What We Do
The Atlanta Public School’s (APS) Office of Innovation provides oversight and support for the district’s charter and partner schools, and engages with them in collaboration and thought partnership.
- A listing of all APS charter and partner schools can be found in the Information & Evaluations section of our webpage.
- The Office of Innovation monitors both charter and partner schools for compliance with their contracts. Current contracts and monitoring reports can be found in the Information & Evaluation section of our webpage.
- If you have a concern about a charter or partner school or a question that is not answered by our webpage, please click here.
Charter schools in APS are authorized by the Atlanta Board of Education and the State Board of Education. The first APS charter school – Charles Drew Charter School – opened in 2001. There are 18 charter schools in APS as of the 2019-20 school year. The Office of Innovation conducts a charter petition process each year, reviewing requests to establish new charters or renew existing charters that are coming to term and then makes recommendations to the APS superintendent regarding the viability of each charter request.
Partner schools represent one strategy to achieve APS’s commitment to quickly transform low performing schools and provide a high quality education to Atlanta’s students. Partner schools are neighborhood schools whose management has been transitioned to a qualified non-profit organization and who are accountable to the Atlanta Board of Education for results defined in their contracts. The first partner school –Thomasville Heights Elementary School – transitioned to management by Purpose Built Schools Atlanta in August 2016. There are 6 partner schools in APS as of the 2019-20 school year. Each partner school serves all students in the district’s defined attendance zone for the school and enrollment is open to any student living within that zone.
Who We Are
Executive Director of Innovation | Email | 404.802.2815
Matt Underwood has served as Executive Director of Innovation since January 2019. Previously, Matt worked as a principal and as Executive Director for 12 years at the Atlanta Neighborhood Charter School (ANCS), an APS charter school that was named Georgia Charter School of the Year in 2015. He has also taught in middle and high school in Georgia, Illinois, New York City, and Massachusetts. Matt has a B.A. from Northwestern University and a M.Ed. from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. He lives with his wife and kids in the Grant Park neighborhood. He has a goal of seeing a game at every Major League Baseball stadium--14 down so far!
Project Facilitator | Email | 404.802.2864
Joshua Arnold serves as the Project Facilitator for the Office of Innovation. He has been with Atlanta Public Schools since 2016. He has an extensive background in enrollment stemming from both public and private sectors. Joshua assists with managing office logistics and facilitating communication between APS departments and charter and partner schools. As a native of the metro Atlanta area and proud alumni of Georgia State University, Joshua is ecstatic to support educational development within the inner city. He is a Los Angeles Lakers fanatic and deeply enjoys music as he plays a plethora of instruments.
Project Manager - Charter Petitions & Compliance | Email | 404.802.2881
Nikki is dedicated to affecting change that leads to positive results aligned with organizational objectives. With a bachelor’s degree in Communications and a master’s degree in Business Administration, Nikki brings over 15 years of extensive experience coordinating projects with a high degree of efficiency and has driven strategic growth and program visibility for leading nonprofit, corporate, media and educational organizations. Nikki manages the charter petition process for start-up and renewals and oversees charter and partner schools’ compliance with state requirements. Outside of all things business, she enjoys maximizing budgets for residential renovations by finding deals at Home Depot and Lowes, along with stylish finds from Home Goods.
Program Manager - Operational Support | Email | 404.802.2857
Dihanne returned to Atlanta Public Schools in March 2015, having previously worked for the district for over 12 years. Dihanne is a certified Project Management Professional (PMP) and a member of the 2019/20 Education Policy Fellowship Program cohort. Her professional experience is in program and project management, primarily focused on operations and business management. She oversees the buy back services program and also has facilitated the transition of all partner schools. Dihanne has a B.A. from Columbia College and an MPA from Troy University. She is married with two daughters and lives in the City of South Fulton. She is an avid gardener, loves a good jazz festival and to travel.
Special Education & Student Support Services Coordinator | Email | 404.802.2829
Nick serves as the Special Education Coordinator for Atlanta Public Schools’ Office of Innovation, providing oversight, guidance, and support to the districts’ charter and partner schools. He is a native of Trinidad raised in Jamaica Queens, New York. He has fourteen years of experience in the field of special education. Much of those years were spent in the classroom as a special education teacher before taking on the role of special education lead teacher supporting two elementary schools in Atlanta Public Schools. Nick holds a B.A. from the University at Buffalo, M.Ed. from the University at West Georgia in educational leadership, and Ed.S. from Georgia State University in educational leadership.
Corliss L. Melvin
Charter/Partnership School Business Analyst | Email | 404.802.2876
Corliss L. Melvin is an Atlanta native (born & raised) and is a proud Alumni of Atlanta Public Schools. For her entire career, Corliss has been employed with APS, different positions within the Information Technology Department supporting various applications/systems for both employees and students. Corliss is currently the Office of Innovation Charter/Partnership School Business Analyst and has served in this role since April 2018 to support schools' integration into district systems.. She holds a B.S. from Alabama State University in Computer Information Systems and a M.S. in Education from Nova Southeastern University in Curriculum, Instruction and Technology.
Accountant | Email | 404.802.2859
Kathleen Lu is the Accountant for the Office of Innovation. She has been with the team and Atlanta Public Schools since October 2015. Kathleen supports schools in meeting financial reporting requirements and monitors schools’ fiscal health through the district’s performance framework. She has 14 years of experience in Accounting from both public and private sector. She holds a B.A from Georgia State University and has a certificate in State Financial Management Program in Primary Governmental Accounting.
Performance Data Manager | Email | 404.802.2886
Nnenna Ogbu is the Performance Data Manager for the Office of Innovation. She has been with Atlanta Public Schools since April 2018. Nnenna comes to Innovation with a background in quantitative analysis and educational policy, and a passion for charter schools and school choice. Nnenna helps collect and analyze charter and partner schools' performance data for the Office of Innovation. She holds a B.A. from Emory University and an M.Ed. from the University of Georgia. Married to a fellow metro Atlanta native, she lives in Gwinnett with her husband and two kids.