Atlanta superintendent calls for innovation during first State of District speech

Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Lisa Herring delivered her first State of the District address on Nov. 18, 2021. Miguel Martinez for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Caption
Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Lisa Herring delivered her first State of the District address on Nov. 18, 2021. Miguel Martinez for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Miguel Martinez for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The Atlanta Public Schools superintendent used her first State of the District speech to make a case for more innovation in learning.

Lisa Herring spoke Thursday to a limited audience at South Atlanta High School. Hundreds more watched the event live online.

“We have a responsibility to change what school looks like now,” she said. “We have to have more innovative classrooms.”

ExploreMore stories about Atlanta Public Schools

Herring’s vision includes using lessons learned during the COVID-19 pandemic and leaning on technology — from augmented reality to artificial intelligence — to engage students.

She highlighted other ways teachers are innovating in APS classrooms: From an elementary school teacher who plays basketball to teach decimals to virtual classes that allowed students at one school to take the higher math classes offered by another.

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Dancers from Therrell High School perform an acrobatic and energetic act at the start of the Atlanta Public Schools' State of the District address on Nov. 18, 2021. Miguel Martinez for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Miguel Martinez for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Dancers from Therrell High School perform an acrobatic and energetic act at the start of the Atlanta Public Schools' State of the District address on Nov. 18, 2021. Miguel Martinez for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Caption
Dancers from Therrell High School perform an acrobatic and energetic act at the start of the Atlanta Public Schools' State of the District address on Nov. 18, 2021. Miguel Martinez for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Miguel Martinez for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Miguel Martinez for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

All students in all schools should have access to such interactive learning experiences, she said.

Herring previously led the Birmingham, Alabama, school system. She took office in July 2020, after the Atlanta school board conducted a national search to find a successor to former superintendent Meria Carstarphen.

ExploreAtlanta school superintendent pick preps for pandemic challenge

Herring’s tenure has been marked by the COVID-19 pandemic, which closed Atlanta schools in the spring before her arrival.

“Because of the unique circumstances of my first year as superintendent, many of you are hearing from me for the first time today. Many of you are seeing me beyond the mask for the first time today,” she said.

The 50,000-student school district is Georgia’s seventh largest. It employs about 6,000 workers and operates with a nearly $1.4 billion budget.

Caption
Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Lisa Herring delivered her first State of the District address on Nov. 18, 2021. Miguel Martinez for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Miguel Martinez for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Lisa Herring delivered her first State of the District address on Nov. 18, 2021. Miguel Martinez for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Caption
Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Lisa Herring delivered her first State of the District address on Nov. 18, 2021. Miguel Martinez for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Miguel Martinez for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Miguel Martinez for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Herring showcased achievements from her first year and a half as chief. She touted the district’s academic recovery plan to help students catch up from pandemic learning losses. That includes an enhanced summer school program and screeners to gauge how students are doing academically, socially and emotionally.

She highlighted employee pay raises and an increase in the four-year graduation rate.

Caption
The South Atlanta High School marching band perform during the Atlanta Public Schools' State of the District event on Nov. 18, 2021. Miguel Martinez for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Miguel Martinez for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The South Atlanta High School marching band perform during the Atlanta Public Schools' State of the District event on Nov. 18, 2021. Miguel Martinez for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Caption
The South Atlanta High School marching band perform during the Atlanta Public Schools' State of the District event on Nov. 18, 2021. Miguel Martinez for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Miguel Martinez for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Miguel Martinez for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Herring also introduced what she calls the “APS 5.”

Those are five priorities she believes will boost students’ academic success. They include using data to make decisions, personalizing learning, strengthening the signature programming offered at schools, supporting students’ social and emotional needs, and focusing on curriculum and instruction.

The event featured video messages from Atlanta rapper Michael Render, known by his stage name Killer Mike, and U.S. Rep. Nikema Williams, who is also an APS parent.

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