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News to Know for the Week of December 14, 2020


News to Know for the Week of December 14, 2020 


  • Getting the word out about Text4Help continues to be a priority for Fulton County Schools (FCS). It was introduced in 2018 by Fulton County District 2 Commissioner Bob Ellis, Vice Chairman of the Board of Commissioners as a tool for students to receive mental health support from licensed clinicians. FCS is doing a full reboot upon learning that only 25% of students in the district who need mental health support received care. In the wake of the pandemic, social unrest, and virtual learning, to name a few current challenges for our youth, the district estimates that number has grown.

    Students experiencing anxiety or stress can receive assistance by anonymously texting their unique school code after dialing into the Text4Help hotline 1-844-201-9946. The certified clinicians are provided from district social services partner CHRIS180 and respond to inquiries within three to five minutes. The conversation is completely free, anonymous, and confidential.


  • To ensure children have access to essential nutrition over Winter Break, School Nutrition is distributing extra meals and increasing efforts to expand Meal Kit distribution. School Nutrition will inform all families by email and via the district’s mass notification system.

    For our Virtual Learners:
    School Nutrition will be distributing Meal Kits on Wednesday, December 16 and Thursday, December 17.
    On Wednesday, December 16, children will be provided a free Meal Kit with three days’ worth of food.
    On Thursday, December 17, children will receive an additional Winter Break Meal Kit.  The Winter Break Meal Kit will contain 10 meals, 5 breakfasts & 5 lunches.
    Winter Break Meal Kits must be pre-ordered online by Wednesday, December 16 at 11:59 p.m. The current online pre-order site will have a dedicated spot for ordering these meals. Instructions are on the site as well. Virtual students and other kids in the community need to pre-order on our site.
    Elementary School locations will be open Wednesday & Thursday from 8:30-9:30 a.m. Middle and High School locations will be open on Wednesday & Thursday from 9:30-10:30 a.m.
    Curbside Pick-Up locations will not be open on Wednesday, December 23 and Wednesday, December 30. Curbside Pick-Up locations will resume on Wednesday, January 6.

    For our Face-To-Face Students:
    Face-to-face students will be able to receive free Winter Break Meal Kits at all Fulton County Schools.
    The Winter Break Meal Kit will contain 10 meals, 5 breakfasts & 5 lunches.
    These Winter Break Meal Kits will be FREE to all students, regardless of school or eligibility status.
    More information regarding Winter Break Meal Kits for face-to-face students will be provided by each individual school.


Save the Date


  • The Church at Chapel Hill is donating and distributing a wrapped toy for every child at Brookview Elementary December 17 from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. Additionally, 200 students will receive new winter coats from the church. 

Awards and Honors


  • Superintendent Mike Looney chose the artwork of Northwestern Middle sixth-grade student Ella Schoeller for his holiday cards. Art teacher Jason Novak created an assignment for some of his sixth-grade art enthusiasts in October when the school opened for face-to-face learning. All students were required to use the same watercolor salt technique for the background, middle, and foreground areas. Novak provided specific objectives such as creating a wood fence perspective, three birch trees with texture, mixed media tempera, and color pencils applied. The winner’s work would appear on the school holiday card. Novak commented, “Ella knocked it out of the park.” He added the Season’s Greetings, and off it went to the competition for the FCS Superintendent’s holiday card.

    Novak said he was hesitant to create an art assignment using a variety of materials. He shared how delicate the balance has been this year for art teachers to provide an exciting learning experience while managing materials, curriculum, and maintaining the COVID-19 guidelines. “Our students and staff have been so positive, supportive, patient, and understanding with all the new protocols and procedures,” he concluded.


  • Milton High and Roswell High won top honors across the U.S. in the 2020 Georgia Scholastic Press Association evaluation for General Excellence in literary magazines and yearbooks. Their magazines, The Globe and Vox, scored "superior," the highest rating in the national competition. Milton also won the top award in the Poem and Spread Design categories and All-Georgia (first place) for Large Schools category. Publication teacher advisers Gillian Miller (Milton) and Samira Bregeth (Roswell) are very proud of their student staff.


  • Johns Creek High's school literature magazine, The Pulse, was honored with a Crown Award from the Columbia Scholastic Press Association's 97th Scholastic Convention and will be officially awarded on March 19, 2021. The ceremony is normally held at Columbia University in New York City, but due to COVID-19 restrictions, the ceremony will be virtual. The national award is very competitive and honors the best in student journalism; only a few high schools are bestowed this honor across the U.S. Under AP Literature teacher Judy Ritter's direction, the student staff earned the Gold Circle awards last year. This year, only two Crown Awards were given, one of which went to Johns Creek's publication.

    For the recognition process, either the editors or adviser will be invited to record an audio track to present a 30-second acceptance speech, which will be used as a voiceover for the slideshow of winning publications. “I served at another FCS school for nine years and was brought to Johns Creek to teach AP literature and begin a literary magazine publication, so this is incredibly rewarding to me,” said Ritter.


  • River Trail Middle science teacher Marwa Crisp won the 2020 Innovation for Good Leadership Award by Bridge Innovate, a business consulting group that holds various design thinking competitions. Students from the U.S., Egypt, and India have taken part in some of these challenges.

    The Innovation for Good Award was given to three leaders who have been involved with the Bridge Innovate projects and who have ignited and inspired innovation for social good. Crisp was recognized for having led 40 teams made up of 108 students, nine teams of which were finalists, and two won awards for Best Overall Middle School and Most Creative. She was also asked to be a guest speaker for the organization's ongoing Inspire Series webinars in the spring of 2021. These are free, 30-minute webinars that give leaders a chance to share the work they're doing and lessons they have learned.


  • Sandtown Middle and Northwestern Middle won top honors in the Georgia Technology Student Association (TSA) for virtual competition Tech Day. Sandtown took first place in Architectural Design. Congratulations to Mya McCall for her winning submission, "Paradise Express Coffee Café."

    Northwestern Middle’s Engineering Club placed first for the Rube Goldberg Machine competition. The club is a precursor to a TSA Club and designed to enhance personal development, leadership, and career opportunities in STEM industries. This was the first competition for the Northwestern TSA, which competed against teams from across the state. Led by student adviser Everett McCoy, the team's winning students were Medhya Sivaganesh and Elena Breedlove.


  • Milton High Senior Softball catcher Olivia Stefl was selected for the Georgia Dugout Club All-State Team. The club comprises coaches and teams from every region in the state and graduating seniors who have excelled in their softball season. Coaches from a player’s team will nominate the player and send the performance stats for the season. Coaches who serve as GADC officers will then vote on submissions and select the All-State Team.

    Head Softball Coach Shane Holcombe relayed how Olivia led the Milton Lady Eagles through her stellar performance at the plate and on the field in hitting. Beyond her superior athletic performance, Olivia is known to be a leader with her work ethic and a team motivator with her innate ability to relate to each player’s personality. She was given the nickname “Momma Bear” by the players. The team played their last games in mid-November at Buford High School.


Cool Kids Doing Cool Things 


  • Community Based Learning (CBI) students at Riverwood International Charter are taking part in a jewelry-making enterprise that gives a lesson on entrepreneurship. The CBI classes allow special education students to learn work-skills for post-high school life. CBI teacher Ginger Collins needed a safe substitute for the pre-pandemic live co-op programs. Students participated with Old Navy, school cafeterias, and the FCS Administrative and North Learning centers. Collins reached out to friend Jordan Reed, owner of Made by J. Reed jewelry, for a business partnership. A former special ed teacher herself, Reed fully understands students' needs with disabilities and created her business within that framework. She designed bead kits to ensure that special ed students would be successful at making their jewelry as a work-from-home side hustle. Collins adapted the program to include entrepreneurship concepts. Once they made the jewelry, they sold them to raise money for classroom supplies. The students learned about marketing by creating a logo, creating social media promotions, managing inventory, and branding.

    After Riverwood served as a prototype for Reed's Bead program, she is now partnering with other schools to establish a vocational training program to empower students with disabilities to become productive in the workplace and work toward self-sufficiency. Collins concluded, "People with disabilities need jobs that are easy to learn, have a competitive market value and high flexibility. And jewelry design is a perfect fit!"


  • Holiday generosity is alive and well in our schools. Here’s a rundown of some school giving projects:

    Vickery Mill Elementary’s PTO coordinated a Fall Spirit Drive-Thru in November as an opportunity for families to see teachers waving, Hootie the mascot, and receive a fall goody bag to take home. The Student Governance Council approved $13,000 worth of teacher grants to support work aligned with their strategic plan for hands-on STEM supplies, individual math manipulative kits, decodable texts, and a book vending machine used for iReady and PBIS student incentives.

    Shakerag Elementary is partnering with area elementary schools in a Pen Pal Club for third to fifth-grade students to reinforce writing skills, spend time away from screens, connect, and build friendships with other children in the community. Currently, 51 students are prepared to partner with Findley Oaks, Wilson Creek, and Ocee Elementary Schools in January. The group will meet approximately two times per month via Teams to share ideas and experiences.

    Chattahoochee High Black Lives Matter Club and Black Student Union (BSU) each ran canned food drives for the Atlanta Community Food Bank and Hosea Feeds the Hungry organizations. Their combined donation reached well over 300 lbs. of food. BSU is planning for upcoming service projects such as a literacy program in which a member will read a children’s bedtime story live every Wednesday and Sunday night at 7 p.m. on the club’s YouTube channel.

    Webb Bridge Middle (WBMS) students and staff focused on kindness during the month of November. They engaged in Acts of Kindness, and wore shirts to spread kindness, love, good vibes, peace, and happiness. They even had an “Undercover Kindness Agent” pick six staff members who showed the most kindness during the month and gave them treats donated by the school’s business partners. Also, led by sixth-grader Hannah Park, the school filled and sent over 55 shoeboxes of supplies and toys for Operation Christmas Child, a project of Samaritan’s Purse. The shoeboxes were for children, regardless of what cultural or religious tradition they celebrate. Lastly, WBMS partnered with North Fulton Community Charities for their Thanksgiving Food Drive, filling 17 milk crates with needed items and $50 in gift cards.

    Esther Jackson Elementary’s Community Foundation adopted ten families and provided gifts for children for the holidays. An online survey communicated family needs, and the foundation will purchase and deliver the items to the families. They have raised over $800.

    Two Findley Oaks Elementary fifth-grade students, twins Natalie and Ryan Boggs, raised money to buy lunch packs for Atlanta City Mission as part of their Junior Beta Club project. After discussing which charitable organization and which element of need to support, they decided on homelessness and set a goal of 100 packs. They created a promotional video to post on their mother Lisa’s Facebook page. Contributions poured in. At $5 per pack, the Boggs children raised enough funding to pack 300 lunch and $525 to purchase Kroger gift cards. Over 60 people contributed from eight different states $1300 for a cash donation. Natalie and Ryan went to the organization to present their donation.

    Hembree Springs Elementary (HSES) partnered with Feed A Billion to provide fresh turkeys and bags full of groceries to HSES families. Feed A Billion allowed Hembree staff members to pick up the items early, so they could meet the families at their children’s bus stops and deliver the much-appreciated items. HSES PTA had hosted a food driver earlier in the month; those items were distributed, making sure no school families were hungry during the break.

    Haynes Bridge Middle spread kindness and support partnering with Legacy Ridge at Alpharetta Assisted Living and Memory Care facility for their school initiative: Operation Community Kindness. With COVID-19’s restrictions on visitors to assisted living facilities, residents continually seek activities to keep their days interesting. The school collected items for residents through Friday, Dec. 11, and will let them sit in quarantine until Dec. 16. Students are making cards and a video to share with the residents.

    Birmingham Falls Elementary (BFES) is participating in Holiday Helpers; a program started through the school’s counseling department in 2015 to serve families in need during the holiday season. With generous donations from BFES families, students, and siblings of families in need are given gifts from their wish lists and gift cards for clothing and groceries. Parents donate monetarily and serve as shoppers.

    Alpharetta Elementary took part in a nonperishable food drive in early November to prepare for Thanksgiving. The staff and local faith-based partners also participated by donating turkeys, which allowed them to provide full Thanksgiving meals to 30 Alpharetta Elementary families.

    Abbotts Hill Elementary (AHES) is partnering with sister school, Dunwoody Springs Elementary (DSES), for another year of their annual Helping Hands program. This year, AHES will provide holiday gifts for 29 children from DSES. Each AHES classroom will receive a holiday wish list for one child in need, and students will offer gift cards or purchase gifts for their partner school fellow students. AHES also brought back their annual Angel Tree that allows AHES staff members to offer holiday help to their students experiencing financial hardship.

    Centennial High’s Tri-M Club assembled a virtual performance for multiple local assisted living homes that cannot have visitors or leave their facilities because of the pandemic. The Tri-M club is a music honors society with the National Association for Music Education. Tri-M’s first performance was for Veteran’s Day. Choral Director Chelsea Burney has assisted the students in creating a holiday performance including music of Christmas, Hanukkah, and generic winter pieces.

    The Interact Club members of Autrey Mill Middle School (AMMS) organized a toy drive and traded off operating the donation table before school on their designated volunteer day. Presently, the club has collected over 30 new toys and raised $730 to buy gift cards to donate to North Fulton Charities for children.

    Northwood Elementary has committed to a school-wide act of kindness initiative before leaving for the winter break. Grade levels, including remote students, compete to collect the greatest number of nonperishable food items in a drive that will conclude December 16. Fifth-grade students have volunteered to collect, count, and announce daily counts.

    Two Wilson Creek Elementary fifth-grade students, Jonah George and Alkin Kuyu organized a Wilson Creek Giving Tree to support their school’s families in need during the holiday season. The students recognized that during times of uncertainty, some families might have more significant needs. In seeking ways to help, they surveyed Wilson Creek families and worked with the school counselor and social worker to learn who would benefit and what items were in demand. They created the Giving Tree and placed it in the school’s lobby using the Sign-up Genius platform, providing all the details for families to make donations.

    Cogburn Woods Elementary fourth and fifth-grade participants of Girls with Pearls, a student leadership program, prepared holiday-themed goodie bags for the elderly at North Fulton Senior Services. The bags contained sugar-free candy, word searches, puzzle books, pens, tissues, ornaments, recipes, masks, and more to brighten the holidays for the seniors who have experienced isolation because of their high risk for COVID-19. Girls with Pearls is for students desiring to enhance their emotional, social, academic growth, and development while completing their last transition year to middle school, high school, or college. Cogburn Woods counselor Jenise Greene started the club.


  • In December, Crabapple Middle seventh grader Adam Sausmer solicited Kroger and Walmart gift cards in $25 increments. This was in honor of his Bar Mitzvah, celebrated in January. He wanted to ensure that people in his community would not be without food during the holiday season. The act of kindness was in partnership with his school’s Huskies Helping Huskies program. He collected the gift cards in a scheduled drive-through at his synagogue. Adam read a flyer about Helping Huskies’ efforts going into the holiday season and liked knowing he could help those around him.


In Case You Missed It


  • On December 10, Linda Bryant completed 27 years of service to Fulton County Schools. Bryant has served as President of the FCS Board and is currently Vice President.

    "Mrs. Bryant has provided an indelible imprint to the entire Fulton County Schools community," said Dr. Gyimah Whitaker, Deputy Chief Academic Officer. "She helped establish programs like the Fulton Schools College and Career Academy and the Global Impact Academy, which will open in 2021. We are so grateful to her for her service."

    In most recent years, Mrs. Bryant was instrumental in the launch of the South Fulton Mental Health Collaborative.

    Fellow School Board members, principals, district staff, and colleagues bid a fond farewell to Linda Bryant as she enters retirement. Mrs. Bryant is a former teacher, PTA president, local school advisory committee chair, and later, spent 20+ years with the Georgia probations/corrections department. She has also been the Superintendent's Advisory Committee chair and a past member of the Fulton Education Foundation Board of Directors, Fulton County Employees' Pension Board, and Fulton County Employees' Charitable Fund. Mrs. Bryant held the positions of president and vice president of the Fulton County School Board several times during her 27-year career with Fulton County Schools.


  • Franchesca Warren, who was elected to fill the FCBOE District 4 post, was sworn in for a four-year term of office. Her term officially begins January 1, and her first appearance as a school board member will be at the January 12 work session at the North Learning Center.


  • Gullatt Elementary received donations for over 1600 coats at The Annual Coat Drive December 10. They received donations from Chick-Fil-A, Friends of Zeta, Nalley Honda, Alpha Kappa Alpha, Union City Police Department, Friendship Baptist Church, and Neriah Church. “We are grateful for our partners and our community,” said Principal Shawanna Berry Arnold.


  • Zena’s House is helping Creekside High students and graduates navigate graduation, careers, and college. Through mentoring programs and workshops, the organization helps students to prepare for their chosen path after graduation.

    Sensoury McKay, 2020 Star Senior, is grateful to the program for helping her in college. A student at Bethune Cookman College, she credits the organization for helping her fill in funding gaps.  Bernice Bronson, Executive Director, and founder of the non-profit, says the organization honors her late sister, Zena. “All the things we do to help students, she would do if she were here,” Bronson said. 


  • High Point Elementary was the recipient of the Schwartz Family Foundation's generous gift of $25,000 to purchase laptops for all the students. "Early education is critical to the social, emotional and mental development of our children,” said the donors. “When the district announced that the school would be returning to a completely remote learning environment, we knew many children would not have access to the devices and tools necessary to maintain a productive and engaging learning experience. We wanted to equip these students to connect to their teachers and classmates and continue learning. We were thrilled to be able to assist High Point!"


  • Last Call for Holiday Giving through Purposity

    Only a few days remain until Friday, December 18, which is the end of our holiday giving program through Purposity. Purposity can be used any time for meeting the essential needs of our students, but in theme with the holiday season, we focused on sharing gifts for the holidays.

    About 100 students still have no one sponsoring their holiday gifts. Will you be the one who answers the call? You can select a gift through the Purposity app (available through iPhone and Android app stores) and have it directly shipped to the students’ homes. This keeps your holiday giving safe and contact-free while still bringing a smile to a student’s face. No rushing to the store, battling long lines or struggling with the wrapping paper – it’s so easy to use Purposity to get into the giving spirit!

    On December 14, Banneker High held their SAFE Center’s Pop the Trunk event. Volunteers popped their trunks and socially distanced as families drove through to pick up food for the holidays.  Frito-Lay, Save the Children, and the Atlanta Community Food Bank partnered with FCS and made donations for the event.


For Your Information


  • Like other school systems nationally, Fulton County Schools has had a growing need of substitute personnel due to the pandemic and other labor shortages. To recruit additional substitutes, the district has established an incentive plan that raises the daily pay rate while also expanding the number of days, from 17 to 20, that a substitute can work each month. The daily pay rate for paraprofessional/clinic/clerical substitutes is increasing from $80 to $100; teacher substitute pay is increasing from $100 to $175; and the daily rate for those in long-term substitute assignments is increasing from $120 to $200. The incentive plan aims to counter the shortage caused by the pandemic and will expire May 31, 2021 (the end of the school year) unless continued by the School Board.

    Applications are available beginning Jan. 1 for parents who wish to apply for a 2021-22 hardship transfer or to renew a current hardship to another Fulton elementary, middle, or high school. Parents will use an online form, available through the school system’s web site, to enter and submit their information. Hard copy applications are not required, except for medical transfers which require pertinent medical provider’s signatures and documentation.

    The deadline for submitting a transfer application is Monday, March 1, 2021, by 4:30 p.m., with no exceptions or extensions granted. All requests must be received or postmarked by this date and time. In addition, school system employees who have children receiving an employee hardship transfer must renew their request.

    The March 1 deadline applies to students and parents seeking a hardship transfer for medical reasons, curriculum differences, and childcare situations or for employees’ children. Schools participating in open enrollment, a separate transfer process that allows students to move to a school with available space, will be announced in early May. Parents with questions or who need more information about hardship transfers can visit