Education Guide Fall 2017

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Fall 2017


High school TV: Student broadcasters link local schools to the world

A: North Springs Charter High School student Amari Mosby, right, interviews Hanna Quillen. KATE AWTREY

B: Westminster Schools students William Turton and Bennett Porson broadcast from Ireland in August 2016. The Westminster varsity football team traveled to Dublin to play in the American Football Classic. SPECIAL

C: At Holy Innocents’ Episcopal School, Hollis Brecher, left, and Faith Wright broadcast from the studio while Jack Wood and Katie Smith work behind the scenes. SPECIAL

A BY DONNA WILLIAMS LEWIS The AV Tech lab at North Springs Charter High School crackled with creative energy on a recent afternoon as students produced stories for their biweekly news show. Arnardo Vargas, 18, worked on an intro and ending for his video featuring the school’s Spartans football players. Seniors Jaylan McDonald and Paris Talbert searched apps for “positive” background music for their New Teacher segment. Senior Matan Berman spliced video for his feature, “Stereotypical Students,” and Amari Mosby, 16, searched among the six editing rooms for equipment to film an interview about last spring’s school trip to Spain, Portugal and Morocco. Local high schools increasingly are becoming broadcasting and filmmaking breeding grounds in a state with a booming film industry.

Students are live streaming assemblies, plays, holiday pageants and concerts and producing features that will be emailed, played on closed circuit television systems, or posted on Facebook, YouTube channels, school websites and streaming networks. Relatives can get great views of graduations from across the country. (Check out The Westminster Schools’ 2016 graduation on YouTube.) Parents don’t have to agonize over missing their kids’ sporting events. They can watch them on their phones. Westminster sophomore Turner Cravens knows first-hand how parents rely on WCAT, the school’s student-run online TV station. He recalled dealing with a dad who was worried about whether the station definitely was going to cover a basketball game he couldn’t attend. See HIGH on page 12



INNOVATION Mount Vernon’s ‘school within a school’ tackles real-world projects

LUNCH MONEY School districts develop policies for unpaid meal bills

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MVIFI Executive Director Bo Adams and Innovation Diploma program instructor Meghan Cureton inside “the Hive.”

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Bringing start-up innovation into the classroom BY JOHN RUCH

In a complex of light-filled meeting rooms and workshops known as the Hive, teams of consultants dream up life-improving projects. A new pocket park next to a Whole Foods on the Brookhaven/ Chamblee border was one of their successes; a teen driving program for Porsche Cars North America was another. The Hive would look at home in any shimmering corporate tower downtown, but it’s actually the former library at Mount Vernon Presbyterian School in Sandy Springs. And those consultants— they’re Upper School students earning their “Innovation Diploma.” The work is part of a school within the school called the Mount Vernon Institute for Innovation (MVIFI), which aims to bring the collaborative, problem-solving side of business start-up culture into education.

“It’s basically a little bit like having a business school inside Mount Vernon,” said MVIFI Executive Director Bo Adams, while explaining it’s also a lot more than that. He likens the program to a corporate research and development department. “All other industries that are serious about innovation have R&D labs,” Adams said. “So we wanted to be that thing, to be the R&D lab for pre-K to 12 education.” Mount Vernon’s motto calls for the pursuit of “inquiry, innovation and impact,” and MVIFI aims to follow suit by researching and developing solutions to real-world challenges. The Innovation Diploma program, through which students act as consultants to outside groups seeking advice, is one way MVIFI teaches real-world skills, too. It’s a type of honors program where students in grades 9 through 12 earn a second “iDiploma” alongside the standard version. Meghan Cureton, the Innovation Diplo-


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SEPTEMBER 15 - 28, 2017 ■ ma program leader, says it’s a modern idea that fulfills an age-old educational purpose. “We need to create problems for [students] to solve, because that’s what school’s about,” Cureton said. “It’s kind of like Mount Vernon on steroids,” said Adams. “It’s definitely not the high school experience I had.” However, MVIFI doesn’t innovate only inside a classroom. One of MVIFI’s first programs after its 2010 founding was the now annual Fuse Conference, where leaders of nonprofits and similar organizations gather to collaborate on challenges of their own. And MVIFI also consults with other schools about starting similar programs.

‘Design thinking’ Like many start-up companies, MVIFI has its own buzzwords to describe its mission in catchy ways. The concept that ties all of its work together is “design thinking.” The first part is easy to understand. “We design programs and products,” Adams says, like the Porsche driving program or the Whole Foods park. The “thinking” part is the twist. “It’s the difference between making a shiny object and designing with users’ needs in mind,” said Adams.

are called “design briefs” and the organizations they serve are “clients.” Like the open-format, glass-walled rooms of the Hive, the Innovation Diploma is a flexible program that relies heavily on the students’ own interests and input. Students get assessments from staff, peers and even themselves, but their projects are not graded. They can move between different project teams, contributing to one or several. “If students are motivated by the work they’re doing, they don’t need the external motivation of grades,” Adams said. And he notes that adults don’t get grades in what the Innovation Diploma program is planned to resemble: the workplace. Some of that work, such as the pocket park designed for developer S.J. Collins, can have a professional quality – and raises the question of whether the Innovation Diploma program might go pro, too. “The plans they put together are the exact plans [the developers] put into place,” Cureton said of that park project. On that project and the program for Porsche, Adams said, the team also created an invoice showing the actual work and a sample bill, and asked the clients whether they would have been willing to pay a similar amount to a professional firm. Adams said the response was positive, and that has MVIFI considering ways to make money out of its programs.


WE THINK Connecting learning to life at every level.

MIDDLE & UPPER SCHOOL OPEN HOUSE November 18 at 1 p.m. LOWER SCHOOL OPEN HOUSE November 19 at 1 p.m. ABOUT THE PHOTO: Over the summer, students explored CLIMATE through an Isdell Center for Global Leadership (ICGL) study tour to Alaska.


Jeff Garrison of S.J. Collins Enterprises works with Innovation Diploma students on plans for a pocket park next to a new Whole Foods.

That means students and staff approach problems with a concept that is customized through feedback, questioning and testing – “human-centered design” done with “empathy and experiments,” as Adams puts it. Project ideas can come from anywhere; as Adams and Cureton spoke on a recent afternoon in the Hive, colleagues were in another room consulting with representatives from the National Center for Civil and Human Rights. In short, MVIFI staff and students act like professional consultants. That’s the concept of the Innovation Diploma program, where the projects students take on


Could that mean paying the students as well? “We don’t know the answer to that,” he said.

Students tackle traffic The best way to explain the Innovation Diploma program is to follow one of its projects. One of the mostly widely discussed is an ongoing attempt to reduce Mount Vernon’s own school traffic, which adds to the jams on Mount Vernon Highway. Continued on page 4

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experience consulting with a municipal government, and school traffic was put Ideas for projects can come from anyon the political agenda, with Paul describwhere. In this case, the work began in 2016 ing the project as a possible pilot program with a parent’s conversation with Sandy for other schools. And citing a traffic-reSprings Mayor Rusty duction effort didn’t Paul. The mayor sughurt Mount Vernon’s gested the students own zoning approvfind a way to accomal request earlier this plish the city’s aim of year for future camreducing commuter pus expansion mastraffic by 10 percent ter plans. – a goal that city“The kids did a hired professiongreat job,” said city al consultants previspokesperson Shaously had said would ron Kraun. “Our goal have a big impact on at the outset was to local roads. work with the teachCureton said that er to develop a provetting projects for gram that could feasibility is key, as provide real-life apSPECIAL clients can both un- Innovation Diploma graduate Anya Smith. plication, not just derestimate or overschoolwork. The estimate student class was very imabilities. In this case, she said, she knew pressive.” immediately that coping with an entire Anya Smith was one of the students. city’s traffic issues was beyond the capaShe has since graduated and entered Georbility of a student team. But she also didn’t gia Tech. dictate what a classroom-sized version of “Trying to decrease traffic is no small, the project might be. easy task, but luckily age doesn’t set bound“We ended up letting them wrestle with aries for creativity and innovation,” Smith that as a big question,” Cureton said. said in a written statement. “I think it’s esThe students decided to tackle a 10 persential to have students working on these cent reduction in the school’s own traffic. types of problems because it’s a mutually With the city as “client,” the students obbeneficial situation: students have a greatserved school traffic; made a “heat map” er purpose behind their learning, which of where students live by ZIP code, to map is proven to increase motivation and protraffic patterns; interviewed focus groups ductivity, and the solutions designed are of students and parents about commuting intended to help the greater community.” experiences; and connected with experts Dr. Brett Jacobsen, Mount Vernon’s at the state’s Georgia Commute Options head of school, said such efforts in the Inprogram. Along the way, they met with novation Diploma program underscore city officials, including Community Relathe school’s mission. tions Manager Dan Coffer and transporta“One of Mount Vernon’s design drivers tion planner Kristen Westcott. is, ‘How might we make school life more It was more work than one school year reflective of real life?’” he said, adding, “It is could handle, and actual programs – likepowerful when students become engaged ly centered on carpooling – are left to this in civic issues we all face on a daily basis year’s class. But the students got valuable and actually make an impact.”

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Can’t pay for lunch? School districts have new rules for that BY EVELYN ANDREWS

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What do you get when you can’t pay for lunch at school? Maybe just a cheese sandwich. Local school districts have established new or affirmed existing policies for dealing with student lunch debts, the amounts accrued when students can’t come up with their lunch money. The U.S. Department of Agriculture required districts nationwide to create and communicate to parents by July a policy for dealing with unpaid lunch money. The department required the new policies after reports of “lunch shaming,” which included replacing a hot lunch with a sandwich or forcing students to wear wristbands or work in kitchens, appeared around the country. And the amounts schools can’t collect for meals aren’t chicken feed. DeKalb County students have accumulated more than $17,650 in unpaid meal debt so far this school year, according to school officials. In Fulton County, the money rolls over from year to year if it is not paid off. The current debt balance is more than $5,000. Atlanta Public Schools said it calculates the amounts monthly. Since it is the beginning of the school year, it couldn’t provide a number yet for the amount owed for this year. But APS did say students accumulated more than $240,000 of unpaid meal debt throughout the entire 2016-2017 school year. That amount had to be paid off using the school district’s general fund. In Fulton and DeKalb schools, students who can’t pay receive a “courtesy” meal, typically a grilled cheese sandwich, after they have charged meals three times. The districts swallow the costs for these alternate menu items. Atlanta Public Schools students continue to receive normal meals, no matter how much debt they have accumulated. Students at public schools also may apply to receive free or reduced price meals if their family cannot afford to pay. A bill was introduced in the U.S. Senate earlier this year that would make illegal “public identification or stigmatization of the child, such as by requiring a wristband or hand stamp.” The bill would also prohibit requirements that a student work in the kitchen.

Fulton County School System

If a Fulton elementary student has already charged three times without repayment, the schools offer an alternate menu item, such as a sandwich and milk or juice. Middle and high school students cannot charge meals, but can receive the alternate lunch. In elementary schools, school nutrition managers send home letters weekly to parents of children with a negative balance. All schools send email notifications twice a week for students with a balance of $0 or less and call twice a week for students that owe more than $4.50. If not repaid by the end of the year, the balance rolls over to the next year.

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DeKalb County School District

In DeKalb, elementary students are allowed to charge up to three breakfast and three lunch meals before receiving a courtesy meal, for which the district does not receive reimbursement. “This is a courtesy extended to the student and should not occur on a regular basis,” the policy states. Middle and high school can’t charge meals, but can receive the courtesy meal. Older students are more capable of keeping track of how much money they have in their school lunch account, according to the policy. “It has been proven that secondary students can assist parents with monitoring and maintaining a positive cash balance in their accounts,” the policy states. When a student is allowed to charge a meal, the school nutrition manager will call or send a letter to the student’s parents notifying them of their child’s debt.

Atlanta Public Schools



Students at public schools in Atlanta will continue to receive their choice of lunch even if they do not have any money, according to the Atlanta Public Schools policy. The policy also states the district can set a limit a student can reach before they no longer receive a meal, but the district has not done so, said Latisha Gray, the APS director of communications. The school will use non-federal funds to pay off lunch debt that is older than 12 months and has not been collected through “reasonable collection efforts.”

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$17,650 Total owed DeKalb County schools so far this year.

$5,000+ Uncollected fees owed Fulton County schools, including amounts rolled over from last year.

$240,000 Amount Atlanta Public Schools students owed for unpaid meals during the 2016-2017 school year. APS officials say they haven’t calculated yet the amount owed so far this school year. Sources: DeKalb County School District, Fulton County Schools. Atlanta Public Schools

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New principals took the helm at several local schools this school year, and some schools opened new buildings or facilities.

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Charles Gardner is now principal at Riv*Celebra�ng 20 years of Early Childhood Educa�on!* erwood InternationCall Carol Perry, Director, to arrange a private tour. al Charter School in 770.393.1424 x240 Sandy Springs, a position previously held by Robert Shaw, who was appointed to serve as principal of Roswell Now accepting applications at our Buckhead campuses High School. Gardner was most recently the principal at Sandy Springs Charter Middle School. He is an active member of the Sandy Springs Rotary Club and a graduate of Leadership Sandy Springs, according to the announcement about his appointment. An interim principal was appointed fill Gardner’s role as principal of SanShinichi Suzuki dy Springs Charter Middle School while the district searches for a permanent replacement. Serving as interim principal is Jerome Huff, who recently retired after serving 17 years as the principal of Roswell High School. Laura Baez is now serving as principal of Montclair Elementary School in Brookhaven. Baez was previously an assistant principal at Kingsley Charter Elementary School in Dunwoody.

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of school in California and a middle school principal in New York. At E. Rivers Elementary School in Buckhead, John Waller is the new principal. Waller replaced Matt Rogers, who resigned to relocate to D.C., citing recent personal events. Waller was previously an administrator at Marietta City Schools, where he was the director of secondary curriculum and instruction.

New places

Riverwood International Charter School in Sandy Springs opened a new building this year as part of the first of seven phases of construction. The first phase included the construction of the first two floors of a new classroom building at the school located off Heards Ferry Road. A third floor will be built in phase two, which will begin in the summer of 2018. The first phase includes a new baseball field and an expanded and renovated cafeteria, according to school documents.

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Rebecca Braaten has been named principal Chamblee Charter High School, which serves students in both Brookhaven and Dunwoody. She was previously assistant superintendent at Muscogee County Schools. Braaten replaced Norman Sauce who left the school to take an administrative position with Griffin-Spalding County Schools.

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St. Martin’s Episcopal School in Brookhaven named a new head of school this year. Luis Ottley replaces James Hamner, who resigned to return to university teaching and writing after serving as St. Martin’s head of school for 17 years. Ottley previously served as a head


A new school building at Riverwood International Charter School opened this year.

Construction of more parking and a new sidewalk was completed in August at Ashford Park Elementary School in Brookhaven. The school added 320 feet of sidewalk to the existing network at the school and 29 ADA compliant parking spots. Two raised crosswalks complete with reflective striping and signage were also added. Pace Academy in Buckhead opened a new softball field this year. The field is located on Riverview Road in Mableton. The expansion of the school’s sports complex on Riverview also includes a training facility, locker rooms and bathrooms. Galloway School in Buckhead opened its first dining hall on campus. A former common area for middle school students was renovated to serve as a dining facility that serves prepared food. Previously, students ate lunch in common spaces on campus, including in hallways and on the lawn. Students now have the option of eating in the dining facility, said Claire Horn, a communications specialist at Galloway School.

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Share in inthe the Spirit Serving grades 7–12, Marist School provides an education where achievement exists within a spirit of humility and generosity. Students are challenged by an extensive college-preparatory curriculum while an array of extracurricular activities inspire exploration and uncover hidden talents. Through it all, students gain a unique strength of character and skill and a joy of serving others that prepares them to be compassionate, confident leaders.

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Members of the new class of Youth Leadership Sandy Springs gather during their inaugural retreat.


Thirty-seven students from 10 local schools have enrolled in the 2017-18 Youth Leadership Sandy Springs. They are to take part in a year-long program designed to enhance their understanding of the local community. They are to examine the environment, city government, law enforcement, the non-profit and business communities. The program was launched by Leadership Sandy Springs in 2011. Listed by school, the members of the new class are: Atlanta Girls School – Caroline Sellers; Blessed Trinity Catholic High School – John Cleveland, Galloway School – Olivia Frank, Sammy Rosner; Holy Innocents’ Episcopal School – Maddy Hannan, Katie Leonard, Ryan Wood; Lovett School – Lily Siegal; Marist School – Dylan Haggard, Hayden Maulding; Mount Vernon Presbyterian School – Jack Armstrong, Katie Hayes; North Springs Charter High School – Mohamed Bah, Lindy Feintuch, Akasha Hayden, Morgan Hill, Marin Londe, Adefemi Olateru-Olagbegi, Adefola OlateruOlagbegi, Charley Plumly, Jordyn Rosenberg, Leo Sachs, Jack Pines, Leah Tuck, Charlie Turner, Wake Williams; Riverwood International Charter School – Lizzie Frederick, Jessica Keen, Jaren Linowes, Hayes


The Atlanta Public Schools board on Sept. 5 approved borrowing up to $100 million to pay immediate expenses after a Fulton County decision to freeze the majority of property tax assessments. The freezing of the property tax assessments and the subsequent delay in issuing the tax digest caused cash flow problems for APS, school officials said. The school district will pay back the loan by the end of December at an interest of just over 1 percent.


Marist School will be among the first schools in the country to mount a stage production of the new Disney musical “Freaky Friday.” The Brookhaven school has been selected to participate in the Disney Theatrical Licensing Pilot Program and will stage the musical before it is released to general licensing. Based a novel and two hit Disney films, the musical tells the story of a mother and daughter who magically swap bodies for 24 chaotic hours. “We are absolutely overjoyed to be able to produce ‘Freaky Friday’ as part of the Disney Theatrical Licensing Pilot Program,” Eric McNaughton, Marist School’s theater director, said in a press release. “It is a dream come true for us to work on such a fun and unique musical, and we are so grateful to Disney Theatrical Licensing for this extraordinary opportunity.” Marist School’s performances of

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SEPTEMBER 15 - 28, 2017 ■ “Freaky Friday” is scheduled for March 22 through 24, 2018, at the Woodruff Auditorium on Marist School’s campus.

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Riverwood orchestra students work in their new rehearsal space with new music stands.


Two Sandy Springs high schools -- Riverwood International Charter School and North Springs Charter High School -- announced grants from the Sandy Springs Society to expand educational offerings. A $9,300 grant from the society sent North Springs teachers, principal Scott Hanson and Assistant Principal Mulanta Wilkins to the Advancement Via Individual Determination Institute’s summer training in Tampa, Fla., to prepare for the start of the school year and North Springs’ new Freshmen Academy. “Our Freshmen Academy is designed to be a smaller learning community with specially selected teachers, trained to provide a strong foundation of support for our ninth grade students to be successful their freshman year and throughout high school - and that’s what AVID’s proven practices are all about,” Hanson said in a press release. The Riverwood Instrumental Music Program will use a $5,000 grant from the society to buy new music folders and music stands. Due to growth in the music program, the band and orchestra are no longer able to share a rehearsal room so the new stands will extend the rehearsal space for both groups, the school said. The new music folders will raise the professionalism of each production and will allow each student to store their music properly, the school said. “I’m excited to give the students these new materials now as we wait for our brand new performing arts wing to be built onto the school,” Riverwood Orchestra Director Jessica Luhrs said in a press release. “It’s an exciting time for our orchestras, and I look forward to seeing this grow into a program of musical prestige and honor.”

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North Springs Freshmen Academy teachers Benjamin Lin, Mary Hobby, and Quinton Hunt with Freshman Academy Assistant Principal Dr. Mulanta Wilkins

12 | Fall 2017 Education Guide ■

High school TV: Student broadcasters link local schools to the world Continued from page 1 “He texted me constantly the week of the game to make sure things were going smoothly,” said Turner, who helps edit news and football footage for WCAT and wants to become a producer someday. They did.

‘It’s a group of kids learning on the job’

Nearly 10 percent of North Springs’ 1,600 students are enrolled in the school’s three-year Audio-Video Technology & Film Pathway. Holy Innocents’ Episcopal School has enrolled a record number of students in its Upper School Film and Broadcast Production Program. Holy Innocents’ film teacher Joe Conway, a screenwriter and actor, said he believes the word is out that there’s a “terrific” program at the school. “And I believe parents are starting to see the value in letting their children pursue their artistic passions in high school instead of simply encouraging them to load up on AP classes in the hopes of impressing some college admissions officer,” he said in an email. It definitely can’t be grades that are driving the WCAT staff at Westminster. Broadcasting is an extracurricular activity at Westminster, not an academic program. Faculty advisor, Daniel Searl, who has worked in the field, said WCAT’s students are “sharp, they’re motivated, and they find solutions.” “It’s a group of kids learning on the job, literally, and teaching each other, and doing it on their own time, after school, during free periods, at 11:30 on Friday nights, because they want to and because they enjoy it,” he said. WCAT has won eight first-place Southeast Emmy High School Student Production Awards since 2014 and was named “Best Overall School Broadcast Program” in the country by the NFHS Network last school year.

NFHS provides a broadcast platform [] for more than 1,000 schools in the U.S., including more than 100 from Georgia, according to Mark Rothberg, vice president of the network’s School Broadcast Program. In addition to Westminster, the NFHS Network lists Marist, Holy Innocents’, Mount Vernon Presbyterian, North Atlanta and Riverwood high schools among its participating schools. The network also features state playoff and championship events and has contracted with WCAT to cover events for the site.

‘I feel like a celebrity’


Westminster students William Turton, Sterling Ralph, William Foshee, Collier Ballad and Turner Cravens celebrate at the 2017 Southeast Emmy Chapter’s Student Production Awards Ceremony.

WCAT typically staffs events such as Westminster football games with 15 to 20 students. Technical director William Turton, a junior, coordinates all live coverage, making sure events are properly staffed by properly equipped personnel. The experience has been “rewarding,” he said. “You get a great group of students Continued on page 14


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High school TV: Student broadcasters link local schools to the world Continued from page 12 together. We’ll have a good broadcast. Then we’ll go to dinner afterward.” William was part of a WCAT crew of nine students who traveled to Dublin, Ireland, last September to cover three high school football games for the NFHS Network and to cover the Georgia Tech-Boston College game for College Football Ireland. Holy Innocents’ is also making an impression beyond Atlanta. Its students took ninth place last year in the Broadcast category of the National Scholastic Press Association’s Best of Show awards. Their teacher, James Jackson, is a 2003 Holy Innocents’ graduate who has worked in broadcasting. Keeping up with the industry’s everchanging technologies and techniques fosters a “symbiotic” student-teacher relationship, Jackson said. He encourages his students to reach beyond their own “school bubbles” to pursue local, metro and national topics.


Hollis Brecher

Hollis Brecher, 17, executive producer of Holy Innocents’ weekly online newscast WHIS, said she’s learned how to conduct interviews and ask tough questions. Anchoring the news show “is the coolest thing to me,” she said. “I feel like a celebrity.” She’s currently working on an attention-getting story about student diversity at her school. Holy Innocents’ student filmmakers attract attention every spring with their red

Fall 2017 Education Guide | 15

SEPTEMBER 15 - 28, 2017 ■ carpet Holy Innocents’ Film Festival at Lefont Theaters in Sandy Springs, which Conway said has quickly grown in size and reputation.


North Springs Charter High School seniors Paris Talbert, left, and Jaylan McDonald review video.

‘Film is a tedious thing’

North Springs’ AV teacher Aldo Bacallao enhanced his skills this summer in a two-week Georgia Film Academy training program at Fayette County’s Pinewood Atlanta Studios. He also took students to a weeklong student television network convention in California last spring. Some of his students are already dabbling in professional environments. Junior Logan Thompson, who wants to become a screenwriter, just snagged a gig shadowing a movie director on set. She can be seen on the Sandy Springs Police Department’s Facebook page in a dramatic Feb. 24 public service announcement she and fellow students produced to help the police combat car break-ins. It’s gotten 10,000 views. Amari, who produced the story on the students’ trip to Spain, Portugal and Morocco, began a mentorship last year with the local nonprofit group, Movie Maker Mentors. “Film is a tedious thing,” Amari said, “but it’s the kind of stress I want in my life.” Prepping for her interview with freshman Hanna Quillen in a North Springs hallway, Amari positioned her camera, adjusted sound levels and calmly handled some technical difficulties — a full SD [memory] card and a non-working mic. “Typical,” she said. “What did you get out of this trip?” she asked her subject. “Did anything unexpected happen? Do you have any inside jokes you want to share?” Hanna spoke of the beautiful landscapes and “amazing” architecture she saw. With a deep-dimpled smile she said she has some jokes, “But I’m not really going to share them.” One more question, and it was a wrap. Amari disconnected the mic and turned off her camera. “Thank you,” she said to Hanna. “You did great, kid.”

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