A super highlight of a super-man in New York Times voter feature


At Antonio’s 2010 Lincoln University graduation in Jefferson City, Missouri is Lincoln University SGA President Antonio Lewis and Dr. Carolyn Mahoney, Lincoln University President.

NYTimesThis is a super story about a super young man in the New York Times, Of the People feature. It highlights Antonio Lewis, one of the Mayor’s Youth Program (MYP) students during my term as mayor. He  graduated from Atlanta Public Schools and earned a scholarship to Middle Georgia, which he lost after the first semester. While he was on winter break, he visited me as mayor and asked for my help in attending a local community college. Instead, I called our local Lincoln University-Missouri alumni contact who arranged for a partial scholarship that was matched with MYP funds. Four years later Lewis graduated with honors as Lincoln University student body president. The following year he joined the Obama field team and the rest is history. This happened hundreds of times during the six years of the program at the City. His success is the result of a village of people like, Deborah Lum and the staff at the Atlanta Workforce Development Agency, who supported him. I am happy that we caught him before he fell through the cracks like far too many of our young people, unfortunately, have done.

To achieve equity in our cities, start at the neighborhood level

Originally posted in Saporta Report

By Guest Columnist SHIRLEY FRANKLIN, executive board chair of Purpose Built Communities and Atlanta’s mayor from 2002 to 2010

eastlakeSRLast week, Lesley Grady of the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta wrote an insightful piece called “Equity, Inequality and Myth Busting” that highlighted the extreme income inequality between white households and African-American households in Atlanta.

“Addressing income inequality will require our collective courage to acknowledge historic, pervasive biases and structures, bounded by race and class, which anchor whole families and communities in perpetual poverty,” she argued.

We agree.

I just returned from the sixth annual Purpose Built Communities Conference in Fort Worth, TX, which brought together leaders from fields including business, real estate, medicine, public health, housing, education, social entrepreneurship, social justice, criminal justice, and the faith community.

More than 350 people from 49 communities across the country came together to learn about neighborhood transformation and breaking the cycle of inter-generational poverty.

There are those who think a neighborhood focus is too narrow. According to the latest data and research, neighborhoods are exactly where we should be focusing if we want to reverse decades of concentrated poverty and create equity and prosperity.

There are those who think a neighborhood focus is too narrow. According to the latest data and research, neighborhoods are exactly where we should be focusing if we want to reverse decades of concentrated poverty and create equity and prosperity.

Several sessions at the conference focused on the ways neighborhoods determine health outcomes. Dr. Lisa Chamberlain from the Stanford Medical School and Dr. Douglas Jutte from the Build Healthy Places Network shared striking data from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Commission to Build a Healthy America  about life expectancies in different neighborhoods within cities.

In Minneapolis, a distance of three miles could equal a 13-year difference in lifespan. In New Orleans, life expectancy can vary as much as 25 years from one neighborhood to another.

New York University professor Patrick Sharkey’s research about place and poverty shows that having a mother who was raised in a distressed neighborhood puts a child at a two-to-four year cognitive development deficit at birth.

The question is, why is this the case?

According to Jutte and Chamberlain, the science shows that environment has a greater impact on health outcomes than genetics.

Our neighborhood environment, including physical conditions (e.g. presence or lack of sidewalks and lead paint), service conditions (e.g. transportation, stores, schools) and social conditions (e.g. crime, sense of community or lack thereof), largely determine how long a person will live and what kind of quality of life they will have.

Factors like toxic stress, which is prevalent in neighborhoods of concentrated poverty, impact both neurological and physical development.

Dr. David Erickson, director of the Center for Community Development Investments for the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, and Carol Naughton, president of Purpose Built Communities, shared the latest research impacting community development, including the work of economist Raj Chetty, whose research found a strong correlation between place and upward economic mobility.

There are two ways we know of to address this: one is to move people out of neighborhoods of concentrated poverty to ones where the physical, service and social conditions are qualitatively better.

Another is to improve those conditions in distressed neighborhoods.

Purpose Built Communities exists to help with the latter, assisting local leaders implement a comprehensive model consisting of mixed-income housing; a cradle-to-college education pipeline; and community wellness programs and services guided by a dedicated “community quarterback” nonprofit organization whose sole focus is the health of the neighborhood.

In the span of just six years, we now have 13 Purpose Built Communities Network Members from coast to coast, including East Lake here in Atlanta which provided the blueprint for this model of neighborhood transformation. All of these neighborhoods have community quarterbacks and partners implementing this model to break the cycle of inter-generational poverty.

Our Annual Conference is a chance for those working in these neighborhoods, and those who are thinking about doing this work, to learn from one another to achieve the results we so desperately need.

As Lesley Grady said, “we have to go further and deeper and fix the fault line that prevents all families and communities from sharing in the region’s growth and prosperity.”

By focusing on the neighborhood level in a holistic manner, Atlanta and other cities can change the trajectory for hundreds of families, especially children, so that a zip code will no longer determine a person’s health, income or lifespan.



Mayor’s Youth Program meets Achieve Atlanta

MYPBWBIn 2001 while campaigning for mayor it was clear from people all over the city that they wanted the new mayor to engage in the reform of Atlanta Public Schools, in spite of the arrival of the newly selected superintendent. In every forum (and there were over 100) and in small groups, it was a frequent topic by concerned voters. By the November 2001 election, the new superintendent was firmly settled in the circles of power in Atlanta and they and she were committed to a formal APS school reform plan.

The plan expected the new mayor to support the various public referenda and occasional special projects. For four years I played my part, rarely engaging with either the Superintendent or the Board of Education. In 2005 during my reelection campaign, I revisited the public’s cry for mayoral involvement with public education and I announced my plan to “adopt” the graduating class of the Atlanta Public School System with the intention to assist every interested student in supporting their transition from high school to college, technical school or the workforce.

The students asked for career related summer jobs, assistance with identifying college opportunities and financial aid, and support for pursuing their dreams and those are the program components we developed. They welcomed our candid exchange of ideas and our opinions. We coached, advocated and supervised their transition planning. By fall over 400 seniors were headed to college after 8 to 10 weeks of paid summer internships in dozens of local businesses, government agencies, including the police and fire cadet programs. Some attended and graduated from healthcare certificate programs conducted at Atlanta Technical College.

We raised $1,000,000 over the summer and 100% of the funding was spent on student unmet needs from typical college fees and costs, to transportation, to laptop computers and bus and airplane transportation. It was the easiest fundraising I’ve ever done because local leaders starting with the Kendeda Foundation and Aaron Rents Chairman Charlie Loudermilk supported this innovative approach. But not all the local civic leaders supported this nontraditional, cutting edge program to support Atlanta’s neediest students. Over five years the initial $500,000 grant from Kendeda was matched over 10 times and nearly 4,000 college and technical school bound youth benefitted. Their stories are the greatest achievement of this program, I continue to get updates on the many students whose lives where touched by the Mayor’s Youth Program (MYP).

Thanks to Deborah Lum, Executive Director of AWDA, the AWDA staff and dozens of donors who supported the MYP, the new program Achieve Atlanta can build on the lessons learned and success of MYP. What fun it is to have our experimental program adopted by a new group of donors and civic leaders.

Hard Lessons to Create a Better Future

By Courtney EnglishEnglish
Educational reformer John Dewey once said: “Schools are the fundamental method of social progress and reform.”

There are few institutions as important in our society as our public schools. There remains an essential compact between a community and its public schools that helped make America what it is today. And this mutual pledge demands that our schools teach every child, whether they are poor or rich, black or white, to the best of their ability. It demands that our teachers possess tools needed to be successful, and entails a guarantee to parents that their kids’ interests always come first.
That trust was broken in Atlanta when it was discovered that widespread cheating on annual state exams occurred, robbing students of promised education and learning.
That scandal and subsequent trial have been a sad, painful and tragic chapter for Atlanta Public Schools and our community. Its impact will be felt for years to come.
As the trial ends, close observers of APS must know that efforts to restore the integrity of the system began three years ago and accelerated more recently with the election of a new board and appointment of a dynamic superintendent, Dr. Meria J. Carstarphen, in 2014. We are working hand-in-hand, focusing on high student outcomes to implement reforms and to ensure that a scandal like this never happens again.
We’ve set a strategic course for a new direction of improved instructional quality and systemwide efficiencies with a goal to regain the trust of our community, parents and students through hard work, integrity, transparency and leadership.
We are making progress.
A senior cabinet chief accountability office has been created, and we have built systems and procedures to ensure data integrity. It’s working to continually review recommendations to improve data monitoring and controls.
An ethics program was launched in 2011 that includes ethics advocates at each school and a mandate for all employees as a condition of employment. It also:
› Installed automatic triggers for test scores that rise or decline sharply;
› Created an anonymous hotline to report unethical behavior;
› Instituted automatic investigations of schools with unusual gains in test scores;
› Created stronger safeguards related to the handling and storage of test materials;
› Suspended incentive or bonus programs;
› Replaced 60 percent of the district’s principals.
As a result of these reforms, APS was recently recognized by the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement for significantly improving auditing and test security procedures.
For students who needed additional academic assistance, our district launched a comprehensive remediation program. In fact, structured remediation is now mandatory so that we can meet the specific needs of all struggling students, not just those caught up in the scandal.
Dr. Carstarphen, the board and I have made a vow that together we will create a new culture at APS, one of trust and collaboration where every student graduates ready for college and career. This will be a culture where students love to learn, educators inspire, families engage and the community trusts the system.
Courtney English is chairman of the Atlanta Board of Education



Doing the same thing over and over doesn’t change the results!

It is time to change the state’s leadership.

NunnCarterAs Election Day, November 4 nears the pressure is on Georgians to distinguish fact from fiction. My intuition tells me even with Politifact Georgia and media exposure too many Georgians might miss a few of the important facts surrounding this year’s elections.

Georgia’s economic recovery lags the nation in almost every measure. Even the most recent federal reports confirm what thousands of Georgia families know…. our unemployment rate is awful. Georgia has the HIGHEST unemployment rate in the US. That means 49 governors are doing a better job than our governor in creating jobs, retaining jobs and employing its residents. On Governor Deal’s watch, his economic recovery plan of corporate tax cuts, refusing to expand Medicaid and balancing the state budget at the expense of education hasn’t worked! It is time for a change. Jason Carter has the guts to advocate for refocusing Georgia on investing in education. This is the surest method to improve Georgia’s growth in business opportunities and economic expansion. It will insure Georgia’s long-term economic health.  The days of starving education and expecting economic growth are over. In the 21st century a first-rate innovative education plan from cradle through college including technical school are essential to meet the educational needs of Georgia’s children. We all benefit when our neighbors are working too. Those who are unemployed need more than the Governor’s quarrels with the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Lip service that “statistics don’t matter” is a disservice to unemployed Georgians. They need job training and access to education.

In the U.S. Senate race to replace Saxby Chambliss, too many attack TV ads make it seem as if President Obama is running to be Georgia’s next senator. He isn’t. In fact, Michele Nunn’s career has been far from partisan. She is on a first name basis with four former presidents, George H. Bush, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter as well as President Obama. She is a bridge-builder who has worked to break down barriers that keep us from working together. In 2009, she worked with Senators Edward Kennedy (D-MA) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT) to pass the Serve America Act, which gives small grants to volunteers for service projects in their communities.  From her Hands on Atlanta experience to CEO of President’s Bush’s Points of Light Foundation, Michelle has worked to seek full civic engagement of everyday folks that empowers neighborhoods to help themselves. Nunn’s experience and record reflects her ability to work with Republicans and Democrats, which is why her donors also include both Republicans and Democrats. Her top priority is to create jobs and economic opportunity in Georgia – and not outsourcing Georgia jobs to China.

It is time for change in Georgia – it is time to vote for Jason Carter for Governor and Michelle Nunn for the U.S. Senate!


Newcomers Get Political Baton

APS Board Candidates

APS Board Candidates

In 1965, the Court ruled that Atlanta had not fully integrated the school system.  In those early days, efforts were made to increase diversity and to integrate schools with limited success. As we continue to reflect and celebrate the historic March on Washington, it is a reminder of our arduous past and our ambitious future.  As a woman, I could not have been mayor of Atlanta when I was born or even when I graduated from high school or college. Today, Atlanta has seen its first woman mayor and there are several women vying for the notable distinction as Georgia’s first elected woman senator. 

After Labor Day we are likely to hear a lot more about the upcoming election and Atlanta political candidates. Atlanta School Board candidates in 2005 and 2009 were rigorously recruited to join the reform movement of the city’s public schools.  Candidates hoping to join the Board are making the rounds, raising campaign funds and friend-raising. Among the candidates are two first time candidates who have caught my attention.

Matt Westmoreland was a middle school student who attended dozens my 2001 campaign events. He asked questions (my favorite was urging my support for the Midtown Festival) and offered his volunteer support four years before he was eligible to vote.  Matt is running for school board District 3.

Though Eshé Collins is a new friend, the Spelman alum has a passion for community engagement and development that is evidenced in her civic service. She is an attorney and a former Atlanta Public Schools teacher running for the Atlanta School Board, District 6 seat.

Both of these candidates worked hard in high school and college, they love the city enough to dedicate their time and resources to pursuing public service. If elected they will be role models for students not much younger than they are.  As the elections approach, I encourage you to take a look at their websites, read their literature and listen to what they have to say.

Passing the baton of leadership and public service to committed, smart young people is part of the legacy we can leave to the city we love. They are running because they care and because they are committed to good government, honesty in government and smart government.

” To expect Georgia……..is unlikely”

“To expect Georgia to come even remotely close to the quality of assessment being done by actual testing experts at PARCC — attempting to assess reasoning and thinking rather than rote recall — would be, in the kindest terms, unlikely, ” said Gerald Eads, a professor at Georgia Gwinnett College and a former testing director with the state of Virginia.

news4jax photo

news4jax photo

Professor Ead’s quote raises another question. What is Georgia likely to do about improving the economy or the quality of life of its residents if it isn’t prepared to invest in first class education K–12 and beyond? Or expand health care through Obamacare? Or create a network of transportation solutions and water conservation or infrastructure? It is harder to predict a glorious healthy economy without these investments. Is our future success to result from the mistakes others might make or actions we initiate and nurture?

It has been decades since we pushed ahead of other states with the HOPE scholarship and grant programs, which today only cover the cost of college for a fraction of Georgia’s students. Even HOPE required a referendum leaving state elected leaders with the option to avoid the responsibility for taxing and funding education. Somehow Georgia’s most popular elected leaders are those who demur from the real challenges of funding programs to improve the lives of their constituents. It’s common practice to avoid solving a problem if the solution requires any financial risk.

Imagine Georgia without Hartsfield Jackson Atlanta International airport if the leadership of the city had not found a way to pay for its construction and operation. Or perhaps Atlanta should have defied the federal judge and refused to fund the water infrastructure and operational improvements causing a halt to sewer hook ups and a slow down of construction in metro Atlanta as the judge threaten. Or Atlanta, Fulton and Dekalb residents could have done what Cobb, Gwinnett and Clayton counties did when it came to MARTA.  They avoided the MARTA sales tax to build the rail system that now carries approximately 400,000 people each day and contributes to the economic vitality of the metro region and the state.

Didn’t I read recently the state is funding bus service for fewer than 20,000 riders per day? Now that’s a small start after 40 years of MARTA being denied state funding.

Maybe the Atlanta Journal Constitution reporter, Maureen Downey has it right about education funding but there is much more missing in state policy and funding if Georgia is to prosper in the years to come.


Children and Teachers Left Behind

Blogging While Blue Contributor, Claire McLeveighn

A time to cherish photography

A time to cherish photography

News of 35 indictments in the Atlanta Public Schools cheating scandal has left people shaken throughout the United States, calling into question the reasoning behind our national “No Child Left Behind” policy. I am the daughter of public school educators- a teacher and an administrator- in New York City’s school system. Growing up in such a household, education was the top priority. Homework was to be started immediately upon arriving home from school and completed without television, music, telephone or other distractions. Completed homework was to be reviewed by either mother or father; and any “spare time” after completion of homework during the school week was to be used reading one of many books in our home or studying ahead of assignments in school textbooks. In short, nothing was to subvert earning honors level grades and the completion of a college degree. My parents’ formula worked. My sister and I both graduated from Seven-Sister and Ivy League institutions.  My parents were not wealthy people and both came from far more humble circumstances than their children. Yet high achievement seems to be eluding more and more US students.

We have been hearing for several years that the US is slipping in student competitiveness worldwide. Some of this can be attributed to the decrease in wages and income as more families fall under the federal poverty level.  Some will argue that India and China are producing so many more college graduates than the United States because those countries’ populations vastly surpass ours. However, none can dispute that while these countries and others are investing in education, the US is divesting. While many children in developing countries are attending school seven days per week, our local school districts are closing schools, shortening school years, eliminating teacher training and laying off educators, all in the reward-driven environment created by “No Child Left Behind.”  My father once told me that it is a teacher’s job to teach, and it is a student’s job to learn. What then, are the factors and conditions that allow both teacher and student to do their respective “jobs?” The best-trained, most effective teacher cannot teach a child who comes to school unprepared to learn. If no one at home fosters intellectual curiosity, the home environment is not conducive to learning – adequate and nourishing food, stable family life, structure, loving discipline, security, safety, tools and materials for intellectual development – or the parent or guardian does not value education or is too distracted by basic survival issues to be involved- how can any teacher slay those dragons? A Bronx, New York special education teacher said it this way:

“I can’t stand it that the metrics for evaluating students and schools change every year. I can’t stand it that students who are afraid to walk through the lobbies of their buildings are penalized when they don’t perform as well as kids whose nannies escort them past their uniformed doormen; kids whose only regular food comes from free breakfast and lunch provided at school; kids who watch their dads beat their moms and so don’t understand why it’s not ok to hit another child who doesn’t stand up for herself…”

Assumptions underpinning “No Child Left Behind” implementation – that teachers are the cause of poor performance, that punitive actions and financial rewards will solve student performance challenges – are seriously flawed and are destroying creative and caring teachers, whose lifelong passion is to teach, and rewarding anyone who can present, by seemingly any means, a prescribed numerical outcome. Our policy conversations focus on school safety, standards and teacher performance, but none of these can be honestly addressed outside the larger social context of the community and the home. Nor can they be addressed when as a nation, we spend on education do not invest in education. In a 2012 “Global Search for Education” interview with C.M. Rubin, Andy Hargreaves of Boston College said “All high-performing countries make strong investments in their public systems. Their private systems are small or negligible. Charter schools are not a serious option. A nation’s moral economy invests in education for everyone’s good wherever it can, and makes prudent economies that do not harm the quality of teaching and learning whenever it must.” Until we make the moral and financial commitment to education, our teachers, children, and nation will be left behind.

Yes Cheating is Awful!

justiceYes cheating is awful. And so is conviction before a fair trial. I believe every accused person deserves a fair trial under a set of laws that promises to be just and balanced. I don’t support public hangings. It is barbaric. Never have and never will. I didn’t in the horrendous Nichols and Johnston murder cases though some of my political advisors thought I could improve my voter favorability if I did.  I didn’t then and I won’t now. The eagerness to convict someone cannot take precedence over our demand and respect for the fundamental legal principle that everyone who is charged has a right to a fair trial with competent representation.

Some 50 plus years ago in grade school, I learned about America’s judicial systems and principles of law and my parents reinforced these principles throughout my childhood. Frequently Ruth, my mom, said, “everything that glitters isn’t gold.” Reminding me to think about the circumstances and situation instead of its appearance. My father’s life was full of challenges and a spectacular recovery from alcoholism (that is how he described it) and as a Pennsylvania State Court judge he never wavered in his teaching that,” under the law everyone in America deserves a fair trial and competent representation. And everyone charged with wrongdoing or a crime is not guilty”. These early lessons in discernment stick with me today.  My parents still expect me to act according to these principles and to stand up for them as fundamental values in my life.

As hard as it may be to hold true to these principles now——these are precisely the times that test our commitment to our values. I worry about these principles whenever young or poor people are charged with crimes because I know how few legal resources they have to defend themselves and how dogged the prosecution process can be. Even if they are cleared in a court of law, some will face financial ruin.  Our system of justice isn’t perfect and requires checks and balances to mitigate against its imperfections.

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Education Pays the Bills



Blogging While Blue has posted many times on the value of a quality education to the quality and growth of the state’s economy. Others have also advocated for improved public education funding and there is mounting research that Georgia’s economy is stuck at the bottom rung of the recovery ladder.

However, news from the Governor, the legislature or other local leaders hasn’t improved on this front. How can it be that the state and local leaders are ignoring the research and evidence that investment in quality public education today will pay dividends for future Georgians?

By the end of the GI Bill in 1956, roughly 2.2 million veterans had used it to attend college and an additional 6.6 million used it for some kind of training program. The GI Bill helped to create a middle class that has been the envy of the world.  The value of that educational investment was evident then, so what are Governor Deal and Superintendent Barge missing. What is their playbook for creating jobs and where is the evidence that their plan will even work?

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