From the Principal's Desk
August 4, 2020Posted by Audrey Sofianos on 8/4/2020 4:30:00 PM
Lots of Activity as We Prepare for Morningside to Open Virtually!
Our teachers and staff have "returned" from their summer break! There is so much exciting work going on - either at MES@Inman or in teachers' homes as we prepare for our first day with students on August 24th. Our teachers are unpacking their materials from the move to our relocation site at MES@Inman, meeting together virtually as teams to plan the lessons and student work of the first quarter, and attending at least 5 days of training in preparation for virtual learning. It is a busy time, but I love it and I am so excited for the 20-21 school year.
Wednesday, August 5th at 3pm, we will open up Campus Parent Portal so that all parents can see teacher assignments! We will also post Class Lists on our doors at MES@Inman. Please do not all come at once - they will be posted for the next weeks and not removed. If you do come to MES@Inman to see class lists, remember to wear your mask and socially distance to keep our community safe! Our registered kindergarten families should have already received their letter with their teacher assignment via US mail.
Next week we will have Town Halls by Grade Level, via Zoom. For added security, the Zoom links will be posted within the Thursday, August 6th Digital Dolphin, as well as our private MES Facebook page. The Town Halls will be led by our Administrative Team including me, School Business Manager Brian Baron, Assistant Principal Dr. Nakiesha Sprull, along with special guests representing the grade level(s) and departments. These Town Halls will provide an overview of the daily schedule, our virtual learning plan, and what to expect during the start of school and the first quarter. The meetings are open to all in our parent community, with a 500 seat limit, so there should be NO issues with capacity for each night. Please feel free to join the session(s) for your grade level(s) or if you have a conflict, you are welcome to join another night as some of the information will be consistent across grades. Also, we have added in an optional 10 minute "Community Time" prior to the meeting start, where we will just chat virtually. Feel free to join, this informal 10 minute Community Time is an opportunity for all of us to get to know each other better!
We are so thrilled to meet and get to know our students this year. Teachers will lead individual "Meet & Greets" with each of his or her assigned students and the student's family. These Zoom meetings will be a 10 - 15 minute time for the teacher and student to connect and get to know each other! Teachers will contact you via email or phone to set up your Zoom meeting, so be looking for that starting next week, August 10th. These meetings will take place August 10th - August 21st.
In the August 6th edition of the Digital Dolphin, plus on this blog and our MES FB Page, there will be more information shared about the week of August 17th, our final planning week for "Return to Learn". We will give you the latest details for anything related to devices plus information on student "Welcome Back - Home Learning Kit" pick-up, as well as returning student belongings retrieval (only for those who need it). These activities will not take place until the week of August 17th. Please see the chart below, which summarizes information as we lead up to the start of school!
Teacher Assignments & Class Lists Posted
Wednesday, August 5th at 3pm
Led by Principal Sofianos, School Business Manager Brian Baron, Assistant Principal Dr. Nakiesha Sprull and special guests
5pm Meeting, with Community Time at 4:50pm
5pm Meeting, with Community Time at 4:50pm
1st & 2nd Grade
5pm Meeting, with Community Time at 4:50pm
3rd & 4th Grade
5pm Meeting, with Community Time at 4:50pm
Meet & Greet Your Teacher!
Teachers will organize individual meet & greets via Zoom with each child and family August 10th - August 21st
Device Distribution & Welcome Back- Home Learning Kits plus Returning Student Belongings Retrieval (if necessary)
Starting on Monday, August 17th
Latest information will be shared via Principal Sofianos Blog & Digital Dolphin on Thursday, August 6th
July 20, 2020Posted by Audrey Sofianos on 7/20/2020 8:00:00 AM
Welcome to our new Assistant Principal Nakiesha Sprull!
Today, July 20th, 2020 is Dr. Sprull's very first day at Morningside! As I wish the best for our former administrators Dr. Brookins, Ms. Leverette and Mr. Lister in their new promotions and positions, I am so excited that Dr. Sprull is joining our Morningside team. She brings experience as an assistant principal, has a heart for students and teachers, plus a strong expertise in curriculum and technology. Our administrative team for 2020-2021 will consist of Dr. Sprull as Assistant Principal, in addition to School Business Manager Brian Baron and myself. Please welcome Dr. Sprull and read her message below!
Message from Dr. Nakiesha Sprull, Morningside Elementary Assistant Principal
“[Kids] don’t remember what you teach them. They remember what you are.” - Jim Henson
Hello, I am Dr. Nakiesha Sprull and I will be bringing over 18 years of experience in the field of education with me to Morningside Elementary. I was previously employed in the DeKalb County School District from 2004-2018. During my time there I served as a teacher, an Instructional Coach, and an Assistant Principal of Instruction. I joined The Atlanta Public School District’s Testing & Assessment department at the start of the 2018/2019 school year.
I graduated with a PhD in Curriculum and Instruction from Mercer University in 2016. I am also a member of the Upsilon Alpha Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. and I do community service and outreach in the Gwinnett County area. I am also a mentor for young girls in the Gwinnett County School System.
I am the mother of 2 sons, Jalen (22) and Jaxson (17). My purpose for being an educator and especially an administrator is so I can develop the types of teachers that I wanted my own sons to have. I believe that every day is a new day and a chance to fix (and erase) the mistakes made yesterday. I am a person who leads by example and I do not expect anything from people that they cannot expect from me. I have an open door policy and I believe that respect goes both ways. I am very excited about joining the Morningside Elementary family and I look forward to helping everyone navigate our “new normal”.
July 16, 2020Posted by Audrey Sofianos on 7/16/2020 3:20:00 PM
The shift from "Crisis School" to "Virtual School"
In March, 2020 our school was physically closed and our teachers, students and families were thrust into "Crisis School" for the remainder of the year. Our MES teachers, staff, parents and caregivers rose to the occasion and from one week to the next began teaching and learning with students at home. Now that we have more adequate time to plan and prepare, we are shifting from "Crisis School" to "Virtual School".
With "Virtual School", we will re-create the school experience as much as possible for our MES community - virtually. We will take the best of what we learned during our crisis school period and build a better model going forward. We will build a school day schedule for each child that is consistent, plus a schedule for the entire school that maximizes our teachers and staff in working directly with students. We will have a streamlined, united approach at each grade. Our team will use all of our creativity and resources to try to make "Virtual School" as close to live school as possible - including increasing student self-sufficiency, a schedule for kids that is approximately 4-5 hours per day, and more teacher time spent with students. Teachers are already responding to a survey and I want to hear from you! Please fill out the Virtual Learning Survey for Parents to share with me what worked well during crisis school, your biggest struggles, and suggestions you might have for us.
"Timeline for Information"
The need for information and certainty right now is high - I hear you and feel the same way! I want to know everything, right now! The reality is there is still a lot being planned with information to be received - but here is what I do know. Our staff begins to return next week, with our new assistant principal arriving on July 20th, counselors and clerks July 27th, and our teaching staff on August 3rd. Grady Cluster principals have already met and are a united front in our "Virtual School" planning. Students are not scheduled to return until August 24th, pending final board approval, so we have time to build a great virtual program and our staff can get needed training. Class lists will be posted on our school doors (auditorium and main doors) at MES@Inman at 3PM on August 5th. Teacher assignments will be available at that same time within Infinite Campus Parent Portal. You can expect to receive information more frequently via this blog as we receive it and/or put plans in place!
I have received a few requests for students to be in learning "pods" or groups with friends. We have already created next year’s classes, and spent many hours with much input from the previous grade's teacher, other staff who work with the kids, and the school counselor to create balanced classes. We will not be able to re-do our class lists to accommodate these new requests. Our goals for our virtual learning include a unified approach across each grade and a consistent school schedule. As stated above, class lists will be posted on our school doors (auditorium and main doors) at MES@Inman at 3PM on August 5th. Our entire cluster is releasing class lists on that day, so that parents can have that information weeks prior to the start of school on August 24th.
Check out the pictures of your child(ren)'s new school! We have a new temporary location for the next two school years. Our move is just about complete, and we are excited to have this amazing property as our home base, even during "Virtual School". Our teachers will be able to have access to their materials and we hope to possibly even teach on occasion from the students' actual classrooms. If public health and safety allows, we hope to plan opportunities for students to see their new school in person. We are proceeding as if that will happen and continue on creating a kid -friendly space, including MES logos and classroom signs. It looks like home... thanks to new signage from our PTA, with work led by School Business Manager Brian Baron!
Our teachers went into teaching because they LOVE kids. They love YOUR kids. It is very hard for them to NOT be with your children physically in the same space. "Virtual School" is something none of us could have foreseen, and they would much rather be with your kids, teaching and learning in the same space. I miss your kids too - and it is still my hope that we will be together at MES@Inman this school year. I have spent my summer reading, researching and networking with principals and leaders in 2 national networks and 1 international group as we all work through the challenges related to the pandemic. I pledge to do all that I can to ensure a very robust virtual school going forward, building on the best with what worked this past spring at our school, as well as what we have learned from successes of other teachers and schools both locally, nationwide and internationally.
June 29, 2020Posted by Audrey Sofianos on 6/29/2020 12:05:00 PMHello MES Families! We have another survey opportunity - from the GA Dept. of Education on the testing waiver for 20-21! Here is the link and information I received today. This is open to parents, teachers, and the public. Survey open until Friday, July 10 at 11:59 pm: GA Dept. of Education SurveyJune 29, 2020 – State School Superintendent Richard Woods and the Georgia Department of Education are urging anyone interested in the future of Georgia’s public education system to complete the survey.“For all those invested in Georgia’s education system – whether you’re a parent, a student, an educator, or a community member, I strongly encourage you to offer your feedback as we seek a waiver (Link to Full Waiver Request) from high-stakes testing for the 2020-2021 school year,” Superintendent Woods said. “Since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, we have urged common sense regarding compliance in Georgia’s public schools, and a focus before anything else on the health, safety, and well-being of students, families, and school staff. Given the ongoing challenges posed by the pandemic and the resulting state budget reductions, it would be counterproductive to continue with high-stakes testing for the 2020-2021 school year. In anticipation of a return to in-person instruction this fall, we believe schools’ focus should be on remediation, growth, and the safety of students. Every dollar spent on high-stakes testing would be a dollar taken away from the classroom.”
June 18, 2020Posted by Audrey Sofianos on 6/18/2020 3:00:00 PM
Please fill out the parent survey on Return to School options. APS is planning to start the 2020-2021 school year on 8-10-2020 with the health and safety of our students and staff as our top priority. As the district prepares for potential reopening scenarios, we want to hear from you – our parents! Survey in English Survey in Spanish Thank you!
June 3, 2020Posted by Audrey Sofianos on 6/3/2020 6:15:00 PM
With feelings of despair, grief, outrage, and panic I too have watched the most recent abhorrent police brutality that led to the death of George Floyd, as well as other senseless and tragic deaths in the African-American community. First as a teacher and now as a principal, I thought I had done my part to make my classroom, my school, “my little corner of the world” a better place – full of love and acceptance for all - but I have to do more. We all have to do more. I will listen more, learn more, do more to stop racial injustice and systemic racism. I love our kids, our staff, our community. I am worried about the well-being of our community, our staff and our kids. Together, let us commit to having open and honest conversations about race, equity, and how best to prepare our children for the world that we want to create.
On June 6th at 10am, there is a CNN & Sesame Street Town Hall for kids and families Coming Together: Standing Up to Racism. A CNN/Sesame Street Town Hall for Kids and Families. In addition, two MES & SPARK parents are organizing a peaceful rally and protest starting at noon, also on June 6th for kids and families, "STAND up for Black Lives". This is being circulated on social media for our Grady Cluster community. Kids and families are asked to social distance, wear masks, make signs along North Highland Avenue from E. Rock Springs up to Ponce De Leon Avenue.
Lastly, our amazing School Librarian Mike Rawls has put together resources about race and racism. Your Kids are Not Too Young to Discuss Race. There are videos, books, and listening options for both children and adults.
May 1, 2020Posted by Audrey Sofianos on 5/1/2020 9:15:00 AM
We have all successfully completed 6 weeks of "Crisis/COVID-19" schooling! Parents and caregivers of MES kids, please take a moment to give yourself praise and respect for what you have accomplished these past weeks. You did not ask for this, and yet you stepped up in a big way. Our teachers also have inspired our entire community by jumping right in, with the intention of progressing learning and keeping school from home as normal as possible for the kids. We will continue to learn and adjust our program, based on communication between parents, teachers and our entire MES family working together as a team. We have continued our tradition of excellence, with our school being the top student engaged school across all schools in APS!
How can there be only three weeks of school remaining? May 5th is National Teacher Appreciation Day, with May 6th being National Nurse Day. I cannot express my gratitude enough to the teachers of MES - we have an exemplary staff with a focus on kids and love of our school! Also, Nurse Petty and Nurse Vicki provide so much more than medical support to our children - lots of love, caring and connection with a stop at our clinics! The week of May 11th will be a school-wide spirit week of all students, teachers, and even siblings and families can join in! The week of May 18th is our last for our 5th grade class of 2020, and all teachers and staff of our school will be reminiscing and celebrating their moving on to Howard Middle School. If you have not watched our WDAN morning announcements, they are on our website Video Archive, with my favorite news cast so far being Monday, April 27th - don't miss the family videos submitted from our community! These student created announcements provide another routine to each day - thank you to Aly Nussear and Stephanie Felton for leading our tech crew and broadcast team. This is our College and Career signature program in action!
With the end of the school year, there are also plans for next year underway! Teachers are packing up for our move to MES@Inman. As soon as we get official word from APS on how you can retrieve student belongings, we will communicate that to you. Parents have the option of filling out a rising 1st - 5th Parent Input Form or if you have a new kindergartner a Rising Kinder Parent Input Form. If you have not driven by Howard Middle School, add that to your route on a family drive - it is on schedule and will be an amazing property in our Grady Cluster. Each year, there are also farewells to staff, with two of our administrators leaving our school. First, Dr. Holly Brookins has accepted a principal role in Decatur City Schools at Glennwood Elementary! Dr. Brookins has been with us for four years, as an assistant principal and then program administrator of our K-Center. She built our K-Center from a rarely used building to a thriving, wonderful, loving environment for our youngest learners. Second, Catherine Leverette has taken a position in private industry at a company called Goalbook! Ms. Leverette has been with us for two years, and came to our school as an experienced assistant principal. She has built strong relationships with students and families, and worked closely with teachers on improving instruction. I admire both of these leaders for their accomplishments and continued commitment to education, and will miss working with each of them. I know that they will stay in contact with our school, so my hope is that we can all say proper goodbyes in person during the 2020-21 school year!
April 17, 2020Posted by Audrey Sofianos on 4/17/2020 3:00:00 PM
I hope you had a wonderful spring break, as well as an awesome first week back! I really miss your children... REALLY miss them! There is no place I would rather be than at Morningside, but during this unique time in history, we are doing our best to provide a high quality "Crisis/COVID-19" school experience. Here are some important updates:
Four-day Instructional Weeks Begin
Starting next week (April 20th) APS is moving to a four-day instructional week for all students for the remaining 5 weeks of school. Students will not receive new assignments on Fridays, will not be recorded for participation/no participation and will not have regularly scheduled teacher sessions. The day for students could include teacher office hours for children in need of review, plus time to finish any assignments. Fridays will remain a workday for all APS employees, and our teachers absolutely need Fridays to have some planning time for these online experiences, as many of them are working even on the weekends to prepare for lessons. We received this information yesterday, so our teachers are working to adjust schedules. You can expect more information next week directly from your child's teacher(s) on the Monday - Thursday plan.
Student Property at MES
Once the shelter in place orders are lifted by the State of Georgia and City of Atlanta, we will designate dates and times for students to retrieve their personal property from MES, as well as return textbooks and library books. Right now, we must honor Governor Kemp's stay at home order.
All summer school activities, including Power Up summer school and our KG Dolphin Dive-In are canceled.
Planning for Next School Year 2020-21
Plans are still underway for our move to the Inman property for two school years, beginning next year - the 2020-21 school year. As teachers continue teaching these next five weeks, they will need to fully pack up their classrooms for a move out of Morningside. A teacher told me that moving a classroom is about the equivalent of moving a two bedroom house or apartment! We are working with APS and our state/local entities on how our staff can safely pack up their classrooms, our library, and our offices and common spaces. Unfortunately, what was once a more team approach, with hired helpers and volunteers, must now be handled on a more individual basis, due to social distancing, safety guidelines and stay at home requirements.
Other plans for 20-21 include the re-registration of current students, registration of kindergarten and new students, as well as the class placement process into the next grade. You will have the opportunity to give input into class placement, so please look for that in a future Digital Dolphin! We are working with APS to clarify our next steps for re-registration of current students and the registration of new students.
State Superintendent Woods sent an open letter today to all parents, students, and teachers in the entire state State of GA Supt. Letter. So much of his letter spoke to me... the entire theme of compassion over compliance, how public education has risen up to make the best of a bad situation, and how important it is to keep the lines of communication open during this "crisis learning". Parents, I know you are juggling so much! You did not ask for this, and no one ever imagined "crisis schooling" being a possibility. Many of our staff are parents or caregivers as well, trying their best for all. Every one of you is focusing on family and keeping your circle of friends and relatives healthy and safe, while working from home, working outside of the home in essential positions, possibily dealing with financial, emotional or other challenges related to this global crisis. Let's fill each other (from a distance of course) with grace, love, patience, compassion and understanding - I am sending it to you virtually right now! I will continue to post updates as I receive new information, please give your student(s) a hug from me!
April 2, 2020Posted by Audrey Sofianos on 4/2/2020 3:45:00 PM
Virtual Principal's Coffee Talk: Friday, April 3
Please join Principal Sofianos and the entire administrative team tomorrow at 8:00 am for our first virtual coffee talk! Bring your own coffee, find a comfortable seat in your home and join us! We hope that technology is on our side; we will be using Google Meet. If you are using a computer, the link should work seamlessly. If you are using a phone or tablet, you will need to download the Google Meet app, as well as sign in with a Google Gmail account. To join the video meeting, click this link: MES Principal Coffee
Otherwise, to join by phone, dial +1 929-299-3766 and enter this PIN: 384 523 106#. See you then!
March 27, 2020Posted by Audrey Sofianos on 3/27/2020 3:25:00 PM
Phase 2 & Beyond Begins for MES Students, Staff & Families
What an amazing & busy two weeks of MES student learning virtually and at home! All of us were thrust quickly into this new world - where we all made adjustments to family life, school life, work life, and social life all at once. I know there have been challenges, but I could not be prouder of the work of our students, teachers, and families these past two weeks. I have received multiple videos, pictures, and emails of students in action - and have also participated in several Google Meets and Zoom classroom sessions. We also had a team behind the scenes who contacted every single one of our MES families to ensure our children have the technology needed to participate in school, deploying APS chromebooks as needed over this past week. We also thank our "Food Insecurity" team who continue to support those needs for our children. We are ready for Phase 2!
Phase 2 shifts us more into our routines, participation, and some graded work. For this fourth quarter of school, teachers will be giving a minimum of five grades per subject, with our special areas giving 4 - 5 grades for Art, PE, and Music. We have support teachers & paras who are working with both teachers and students, giving assistance through our Special Education, Intervention, and English as a Second Language teams. Students receive a final grade on their report card for the entire year's worth of work. Three of our four grading terms were together "live" at Morningside, and we do not anticipate a major negative change in a child's grade at this time. In addition, our special area teachers are working hard to restructure their classrooms to make it easier for students and families - with these changes rolling out next week. Our teachers and administrators will be supporting students and monitoring grades and participation, helping in any way we can.
We know that Phase 2 will continue at least through April 24th. Spring Break will take place April 6th - April 10th as scheduled. Any MES or APS events or meetings scheduled during the weeks of March 30th, April 13th and April 20th have been cancelled. However, teachers and staff are continuing to have parent meetings, SST/504, or IEP meetings virtually if needed. If we do return to school, we will not have any statewide testing, such as GMAS for our 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade students. We also would really love your input, to help us in improving our virtual teaching and learning experience. We are all "virtual pioneers" together, so please share your thoughts MES Virtual Learning Parent Survey. Lastly, you are welcome to join me at a Zoom Virtual Principal Coffee Talk on Friday, April 3rd at 8am. The link will be posted closer to this event!
Degrees and Certifications:
Elementary Education - Indiana University Master's in Leadership - Butler University