Value for All

Terry Harness

I learned the value of hard work by working hard. 
~ Margaret Mead

We strengthen our work ethic each time we work hard. It’s a lesson our kids need to learn. But how can we compete with their notions of being a YouTube star or a gamer? Teaching young people about the value of hard work is also teaching them perseverance, patience, and strength. It’s a lesson in the pride that comes from accomplishment, the importance of setting goals and learning from both failures and successes. Most important, it’s a lesson in learning to respect and connect with all those who work hard and make an honest living, from janitors to teachers. This school year let’s work at educating our students in the value of hard work.

We have had a great start to the month of September and our kids are working hard.  If you haven’t noticed, our kids are growing more independent and they are now well aware of the SPARK rules, routines and procedures. Now that we have our routines underway, I wanted to share with you our academic, talent management, systems and resources and school culture goals.  These goals are rooted in our school’s strategic plan.


  1. Increase Rigor in all classes across all grade levels
    1. Gifted Endorsement and Strategy Implementation for all teachers
    2. Increased opportunities for Reading Endorsements, Orton Gillingham training and other opportunities to continue to build teacher professional knowledge
    3. In house Reading and Writing Professional Development for all teachers
    4. Technology Class for all grade levels(Weekly visits to Technology for 55 minutes)
    5. Environmental Class for all grade levels
    6. Exposure Spanish for all grade levels
    7. Media Center for all grade levels(Weekly Media Center visits 30 min/session with read-aloud and book check out)
  2. Student Goal Setting & Data Talks (3rd, 4th, 5th)
  3. Professional Learning Communities – Collaboration and Common Assessments within grade levels to unpack standards and gain a common understanding of what students should be able to do on a daily basis

Talent Management

  1. Meeting the needs of all students through differentiation in all content areas.
  2. Focus on literacy (Reading and Writing) through resources such as Lucy Calkins Reading and Writing units of study as well as our school leveled library.

Systems and Resources

  1. Creative scheduling with a focus on smaller class sizes for all students.
  2. Reallocation of sources and creative budgeting


  1. SPARK in the community.  Maintaining a SPARK presence in the Druid Hills, Virginia Highlands, Poncey Highlands and Midtown communities.
  2. Social Emotional Learning(SEL) for all grade levels and morning community gatherings
  3. Increased opportunities for parents to learn instructional strategies
  4. Decrease  student tardiness and absenteeism

We will continue to work on our school’s strategic plan goals but we will focus our attention specifically on differentiation for all students and meeting students where they are as well as maintaining a focus on literacy in the areas of reading and writing.   All of our work is specifically correlated to the Grady Cluster’s signature program of College and Career Readiness for all students in all grade levels.

I also wanted to share with you a few staffing changes that have happened over the course of the last few weeks.

  • Mrs. Peebles is back!  Be sure to say hello and welcome her back!  We have missed Mrs. Peebles and we are thrilled that she is back at SPARK.  We also want to thank Mrs. Freeman for working in the front office while Mrs. Peebles was away.  Mrs. Freeman will be our new P.E. paraprofessional and she will work closely with Coach Harrison in P.E. with all of our students.
  • Dr. Yolanda Windham has been promoted to the Grady Cluster College and Career Program Specialist! Dr. Windham has worked at SPARK for 10 years and we are going to miss her but she will be based at SPARK and she will be working with all Grady Cluster schools with college and career readiness.  Congratulations Dr. Windham!
  • Ms. Michelle McDaniel will be our new EIP teacher!  I have asked Mrs. McDaniel to step in to the role that Dr. Windham held at SPARK as EIP teacher.  We are very excited that Ms. McDaniel accepted this new role and we know that she is going to do an excellent job!
  • Welcome to Mrs. Sarah Rose Parkinson, new 1st grade teacher.  We are very excited that Mrs. Parkinson will be taking over in Ms. McDaniel’s place as our new 1st grade teacher.  Mrs. Parkinson began on Friday working with Mrs. McDaniel and our 1st graders and she is going to be an excellent addition to the SPARK family!

As always, let me say thank you for all of the support you provide SPARK each and every day.  You make our jobs easier and we appreciate you for it.  I hope to see you next week at our SPARK Family Focus Night lantern making night (please be sure to sign up on the sign up genius) and then at the Beltline Lantern parade the following weekend!

See you next week!

Terry Harness