to see. The “Rainbow Connection” lab allowed the students to obtain a more in-depth understanding of acid-base indicators. Students were also asked to draw macro models of what occurred during the reactions that took place in each beaker. “If all of my students earn a 4 or a 5 on the AP exam, I’ll be thrilled,” Rozier says. “If not, then we’ll be happy we were able to give them the opportunity to experience a college level science class.” Rozier’s students will spend nearly the entire school year preparing for the AP exam, but some of the students would already say they’re winners. “I took this class because I had his chemistry class last year and really liked it,” says senior Kimberly Yusuf. “By taking this class now, I’ll have a head start next year in college because I’ll know what to expect out of my courses.”


Goodwin turns up the HEAT at River Eves ES It’s one thing to have a new teaching tool, like an iPad, but it’s another to know how to use it to impact the education of students. But how do you start training an entire school of teachers, especially when they’re getting ready to leave for the summer? When River Eves ES principal Neil Pinnock found himself in this situation, he looked to an expert within his own building -- techsavvy first grade teacher Cindy Goodwin. “I wanted to make sure there was a lot of support to ensure our teachers could use the technology they were being given to benefit student achievement,” Pinnock says. After the school’s foundation purchased a new iPad cart, they decided to give the existing iPads to the teachers. Goodwin was then tasked with leading the charge for quality professional development with a summer-long iPad class in Edmodo for every teacher and administrator in the building. As a former member of the Technology Leadership Forum 2012 and technology lead at her school, Goodwin knew what an impact the class could have. “We know how to use technology for

personal use, but we need to learn how to use it to prepare students for the workforce,” she says. Goodwin went about creating a summer learning experience for approximately 60 participants. The first class started on the first day of post-planning in May, and the last class was held on July 31. Goodwin created different areas of focus. Participants examined various apps and how they can be used in the classroom. Each person set up a Twitter account and followed educational technology experts Goodwin recommended. They worked on an assignment on using the iPad in class for class management. They also frequented Bernajean Porter’s website, “coaching HEAT” to add HEAT (Higher order thinking, Engaged learners, Authentic tasks and added Technology uses) to existing lesson plans. While classes were going on, Goodwin managed and evaluated the assignments for every participant. She also found herself meeting some of her less tech-savvy colleagues at places like Starbucks and Barnes and Noble to provide more one-onone support.

“Technology can be scary for some people,” Goodwin says. “My goal was to create an environment that would eliminate some of the fear.” For veteran special education teacher Nancy Brockington, getting an iPad from school encouraged her to become more comfortable with using it. But for her, it was Goodwin’s support that made all the difference. “It really was a scaffolding learning experience,” she says. “It was very freeing and comforting to be able to try new things before introducing them in the classroom because you could get immediate feedback from Cindy.” Goodwin says it’s too soon to tell what the impact will be for this year, but she is seeing encouraging signs. For example, she keeps overhearing her colleagues talk about not using technology for technology’s sake and turning the HEAT up. “That’s one of our sayings from the website we visited,” she says with a laugh. “There really is a renewed spirit, an undercurrent that’s running throughout the building now.”


It’s perfect test scores and free iPads for Stonewall Tell ES students The promise of an iPad can do wonders to motivate students. Just ask Shannon Flounnory, Stonewall Tell Elementary’s principal.

We had noticeable increases across the board. Then I counted the number of perfect scores and thought for a moment I might pass out.”

It all started last year when he was making his rounds one day, talking with students about the upcoming CRCT.

The promise he made students ended up costing $4,700, but he was able to provide each of the 14 students with an iPad thanks to the generosity of the school’s partners.

“One of my boys asked me what he would get if he got a perfect score on the CRCT, and I asked him what he wanted,” Flounnory says. “He said he wanted an iPad, and I told him I could handle that as long as he delivered his end of the bargain.”

“I can lead the horses to water, but I can’t

“I knew if I was offering it to one, then I had to offer it to all,” he recalls. “So I told all of the students that anyone who scored 100% on the CRCT in either math or science would get an iPad. Worst case scenario would be that I’d have to buy three or four iPads.” Imagine his surprise when the test scores came in and he had 14 students who had risen to the challenge. “It’s kind of a ritual here -- I download the scores and look at them before anyone else sees them,” he says. “When I saw them this year, I was at first really proud of our kids.

“You always see evidence of top sports players when you go in a school, so why not recognize students for academic achievements as well?,” he says. It’s just another example of how Flounnory is trying to involve students in their own learning. “You have to get them involved, encourage them to own their education,” he says. “That leads to them setting goals for themselves, which is a good thing.”

That student told his friends about the deal he had struck with his principal, and it wasn’t long before the rumor was running through the hallways of Stonewall Tell. Flounnory then made a decision. He pulled the CRCT data for his school for the past five years. In that entire time, only a few students had earned a perfect score on a section of the CRCT.

the test). Flounnory’s motivation for posting the banner for all to see is simple.

Speaking of goals, Flounnory has one of his own now. Well, maybe it’s not so much of a goal but a lesson learned from the iPad giveaway. “Always float an idea to others for input before solidifying it,” he says with a laugh. make them drink,” Flounnory says. “But I figured out a way to make them thirsty.” He’s planning on extending this offer to students again next year, but the deal will change. “Next year students will need to earn 100% in both math and science in order to get an iPad,” he says. “I’ve got to keep raising the bar higher.” Evidence of how high that bar is set can be seen throughout the school. In the lobby there are banners displaying the photos of students who are members of the CRCT 900 Club (students who score 900 or above on

And what about the student who takes credit for initiating the idea of iPads for perfect CRCT scores? “As a principal, you have kids you know you need to check on every day, to offer a little extra encouragement and to make sure they’re staying on track,” Flounnory says. “He was one of those kids. But he was also one of the kids who scored 100% in math and received an iPad.” And that student has already accepted the challenge to earn a perfect score next year in math and science -- all evidence of what can happen when students have a goal.


Strategic Plan Update Last year, our district unveiled Strategic Plan 2017: Building Our Future, an ambitious roadmap for how the Fulton County School system aims to dramatically improve student achievement for all students. The plan includes 16 focused initiatives that supplement critical ongoing district work to achieve three key goals for Fulton high school seniors by 2017: 90% on-time graduation, 85% college readiness, and 100% career readiness. During an exciting event at the Fox Theatre last October, Superintendent Avossa detailed the three primary goals that serve as the district’s measures for long-term student success and described the five areas of focus in the plan: Advancing Instruction, Enhancing People, Integrating Technology, Ensuring Effective Schools, and Managing Resources. The event was a dramatic, public demonstration of Fulton’s commitment to improvement, and how the district will hold itself accountable to its students, employees, and the broader community for results.

What Progress Have We Made So Far? Ten initiatives began work during the 2012-2013 school year. This initial phase of work is laying a critical foundation that the entire program will build upon. Here are just a few immediate impacts you may be already noticing in your school, workplace or community … CONTINUOUS ACHIEVEMENT AND CUSTOMIZED LEARNING Amy Barger, assistant superintendent of Learning and Teaching, is leading critical work to develop customized programs of study responsive to individual student needs. Last year, new virtual labs opened in 15 high schools, helping 300 students graduate on time. Barger’s team also revamped the district’s Continuous Achievement model and remapped the math and ELA K-8 curriculum to create additional opportunities for student learning, including coordinate algebra as an on-level option for Grade 8 and Grade 9 ELA as an accelerated option for Grade 8. Teachers are now receiving professional learning on the revamped framework. TAILORED SUPPORTS Dr. Chris Matthews, executive director of Counseling, Psychological and Social Work Services, and his team worked last year to build the capacity of the district’s school counselors to deliver appropriate and effective academic guidance to all students. More than 100 school counselors were trained to deliver American School Counselors Association (ASCA) endorsed college and career readiness counseling in all Fulton schools. His work team is also developing new technologies for a systemwide “early warning” system to identify struggling students using FultonConnect and eSchool Plus.

SUPPORT AND DEVELOPMENT Dr. Lydia Conway, executive director of Learning and Teaching, led the launch of PD360, a transformational blended learning and professional development platform for all 14,000 Fulton employees. STUDENT ACCESS Hoke Wilcox, director of Instructional Technology, collaborated with Learning and Teaching and Information Technology to conduct “One-2-One”, “Bring Your Own Technology” (BYOT), and “Hybrid Use of Technology Tools” instructional technology pilots at seven schools. This initiative tests innovative instructional methods using technology to meet student needs. DATA DRIVEN DECISION MAKING Fulton County Schools partnered with PCG and Gartner to ensure increased and seamless access to timely data that will drive instructional strategies and decisions. FultonConnect, an integrated instructional management technology tool, launched this summer for all 7,000 Fulton teachers to have access to online lesson planning, curriculum, assessments, RtI monitoring, IEP management and student data dashboards. SCHOOL GOVERNANCE Korynn Schooley, director of School Governance and Flexibility, is working to establish effective and collaborative School Governance Councils (SGCs) at every school during the district’s Charter System implementation. Schooley and her staff oversaw the election and certification of all 20 Cohort I school SGCs last year where more than 1,700 parents and 60% of eligible employees voted. They are now

7 working with those councils to develop school strategic plans to address local school and individual student needs. Thirty-seven Cohort II schools are now beginning their Planning Year. STRONG SCHOOL SUPPORT Arthur Mills IV, director of Strategy and Innovation, and his team are implementing more effective system-level processes to provide a premium level of support to schools. Through a new annual planning and budget process, more than 60 departments aligned their plans to district strategies. This new modified zero-based budgeting approach made a 3% salary increase for all employees possible, and the district identified an additional $44/student allocation increase for schools to support innovation.

What’s Up Next? Important work continues on the initiatives launched last school year, while four new initiatives will begin during this school year under the Advancing Instruction, Enhancing People, Integrating Technology and Managing Resources areas of focus. Stay tuned for more details as this school year continues.

In October, the district will also publish its first Strategic Plan 2017: Annual Report on Our Progress. This report will highlight the real, tangible outcomes made possible through last year’s focused strategic plan work, and lay out next steps in the journey.

Where Can I Get More Information and Stay Up to Date? The Strategic Plan 2017: Building Our Future website is a onestop location for Strategic Plan information. Visit the website to view the full strategic plan document or abstracts, quarterly Board meeting update presentations, and 1-page strategic initiative summaries that are quick, easy to read details of each area of work. Website: Have additional questions? Email: StrategicPlan2017@

$ Financial fun FACTS $

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Students aren’t the only ones who need to pull out the pens, paper, and calculators for the backto-school season. Teachers and parents who want to keep back-to-school spending under control should consider doing the same. Backpacks, paper, books, pens, pencils, calculators, computers, clothes and shoes are basic necessities that can add up quickly and become significant expenses for any classroom or household. Develop and stick to a solid spending plan to avoid overspending. Here are tips to help keep your budget on track:       

Develop a back-to-school budget Take an inventory of school necessities Create a comprehensive shopping list Shop for the best prices Check for sales tax holidays Limit expensive brands Use credit wisely


Face of Fulton I am the

I led the initiative for Fulton County Schools to move to a modified zerobased budgeting process. Thanks in part to this process, employees received a 3% raise this year. I am the ultimate team player. I am a strategic thinker who believes in customer service. When our district was facing fiscal turbulence, I offered advice and a framework that was used to help pull Fulton County Schools out of these fiscal problems.

Marvin Dereef Deputy Chief Financial Officer

I AM the Face of Fulton County Schools.

Do you work with someone who deserves to be next month’s Face of Fulton? Nominate him or her today by sending an email to Be sure to give examples of why your nominee deserves this honor. All nominations due the last day of the month.

786 Cleveland Avenue S.W. • Atlanta, Georgia 30315-7229 404-768-3600 • Equalopportunityemployerandserviceprovider.Reasonableaccommodationsandmodificationsmadefordisabled.404-763-4585TTY1-800-255-0135