Jul 26, 2014
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Jackson High's Principal Pledges School Will Improve

Having turned-around two Clayton County schools, Stephanie Johnson was brought in this year to shake things up at Jackson High School and transform its culture and academic standing.

Jackson High's Principal Pledges School Will Improve

KIRKWOOD — The data room spells everything out.

In a scant few minutes, visitors can see how students at Jackson High School are performing in their classes and on standardized tests. They also get a good understanding of which teachers are performing well, which ones aren't and anomalies between students' test scores in the classroom compared with standardized exams.

For Stephanie Johnson, the principal Atlanta Public Schools hired last fall to lead Jackson's turn-around, the data culled allows her and her team to focus on the many challenges facing the high school and to address them in a systematic way.

Johnson arrival comes at a critical juncture for the school named after Maynard Jackson, the late Atlanta mayor.

The school's campus in Grant Park is undergoing $45 million renovation to its physical plant, scheduled to be complete by the end of this year. (Jackson students have temporarily been relocated to the Coan Middle School Campus in Kirkwood.)

Many of the neighborhoods that feed into Jackson have undergone various stages of gentrification. Newer residents, along with longtime homeowners, have formed coalitions — primarily the Southeast Communities for Schools, to advocate for the resources and tools schools in the Jackson cluster have lacked.

Those parents also challenged what they saw as APS' neglect of Atlanta's southeastern quadrant by organizing several academically high-performing charter schools.

Now they have their sights on Jackson — and Johnson.

Part drill sergeant and PTA mom, Johnson is a turn-around specialist.

APS lured her away from the Clayton County schools after she turned around Jonesboro High School, where she brought the school to where it met Academic Yearly Progress standards for the first time since 2004.

Prior to that, the Chatom, Ala. native was brought in to shake up Sequoyah Middle School. Under her leadership, that school made AYP consecutively for three years and moved from "Needs Improvement" status to "Distinguished."

Jackson, which ranks 375th of 399 high schools statewide, will be her hardest challenge yet.

But in a meeting with Jackson cluster parents Thursday, Johnson said their expectations for a high-performing, academically challenging school is not impossible.

She spoke with East Atlanta Patch following the meeting to share her vision and strategy.

Please click on the video to watch potions of our interview.

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