Principal Shadow Day welcomes community partners to serve as school leaders around APS

UPDATE: Check out photo gallery here. Read speeches by Mays High Eagle Leadership Academy students at the luncheon here.

Atlanta Public Schools principals happily switched places with several of our community and business partners Thursday as part of the annual Principal Shadow Day — one of the best-ever examples of walking in someone else’s shoes. Partners — some of whom welcomed principals to follow them last week — spent the morning observing up close and personal examples of how our schools are making a difference in students’ lives.

The event culminated in a luncheon held at Ballroom at Twelve Atlantic Station. Below we’re going to keep adding updates from our communications staff as they bring in their stories of the partners’ and principals’ experiences. Keep coming back for updates! We start with Benteen Elementary, after the jump …

Everything old truly was new for Alysse Daniels of Promethean, who visited Benteen Elementary as part of today’s Principal Shadow Day program. The former APS teacher had specifically asked to spend the day at her former school of Benteen. Upon arrival, she noticed the school was quite a bit different from what she remembered, particularly with respect to technology. Her company’s interactive whiteboards appear in all Benteen homeroom classes, along with special education and ESOL classrooms, the media center and the staff professional development room. APS has fully embraced the innovative learning tool as a way to keep students focused on classroom instruction.

“It definitely engages the students,” said Benteen Principal Dr. Diana Quisenberry. “The Promethean board can be used across a broad spectrum of subjects, and the flip charts create a library of lessons.”

During her tour of the school, Daniels also received a brief science lesson, courtesy of second-grader Alexander Scott. He walked her through art projects on display in the hallway and proudly explained how various phases of the moon.

“It’s always nice to come back,” said Daniels.

Principal Sharyn Briscoe had a bit of a surprise Wednesday when her shadowing principal Rebecca J. Franklin of Women Looking Ahead magazine showed up for her visit — a day early! Seems that Franklin had an out-of-town obligation that prevented her from participating in Thursday’s activities, so she moved it up a day.

“I didn’t know she was coming,” Briscoe admitted, “but then she really got to see what a true day was like. We took a tour of the school, checking in on all the students and teacher. It’s a walk-through to see if there’s anything of urgency that needs to be addressed. And we spent some time asking questions of students about what they were studying, and just kind of probing questions going beyond the discussion they were having in their own classroom.”

Briscoe and Franklin then visited Cook’s Program for Exceptional Children (PEC) classes, and afterwards discussed the visit and brainstormed on ways Franklin could become more actively involved at Cook. Briscoe, in her second year as principal, welcomed last year a representative from Deloitte, and marvels at how the law firm supports the school through providing school supplies, staging a holiday toy drive, and providing Friday tutoring.

She hopes she’ll develop the same kind of bond with Franklin, whom she said “is absolutely planning on maintaining a relationship with the school. She wants to be a part our school.”

Guest Principal Pablo Pittaluga of Johnson Controls (pictured, above right) learned how Douglass senior Drew Jamison began the process of laying out the Douglass High School yearbook as a member of  the 2010-2011 yearbook staff. Pittaluga spent the morning shadowing Douglass Principal Dr. Thomas Glanton as he shared his positive experiences at Douglass being a newly appointed principal in Atlanta Public Schools this school year. Pittaluga visited many classrooms and spent time talking to students about their career aspirations.

Kwanza Hall, Atlanta City Council member for District 2, spent the day at Hope-Hill learning about a day in the life of real-life Principal Dr. Cassandra Miller-Ashley. “We’re a little hidden secret here and we want the community to know about all the wonderful technology initiatives we have to offer our students here at Hope-Hill,” she told Hall. As a graduate of Venetian Hills Elementary, Hall shared with students his memories of elementary school as a student in APS. “My participation today in the Principal Shadow Day program was one of the most refreshing and rewarding experiences I’ve had in a long time. For all that I do as a City Council member, it pales in comparison to the work of some of our most humble servants, teachers and principals.”

David Lerner of Ascent CPA Group made a happy return as a guest principal at Grady on Thursday, and said he enjoyed seeing Principal Dr. Vincent Murray and hearing his vision for 2010 and beyond. Lerner also learned about the new academies at Grady, which this year joined Mays and North Atlanta as the final schools to move to a smaller-school setting. Lerner also met wtih the visiting Mays High student leadership group at lunch.

“As a CPA firm with many clients, Ascent is looking to step up this year as a true Partner for Education with Grady High,” Lerner said. “Last year, our oldest daughter was a freshman at Grady, and we got involved with family activities. This year, we thought the college room would be a good place to start our business involvement. However, after today, we hope for Ascent to become a behind-the scenes-resource to the new academies as needed for tasks.”

Lerner added that the company will work closely with Murran in identifying and responding to the school’s highest-priority needs to more effectively set up volunteer and funding processes. “I have two more children who are in the seventh and sixth grades, respectively, at Inman Middle School, so we hope to partner with Grady for many years to come,” Lerner said. “We are excited about teaming up with Grady, APS and Atlanta Partners for Education (APFE) for positive change where it’s needed most. Year one, we uploaded a logo on our Ascent website to show support and build awareness. Year two, we are hoping to engage and become active. This is our challenge.”

Murray welcomed the visit as another opportunity to showcase the school to the surrounding community. “We’ve had some great participating in terms of what the community partners want to embrace at our school,” Murray said, “and make contributiosn in terms of time, mentorship and tutoring. When they do a walk-through, they notice something and say, ‘I want to work on that.’ And they’ll help connect us with tutors in the community.”

Principal Robin Robbins was shadowed by Pamela Williams of the Target Store in Fayetteville. Williams and Robbins started their day at a parent chat, followed by the WBPA Broadcast of morning announcements, led by the Burgess-Peterson School Ambassadors. Following the announcements, Robbins read a book to a third-grade class.

Brevard Fraser, Southeast Community Employee Volunteerism Leader for Deloitte, read a book to first-grade students as Fain Elementary Interim Principal Mesha Greene observed. Afterwards, she taught a math lesson to a fifth-grade class, using the Promethean board.

Summer Hutchens of the Creation Fashion Academy and Harper-Archer Middle Interim Principal Flora Goolsby observed the work of eighth-graders in an English/language arts classroom. During the luncheon, Hutchens was so impressed with the students, stating that most of them wanted to start their own businesses, displaying the spirit of entrepreneurship that can create jobs in their own communities.

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