Page 1

vol. 2

may 2014

Fulton County School System

INSIDER Elkins Pointe students are “On Pointe” to graduate At Elkins Pointe Middle School a unique group of 30 students are now on track to graduate, all thanks to an accelerated program that allows these eighth grade students the chance to complete both their eighth and ninth grade courses in a single school year. This program gets them back on track, or “On Pointe,” for high school graduation. Students complete two years of school in just one year, one per semester. Using a block schedule, they take eighth grade classes first semester and ninth grade classes second semester. This will allow them to begin high school as true sophomores. At least that’s what On Pointe looks like on the surface, but Principal Melinda Springman knows there’s more to the story than that.





Fulton’s audiologists are making a difference for children

Learn more about this special group of Fulton employees

Don’t miss this year’s annual Summer Summit

Meet this month’s award winner from Elkins Pointe MS, James Tongue





a publication of Fulton County Schools

2 “The underlying story is more than credit recovery,” she says. “Some of these kids had a hard time imagining their lives with a completed education. All of that has changed for them now. To see them shift their own personal beliefs regarding what they’re capable of is amazing.” The idea for On Pointe was born a few years ago when an Elkins Pointe parent approached Springman with an article written about a similar program in Gwinnett County. Springman says she was immediately interested. “I knew we had a population of students who were a dropout risk because they were older than your average freshmen,” she says. “With a 90% graduation rate as a Strategic Plan goal, it made perfect sense to create an opportunity at Elkins Pointe to get these kids back on track.” So Springman and her administrative team began building the program that launched this school year. First, she selected the students. They all would have turned 16 during their freshman year of high school for a variety of reasons, including repeating a year of school or starting their schooling later than their peers. However, they’re a mix – advanced, special education, general education and former ESOL students. “All of the students had to demonstrate a certain level of academic proficiency in order to participate in the program because it moves at such a fast pace,” Springman says. Next, she selected two of her strongest teachers for the program – Karen Jones and Whitney Pugh. “I needed teachers who could meet the individualized needs of the students, but more importantly, teachers who understood the need to not only teach academic lessons, but to also work on building the students’ self-confidence,” she says. Students like Ivanna Galindo realize what a

great opportunity the program is. “I’m excited to be in the program because I got to skip a year,” she says. “I was panicked at first because of how much work it was going to be, but I’ve learned if you have your mind set to it, you can achieve it.” For other students, like Carlos Vazquez, being in On Pointe offered them a chance to redeem themselves for past mistakes. “I failed a grade and wanted to get back on track,” he says. “I wanted to push myself and get to a higher level.” According to Springman, many of the students are so determined to succeed that they come in early and even on Saturdays. And they’re not just concerned about passing; they want to excel. The passion these students are demonstrating has sparked the interest of other Elkins Pointe students, even those who haven’t fallen behind. Springman says a variety of students, some who are at the top of their class, have approached her about getting in the program. The program may expand next year, but it will still be offered to only a select group of students – those who need it the most.

District rolls out new process for hiring teachers The need for high quality teachers is real. No intervention at the school level has more potential to improve student performance than hiring outstanding teachers. Fulton County Schools receives over 9,000 applications per year but hires less than ten percent of applicants. Traditional teacher selection methods give little indication of qualities that are clearly aligned to teacher performance. This is why Fulton County Schools, through a grant funded by the Belk Family Foundation and in partnership with The New Teacher Project (TNTP), developed the new Teacher Selection Model (TSM). The TSM is a process by which teacher candidates who apply to Fulton County Schools participate in a series of exercises that are aligned with teacher performance standards. By assessing candidates on these standards during the application process, administrators will have a better sense of how the applicant will perform once in the classroom. The TSM is comprised of central component and school-based components. When candidates apply, they pass through the central screening process consisting of an application exercise and a short phone interview. These exercises will provide a snapshot of candidate potential on foundational teaching standards. Principals may then use candidate quality information to more easily identify the highest potential candidates to interview during the schoolbased component of the selection model. During their interview, principals may choose from six optional hiring exercises to more deeply assess TKES abilities at the school level. The TSM is designed to provide information that makes it easier to identify high potential candidates, make the hiring process more efficient, provide hiring resources to better assess a candidate’s abilities, and ultimately improve the chances of hiring a highly effective teacher.


Fulton’s audiologists educate on effects of hearing loss If you want to meet someone who loves their job, then take a trip to Hembree Springs Elementary School to meet Dr. Ann Cuthbertson. One of a group of four audiologists who work for the county, it’s her job to work with children to diagnose hearing loss. “We all adore our jobs,” Cuthbertson says. “We come to work each day with one goal – to provide education on how hearing loss impacts education.” Left untreated, hearing loss in children can have a negative impact on their speech and language development, communication and learning. This can impact social success, academic development and future vocational choices. In adults, untreated hearing loss is tied to social isolation, depression, early exit from the workforce and an overall reduced quality of life. New research also has found a strong link between degree of hearing loss and risk of developing dementia. Cuthbertson says the audiology team works with close to 600 pre-school through high school students each year on hearing/ clearance testing. The audiologists conduct screenings in the fall for first and third graders. According to Cuthbertson, Fulton is one of the only counties in Georgia still offering this service, and that makes her proud to work for Fulton County Schools. As someone who has significant hearing loss

herself, she knows how important these screenings can be.

and it’s one she has never regretted. For her, it’s all about personal relationships.

“We pick up about two or three hearing losses each year,” she explains. “We have seen a boom recently because of healthcare changes and autism spectrum changes bringing more students in for testing.”

“When you’re working in the medical field, you might see a child once or twice,” she says. “Now I get to watch the kids grow, to have a personal relationship with them.”

Some signs of hearing loss for children include: •

Lack of attention to sounds

Failure to follow simple directions

Failure to respond when his/her name is called

Delays in speech and language development

Pulling or scratching at his/her ears

Difficulty achieving academically, especially in reading and math

Social isolation and feeling unhappy in school

Persistent ear discomfort after exposure to loud noise (regular and constant listening to electronics at high level)

Armed with a medical background, like the rest of the audiologists, Cuthbertson made the transition to education some years ago

One example is a student she diagnosed with hearing loss in the third grade who is now in seventh grade. “It was a shock for the family when their child was diagnosed with hearing loss,” she says. “I’m glad that I’ve been able to stay in touch and to see how this student has overcome that obstacle to succeed.” Cuthbertson says it’s also rewarding to be able to work with families to get them other resources they need such as hearing aides. “As a member of the Educational Audiology Society and a clinically certified audiologist, I see patients every day who are benefiting enormously from treatment,” she says. “Unfortunately, a large majority of them have needlessly suffered by waiting far too long to seek help. As May is Better Hearing and Speech Month, I suggest all people familiarize themselves with the signs at and seek a hearing assessment from an audiologist if they have a question about their hearing or a loved one’s hearing. Treatment is often easier and more effective than people think.”


Fulton County Schools celebrates employees of the year Do you know Fulton’s Employees of the Year? They will serve as examples to their Fulton County colleagues for the next academic year. A formal recognition gala, the Legacy of Excellence, will be held November 7, 2014, at the Georgia World Congress Center. This event will celebrate their accomplishments as well as those of other employees of the year who were selected by their local school communities.

-- Central Learning Community – Zachary Luna, North Springs Charter High School

Standards facilitator and a School Quality Review team member.

-- Northeast Learning Community – Jennifer Sweigart, Hillside Elementary School

2014 Principal of the Year – Kindra Smith of Roswell North Elementary School

2014 Teacher of the Year – Jennifer Sweigart of Hillside Elementary School

A teacher for 14 years, Hillside Elementary’s Jennifer Sweigart says that an atmosphere of creativity, respect, balance and community is what makes her third grade classroom special and unique.

-- Northwest Learning Community – Miyuki Johnson, Elkins Pointe Middle School -- South Learning Community – Xavier Woods, Campbell Elementary School

“I value cooperation and collaboration among the students, as well as in my relationships with parents and colleagues,” she says. “At the same time, I value individual achievement attained through high expectations and perseverance. I believe that teaching blesses us with the privilege of growing the next generation of leaders.”

Each spring, Fulton County schools are invited to nominate outstanding teachers based on teacher, staff and parent input. These teachers are then evaluated a second time through a classroom visit and interview, and one finalist is announced from each of Fulton’s geographic Learning Communities – Northeast, Northwest, Central and South. From these four educators, one is chosen as the Fulton County Overall Teacher of the Year. Teacher of the Year Nominees

Sweigart began her teaching career at New Prospect Elementary School and Alpharetta Elementary School before joining the Hillside faculty in 2009. During that time she has taught third and fourth grade, as well as EIP (Early Intervention Program) reading and math classes that span kindergarten through fifth grade. She also has been a Teacher of the Year finalist, a member of the Local School Advisory Council and has represented her school at the district’s Summer Summit for teachers and Title I Boot Camp. Her experience as a teacher-leader has assisted her peers as she also has served as a Common Core Georgia Performance

For the Principal of the Year recognition program, principals were asked to nominate a peer who exemplified the school system’s beliefs and mission and how those exemplify the district’s strategic goals. From the nominations, four finalists were chosen from each of the district’s learning communities. Principal of the Year Nominees -- Central Learning Community – Angela Parham, Oak Knoll Elementary School -- Northeast Learning Community – Roytunda Stabler, Abbotts Hill Elementary School -- Northwest Learning Community – Kindra Smith, Roswell North Elementary School -- South Learning Community – Shannon Flounnory, Stonewall Tell Elementary School

5 Kindra Smith joined the Fulton County School System in 1995 as a teacher at Crabapple Crossing Elementary School and then became an assistant principal at Northwestern Middle School. She was named Roswell North’s principal in 2010. The experiences over her 19-year career have equipped Smith with the skills to lead a student-focused learning environment while also driving school improvement. She prides herself on helping her staff create a school culture that encourages success for all. “The strength of our school lies within the richness of our diverse population which mimics the world in which we live,” she says. “We seek to create a warm, studentcentered environment that engages students with high quality instruction. Our values are built around a unified purpose of strengthening their ability to problem-solve, communicate effectively, think critically and collaborate.” In addition, she credits Roswell North’s success to the loyal support of the community as well as a high quality teaching and support staff. “Students come to school with various abilities, unique skills, experiences and backgrounds. This calls for us to provide a quality support and enrichment program that is designed to maximize learning opportunities for students across the learning continuum,” Smith says. “Our mantra is, ‘If we can dream it, we can do it!’ as long as it enhances the learning and experiences for all.” Similar to the Teacher of the Year and Principal of the Year programs, each Fulton County school and administrative building is invited to select an employee – other than a teacher – that has made a positive impact on students and contributed to the school or department’s overall success. From these, one finalist is announced from each of Fulton’s geographic Learning Communities

– Northeast, Northwest, Central and South – as well as from the district’s central support centers. Overall, the school system selects one School Professional of the Year along with one Support Professional of the Year.

2014 School Professional of the Year – Olivia Gonzalez of Riverwood International Charter School

provides written and verbal translation to parents and has organized transportation to school events, such as graduation, for families without a car. Reflecting on the Professional of the Year recognition, Gonzalez acknowledges that it is a schoolwide effort. “This honor belongs to all of us. We work as a team and without the collaboration of all, I could not do my job,” she says. “I hope to excellently represent my school and the other bilingual liaisons who go above and beyond their call of duty; to help those students who struggle in school and help them achieve a better life and hope for a better future.” School Professional of the Year Nominees -- Central Learning Community, Olivia Gonzalez, Riverwood International Charter School

Olivia Gonzalez is described by others as a “vital lifeline” to Riverwood. As a bilingual parent liaison, she is a trusted connection between the school and non-English speaking parents. “Without the service she provides, many Riverwood parents would not have the information they need to be successful,” says her principal, Dr. Robert Shaw. “She makes sure that teachers and administrators do not forget about a vital group of parents and students that may not advocate for themselves.” Over the six years she has worked at Riverwood, Gonzalez has been an integral part of the school’s internal and external engagement efforts. She has been a longterm member of the school’s governance council and PTA, and also has organized the school’s English to Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) classes for parents. Each year she recruits Spanish-speaking college representatives to meet with parents and explain, in their language, the college application process and the importance of higher education for students. She also

-- Northeast Learning Community – Maxim Lapushin, Shakerag Elementary School -- Northwest Learning Community – Pam Paugh, Northwestern Middle School -- South Learning Community – Joseph Anderson, Evoline C. West Elementary School

2014 Support Professional of the Year – Larry Keen of Transportation Services

As a school bus driver, Larry Keen knows to expect the unexpected. From rush hour traffic, to spirited and energetic students, to (continued on next page)

6 unusual travel or weather conditions, Keen always keeps his cool and shows kindness and respect to all who ride his bus. A driver for the past six years, Keen safely transports hundreds of students to and from school every day, cheerfully delivering students to High Point Elementary School, Ridgeview Charter School and Riverwood International Charter School. “Since I have known Mr. Keen, he has always been a dependable and efficient employee. His warm, cheerful attitude toward students and staff has always been phenomenal,” says his supervisor, Ian Montfort. “I truly admire the way he manages difficult situations that may occur with remarkable patience and confidence. He goes above and beyond to help fellow bus drivers and continues to look for ways to increase the overall professionalism of the Transportation Department.” Fellow bus drivers also hold him in high regard. “Larry has been a great co-worker for several years and has demonstrated the many qualities needed to be successful in this field. He is a genuine person with goals,” says colleague Tammie Echols. “Watching him interact with students is a great aspect to see as it refers to his ability to be more than just a driver but a mentor, a friend, a listening ear and just an individual who all can trust.”

Fulton Schools Join Atlanta K12 Design Challenge It’s a challenge, but it’s not a competition. It’s a challenge to learn about innovation— what it is, why it matters, and how to do it better. Welcome to the Atlanta K12 Design Challenge, a public-private partnership between 11 Atlanta public and independent schools and the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford University. Since November 2013, a representative from Stanford University’s Design School has led a group of 85+ educators from 11 public and private schools to apply the techniques of design thinking to address their school’s challenges. Over the next 12 months, teams of educators from each of the 11 schools will work together, using the design thinking process, to share, support, and reflect with one another.

schools participated in a two-day design summit. Ninety educators from five Fulton County public schools and six independent schools took the empathy data and pointof-view statements that teams collected to prototype and test their ideas related to their design challenge. The Atlanta K12 Design Challenge is made possible by the generous support, leadership, and encouragement of the R. Howard Dobbs, Jr. Foundation, The Westminster Schools, The Lovett School, and Fulton County Schools. Participating schools include Lovett, Westminster, Abbotts Hill Elementary School, Mountain

Support Professional of the Year Nominees -- Administrative Center – Nydia Gartrell -- Jo Wells Center – Grace McClinton -- Instructional Technology Center – Nikita Reid -- North Maintenance – David Brumbalow -- South Maintenance – Karen R. Davis -- Teaching Museum – Tommie Ramsey -- Professional Learning Center – Anderson Sheffield -- The Meadows Operations Center – Phyllis Smith -- Transportation Services – Larry Keen -- Warehouse – Frederica Pemberton

Each school has chosen a question they wish to explore through the design thinking process. Questions such as: “How might we cultivate a culture of curiosity, K-12?”“How might we create a community-based experience where all students feel valued?”“How might we increase parental involvement?” and “How might we create a middle school hub of innovation that nurtures creative confidence?” Each school will spend the next few months observing, interviewing, researching, and exploring the many different ways to answer the question. Ultimately, all of the schools in the challenge will share the answers to their questions, allowing the schools to learn from and support each other. Recently, all of the

P El t School, S h l Camp C C k Middle Middl Parkk Elementary Creek School, Westlake High School, Milton High School, Woodward Academy, Paideia School, Atlanta International School, and Mount Vernon Presbyterian School. For more information, please visit: http://www.atlantak12designchallenge. org/.



I am the

Face of Fulton I teach Adventure Quest, a course that did not exist at Elkins Pointe prior to my arrival. I have taken it upon myself to research lessons and curriculum that have been used by other schools to create my own curriculum that focuses on social-emotional issues, leadership, as well as survival skills. In just two years of teaching the program, I have been asked to present and work with the district. I’ve worked with my students to create a nature trail that had long been grown over. I also do activities with my students that range from building camp fires to trust activities to building weatherproof shelters out of refuse and the forest.

James Tongue Teacher Elkins Pointe Middle School

As a former language arts teacher, I am able to bring an aspect of public speaking and writing to the course that builds the students’ skills and communication as well as self-confidence. I am known for being always positive, great with kids, and an amazing team player.

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 • Equal opportunity employer and service provider. Reasonable accommodations and modifications made for disabled. 404-763-4585 TTY 1-800-255-0135


A magazine for employees of Fulton County Schools