Day 1 initiative a resounding success

The Southerner

By Gregory Fedorov

Finally, APS has done something right. While this is something I’d assume you don’t hear often, I say it wholeheartedly. Three years ago, APS launched the Day 1 initiative, aimed at ensuring that all students have the resources, supplies, schedules and teachers on the first day of school.

It took three years, but for the first time, Grady felt extremely different on day one: like a place meant for learning. Teachers seemed more passionate about their subject areas and were noticeably at ease, the air conditioning actually worked in most of my classrooms, I received all of my textbooks, and I didn’t have to waste four hours on the first day in a pointless assembly just to get sorted into my homeroom. This year, 93 percent of APS high school students had complete schedules by the first day. Here at Grady, 12th grade assistant principal Willie Vincent was in charge of scheduling, and he did a phenomenal job of it during the summer. The focus on getting schedules finalized early rather than relying on the first two weeks of the semester paid off. I, as well as many other students, was able to get my schedule finalized easily before school started. Thus, I’ve been able to dive right into the material in my classes without worrying about major schedule changes—a phenomenon that feels like a luxury given that, in past years, my schedule could have completely transformed two weeks into the year.

Lately, it’s been feeling like whenever APS has a vision for the future, it gets sidelined by internal complaints or capital constraints. But not in this case. In 2013 and 2014, APS estimated that their Day 1  preparedness index hit a haphazard 71 percent. The rating, which encompassed staff vacancies, schedule completion and attendance rates, was nowhere near acceptable. This year, the program has finally started showing the intended results, as the Atlanta Board of Education noted in an August, 2015 presentation, with 100 percent of principal positions filled and 100 percent of teachers meeting certification and qualification requirements across the system.

Persistence is key; APS has delivered. Consistent robocalls promoted Day 1 and various events associated with it. The Back to School Bash, for instance, is a campaign by APS—part of the Day 1 initiative—to distribute 5,000 backpacks to low-income students. It was a huge leap forward, increasing outreach to students who struggle to gain the necessary supplies. The overhaul is finally giving us an idea of APS’ new direction.

If APS keeps rolling out initiatives like Day 1, we should all be looking forward to a year of problem-solving and success. Fixing the first day of school is a good start, no doubt. But more importantly, it shows the potential to fix grander issues, such as systemic overcrowding and crumbling infrastructure. While there are a plethora of issues that are waiting to be resolved, it seems that if this initiative and drive to keep education a priority continues into the future, Grady and the rest of the system will inevitably prosper. Soon, it may even be a norm to hear positive remarks about APS.  p

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