With a combined total of more than 100 years of teaching and administrative experience, eight new principals will usher in the new school year at Atlanta Public Schools (APS).
“Strong schools begin with strong leadership. Effective principals are essential to achieving our vision to become a high-performing district where students love to learn, educators inspire, families engage and the community trusts the system,” Carstarphen said. “I am thrilled to welcome these outstanding school leaders to Atlanta Public Schools.”
With a caring culture of trust and collaboration, every student will graduate ready for college and career. This APS mission is strengthened through the recruitment, development and retention of school leaders who foster educational excellence.
APS has built a strong internal pipeline with an emphasis in school leadership development. As a result, 75 percent of the 2018-2019 new principals are internal hires. In addition, two of this year’s new principal pool are proud APS graduates.
Flip through the photo galleries below, and get to know our eight new principals!
“I hope to improve student achievement, develop and support strong teachers and encourage collaboration throughout the building. I also hope to strengthen our partnerships with parents and our community. …: I am committed to ensuring that TAG Academy provides a safe and intellectually challenging environment that will empower students to become innovative thinkers, creative problem solvers and inspired learners.”
FUN FACT: “I am very athletic and love working out. I go to the gym at least five days a week and would be a personal trainer if “spare time” was to ever show up at my door.”
Yolanda Weems is the new principal at Tuskegee Airmen Global (TAG) Academy in Southwest Atlanta, located within the Washington Cluster. For the past two years, she has served as TAG Academy’s assistant principal, strengthening support and performance of struggling students through reduced class sizes and increased instructional aide. Under her leadership, TAG Academy teachers have the opportunity to collaboratively plan five days per week during protected common planning time. Ms. Weems has been a tenured early childhood educator in the state of Georgia for 20 years. Her previous positions include instructional coach at APS’ Margaret Fain Elementary, curriculum support teacher at Oak Knoll Elementary, as well as a classroom instructor at Seaborn Lee Elementary, where she won Teacher of the Year twice during her 10-year tenure. She has matriculated at Central Michigan University (educational leadership), State University of West Georgia (master’s in educational administration and supervision), and Albany State University (bachelor’s in early childhood education). A proud APS alumna, Ms. Weems attended Venetian Hills Elementary School, Price Middle School and Fulton High School.
“What excites me the most about being named as principal of TAG Academy is that I have the opportunity to serve in the neighborhood that I lived in as a child. As you know, TAG Academy reflects the merger of E. L. Connally and Venetian Hills elementary schools. I attended Venetian Hills, and my relatives still live in this area. Being the principal of TAG is extremely personal for me, and I will do everything in my power to ensure that the students in our community receive a quality education.”
“When I look at Jean Childs Young Middle School and the community it serves, I see enormous potential. From a community who wants a thriving middle school, to a faculty and staff who are committed to serving the whole child and working towards significant school improvement, to students who are have the ability to our next leaders, Young Middle School has the potential to be a model middle school, and it is that potential that excites me about leading the charge.”
“In this first year, our priorities are to create and implement a framework for Tier 1 instruction so that every student has access to quality, rigorous, engaging instruction in all content areas and to commit to a consistent approach to supporting our students’ social and emotional needs. It is my hope and belief that our commitment to quality instruction and whole-child support in a strategic way will enhance the quality of learning and experience for every child.”
Kara Stimpson is the new principal at Jean Childs Young Middle School in Southwest Atlanta, located within the Mays Cluster. For the past four years, she has been principal at Morris Brandon Elementary School, where she moved the school from good to great by increasing its College and Career Ready Performance Index score from 92.4 to 98.8, with gains in all four years. Ms. Stimpson has an extensive background in middle and secondary education. From 2012 to 2014, she served as an assistant principal at APS’ Sylvan Hills Middle School. She also held various positions at the Atlanta Girls’ School. In addition to serving as a new principal mentor, Ms. Stimpson led the APS Middle School Transformation Team and served on the Special Education Superintendent’s Advisory Group. She has matriculated at Georgia State University (educational specialist), Kennesaw State University (master’s in educational leadership), and the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill (bachelor’s in English and in education).
I am an avid runner and proud mother of three children — two Sutton Middle School students in seventh and eighth grades and one North Atlanta graduate who is off to Piedmont College, where he will be playing basketball and majoring in Exercise and Sports Science.
“As principal, I am most excited to meet and greet the students on the first day of school. I am motivated to do the best job preparing an engaging, safe and highly instructional place of learning for each child. I look forward to the smiles, hugs and handshakes from my super scholars.”
“My hopes for this year are to foster a highly positive school climate and culture where students are excited about learning, the staff loves coming to work and parents feel welcome being a part of the school dynamic. With a focus on positive school culture and intentional implementation of quality instruction our students will be unstoppable. … I am a firm believer of maintaining an open-door policy. I believe in making time to cultivate positive relationships with all stakeholders. It truly takes a village, and I need everyone’s input and support in making sure our students accomplish their educational and career goals.”
FUN FACT: “I am a big movie lover and enjoy the experience of going to the movie theater with a big tub of popcorn. I particularly enjoy science fiction, fantasy and action films.”
Ernest Sessoms Jr. is the new principal at Dunbar Elementary School in Southwest Atlanta, located within the Jackson Cluster. For the past three years, he has served as Boyd Elementary School’s assistant principal, where he was awarded APS District 2017-2018 Assistant Principal of the Year. At Boyd, Mr. Sessoms helped to increase the school’s College and Career Ready Performance Index scores by two points in the 2015-2016 academic year and by 11 points in the 2016/2017 academic year. He has also helped to increase End of Grade Assessments by 8.1 percent for grades three through five. Mr. Sessoms began his career in education as a middle school math, science and health teacher in Clover, South Carolina. Since then, he has dedicated more than 14 years to APS in the roles of assistant principal, teacher, instructional coach and site administrator. He has earned degrees from Central Michigan University (master’s in adult education) and the University of South Carolina (bachelor’s in interdisciplinary studies with a concentration in elementary education).
“I am excited the most to serve as a principal in a school located in a community that I grew up in, Southwest Atlanta. The culture of the community at large has always brought joy to my heart. I am very proud of Cascade Heights and its residents that have worked extremely hard to make it a great place for families. With this new role, I have the opportunity to mold the future home owners to ensure that this neighborhood continues to thrive.”
“My hope for Cascade Elementary is that it will be a proud school of choice for the residents located within the school zone. I want the parents of this community to regard the school as a school of excellence and know that their children are receiving a quality education each and every day and the school’s academic data supports learning excellence. … Cascade Elementary will be a family environment where we are doing more than providing knowledge of instructional skills, but we are shaping lives, developing personalities, and ensuring that every member of the team is growing by leaps and bounds, using strategies that possess care, collaboration and consistency.”
Tiffany Momon is the new principal of Cascade Elementary School in Southwest Atlanta, located within the Mays Cluster. Ms. Momon has more than 18 years of combined teaching and administrative education experience – the majority of which she has dedicated to APS. Ms. Momon most recently served as program administrator at Morris Brandon Elementary School, where she co-led the Attendance Committee initiatives that improved overall school attendance rates, ranking second place in the District for the past two years. As Morris Brandon’s math committee administrator, she supported and facilitated initiatives that improved overall math achievement and College and Career Ready Performance Index data during the 2016-2017 and 2017-2018 school years. Her exemplary work at Boyd Elementary School earned her the APS 2010-2011 Teacher of the Year Award. Ms. Momon has matriculated at Georgia College & State University (education specialist), Georgia State University (master’s of social work) and Spelman College (bachelor’s in education). A proud APS alumna, Ms. Momon graduated from Benjamin Elijah Mays High School, where she holds the 1994 title of Miss Mays.
FUN FACT: “When I am not working, I love spending time with my beautiful daughters, taking them to new places to broaden their view of the world.”
“Above all, I hope to build and sustain positive relationships that set the tone for success. With a team of committed teachers and staff; supportive parents and community members; and students who are eager to learn – Bolton Academy will become a model of academic excellence! Our school has the advantage of being in a diverse community where people from different backgrounds can learn and grow together. I hope to create a culture where all students have a sense of belonging, and all stakeholders work together to achieve a common goal,” said Principal Lawrence.
“I’m most excited about the opportunity to share my experiences with the school community to positively impact student achievement. With an International Baccalaureate curriculum model, dual-language program, and a significant ESOL population, Bolton Academy is the perfect culmination of my past experiences. I’m also excited as a parent of a rising second grader as well as a rising fourth grader, to have found a new school home for my children.”
FUN FACT: “I am quite the early riser! I usually wake up at 4:30 a.m. to get my daily workout in and focus on the day ahead of me. There’s no pressing snooze on the alarm clock for me!”
Anita Lawrence is the new principal of Bolton Academy in Northwest Atlanta, located within the North Atlanta Cluster. Ms. Lawrence has successfully developed practices for and monitored implementation of world language programs across the Atlanta metropolitan area. She most recently served as Primary Years Program principal at Wesley International Academy, an APS charter school where students receive daily lessons in Mandarin. As an educational consultant, she developed interdisciplinary Spanish curricular tools and facilitated the opening of the GLOBE Academy, a dual language charter school in DeKalb County. From 2008 to 2013, she coordinated world language and ESOL instruction for the entire APS system, moving the District to compliant in the 2009 Title III federal audit status. During her five-year tenure at APS’ Mays High School, she taught Spanish, chaired the foreign language department, and served as academy leader. Ms. Lawrence has matriculated at Kennesaw State University (educational leadership certification), Simmons College (master’s in urban elementary education), and Brandeis University (Bachelor’s in psychology/Spanish).
“My primary hope for this school year is to cultivate a culture of growth. It is my expectation that all stakeholders—students, staff, parents and community members—employ a growth mindset where good to great is the standard; where we are continually striving for better. In alignment with this year’s theme of P.R.I.D.E, we all have a Personal Responsibility In Delivering Excellence. Towards this end, we will be very intentional in our efforts to always give our best.”
FUN FACT: “My name is Octavius Harris, and I am addicted to basketball. I am willing to play anyone, at any time. A legend in my own mind.”
“I want my new school family to know that I am here to serve. I know that I cannot do this work on my own. I am excited to work alongside the staff to ensure we are delivering quality education in a collaborative and trusting environment. I want them to know that as a former teacher at this very school, I am familiar with the community climate, as well as the opportunities for growth that exist. With that, I am excited and prepared to help in any possible way that I can.”
Octavius Harris is the new principal of Ralph J. Bunche Middle School in Southwest Atlanta, located within the Therrell Cluster. A veteran member of the Charger family, Mr. Harris taught mathematics at Bunche from 2006 to 2012. For the past four academic years, Mr. Harris served as assistant principal at APS’ D.M. Therrell High School, where he decreased freshman cohort suspensions by 11 percent, developed a mathematics program to increase student enrollment in accelerated mathematics, and created an after-school program to engage Athletes in Technology and Mathematics (ATM). His 14-year tenure with APS includes stints as a Teach for America faculty adviser and a mathematics instructional coach at Crawford Long Middle School, where he founded the Men of Long Mentoring Program. Mr. Harris has matriculated at the University of West Georgia (education specialist in educational leadership), Georgia State University (master’s in educational leadership), and Southern Polytechnic State University (bachelor’s in information technology).
“Sarah Smith has an energy unlike any other school in APS. Our community has so much love and pride for this school. They not only embrace our diversity, but they understand that this is one of our core strengths. I am excited for the year ahead as we ensure our program addresses both the academic development and social emotional development of all students.”
“I hope to continue developing strong, meaningful relationships to nurture our sense of community so everyone can flourish. I’ve dedicated time for teachers to come in and sit down with me to discuss the strengths and opportunities for Sarah Smith this year, and it’s helped clarify our work this year. I am also excited about our new administrative team – they are amazing, and I consider myself so lucky that I get to work alongside them every day.”
Emily Boatright is the new principal at Sarah Smith Elementary School in Northeast Atlanta, located within the North Atlanta Cluster. Ms. Boatright most recently served as dean of academics for grades three through six at Westside Atlanta Charter School, where she led efforts to close achievement gaps and ensure equity for all students. She spent three years at APS’ Inman Middle School as assistant principal and interim principal. Under her leadership, Inman increased its College and Career Ready Performance Index (CCRPI) scores by six points in 2015. Prior to holding administrative positions, Ms. Boatright began her career as a high school world history teacher in North Carolina. Since then, she has dedicated more than 15 years of service to Georgia public schools – 12 years spent at Atlanta Public Schools. In 2013, under Ms. Boatright’s leadership as an instructional coach, APS’ Coan Middle School increased its CCRPI scores by 20 points and led the District in standardized test scores for traditional middle schools. Ms. Boatright earned degrees from Georgia State University (master’s of education) and Sweet Briar College (bachelor’s in history and government).
FUN FACT: “I am the proud mother of two APS students. Madeline is a rising sixth grader at Sutton Middle School, and Whitaker is a rising fifth grader at E. Rivers.”
“Academically, I hope to see school-wide growth in the area of language arts and reading. Implementing a new reading program and progress monitoring tool was something the previous principal started, and I can’t wait to implement it with fidelity and see the results. Socially, I hope to build long lasting, meaningful relationships with our students, parents, teachers and the community. I hope our new leadership team forms a bond like the one I had at Morningside, where we can feel comfortable problem solving and figuring out what is best for our students in a collaborative and inclusive environment.”
“I am excited to be back in the North Atlanta cluster but more importantly, being able to join a school like Brandon Elementary that has a history of success. I am beyond excited to work with an almost all new leadership team but keeping with the same traditions and successes that makes Brandon so special. Brandon has been lucky to have AMAZING leadership in the past, and I hope to continue the tradition!”
Jay Bland is the new interim principal at Morris Brandon Elementary School in Northwest Atlanta, located within the North Atlanta Cluster. Mr. Bland joins Brandon Elementary after spending three years as the assistant principal of Morningside Elementary School. Under his leadership, Morningside won APS’s Attendance Award for having the highest attendance rate in the District for three consecutive years and was recognized as a Governor’s Office of Student Achievement (GOSA) Platinum Achieving school each year he was there. Mr. Bland also helped Morningside win both the Blue Ribbon and Green Ribbon school designations, becoming the only school in the country that won both in the same year. Prior to stepping into an administrative position, Mr. Bland taught physical education for 10 years at APS’ Price Middle and Sutton Middle schools. Mr. Bland also coached varsity boys soccer for seven years, leading North Atlanta High School to the 2011 and 2013 Georgia High School Association state playoffs. Mr. Bland has matriculated at Lincoln Memorial University (educational specialist in curriculum and instruction), Georgia State University (master’s in physical education and leadership certification), and the University of South Carolina (bachelor’s in physical education).
FUN FACT: “I love all things sports, and working out. I’ve done CrossFit (functional fitness) for almost 7 years. It’s a great stress reliever and helps me stay level and calm when work can seem tough. More importantly, I am a husband to my wife Leslie and the father of two children, a 1-year-old girl, Avery, and a 3-year-old boy, Liam, who do all they can to keep me busy outside of school hours.”