An Icon Moves On: Longtime School Attendance Kyra Jackson Retires After 40 In-District Years of Service

A Legend Retires: After more than 40 years of service within Atlanta Public Schools – and for 25 years at North Atlanta – iconic school attendance clerk Kyra Loney Jackson has retired at the end of the 2021-22 school year.

North Atlanta attendance Kyra Loney Jackson first came to North Atlanta in 1997, but for those who have long loved her – and depended on her legendary efficiency and welcoming smile – it seems she has been at the school forever. In fact, the mere thought of the school without her seems something difficult even to fathom. “When you think about it, North Atlanta doesn’t even really seem like North Atlanta without Ms. Jackson,” said senior Samuel Stovin.

Luckily for Stovin and all the members of this year’s graduating class, they enjoyed a complete, four-year run with Jackson. But for the rest of the Warriors, the coming school year will feel strangely different. After 25 years at North Atlanta and more than 40 years – and six months! – working within Atlanta Public Schools, Jackson retired from active service at the conclusion of this year’s 2021-22 school year. The beloved Jackson said the move has been in the works for many years and that it was finally time to move to the next chapter of her life. “When I look back on all that I was able to do, I’m just so thankful that God gave me the strength and the good health to have all of these good years,” Jackson said. “Every day across each year was a gift. And I’m so thankful for all of those days.” 

For those left behind, there will be the disbelief and sadness of no longer having a North Atlanta icon in her familiar cubby-hole office on the second floor. In all circumstances, the warm and cheery Jackson provided answers for students needing late slips to passes, parents calling up to check out their children, teacher letting her know they needed a substitute, substitutes checking in, school administrators relying on her automatic attendance reports and anyone needing a kind word, a ready smile and an infectious laugh to brighten their days. “It’s difficult to consider but now we reluctantly must say goodbye to this North Atlanta legend,” said Principal Curtis Douglass. “She has been an institution among us and if anyone represents all that is good about North Atlanta, it is Kyra Loney Jackson.” 

For Jackson, her journey in education started with her own high school years at the district’s Douglass High. Always full of personality and charisma, her senior-year peers voted her “most humorous” for the yearbook superlatives. Out of high school she attended Clark Atlanta University for two years, where she minored in theater. Because her older sister Alva Loney was working for the Howard Hughes Corp. in a suburb of Los Angeles, the 22-year-old Jackson ventured out to California where she briefly pursued a career in acting. When she saw that the lifestyle associated with the profession was not consistent with the values of her upbringing, she returned home to Atlanta in 1981 and secured a job at North Fulton High School as an attendance clerk. There was a need at the school for an attendance clerk position, and Jackson quickly showed her administrators – and herself – it was a job she was uniquely suited to fill. “As a woman, God’s given me the gift of multi-tasking, but when that gift was handed down, I got a double portion,” she said. “I’ve always been gifted at being able to do many things at the same time.” 

In 1991, she was transferred from North Fulton to another APS school, Thurgood Marshall Middle School, where she was a do-it-all staff member who worked in the media center, registrar’s office, and the assistant principal’s office. In 1997, she returned to the high school level to take the attendance clerk post at North Atlanta — the school that was comprised of a merger of North Fulton and Northside High School. She would hold that post for the next 25 years. The high school level, she said, suited her because of the intelligence and brightness of the students she served. “They keep you up on the latest trends. To be around children at this age means you get to be current. To work among them meant you always got to stay young at heart,” she said. 

The non-stop job requires constant focus. Each morning of her lengthy and illustrious career, Jackson would check all emails and phone messages, all ramping up to ensure that each classroom in the district’s largest high school was covered with a teacher or a sub. On the heels of that large effort, the early-morning hours would see her contending with a steady stream of late-coming students in need of late passes. Each day always meant the constant hum of sub teacher placements, incoming teacher requests, field trip attendance coding, the ringing phones of parents checking students out, and the need for detailed attendance reports at the day’s conclusion. “It’s not by any means just about attendance. The attendance clerk serves as the information desk and people always present themselves needing to know the answer to a question. The attendance clerk has to make sure that everyone is in the right place and accounted for,” she said. “It was always my task to be so much on point so that any teacher, any administrator and any parent could know where their child was. In my heart I’ve always loved to serve so this has been a job where I’ve been able to do that and I’ve always done it with a glad and grateful heart.” 

Jackson, along with other school staff who were retiring, was celebrated on May 26 at North Atlanta at the school’s annual staff end-of-year luncheon. She also received an award as being one of the longest-serving staff members at the district-wide event for retirees held in June at the Georgia Aquarium. She said in her retirement she plans on spending time with her husband and her family members. There will be plenty of time, she said, for other pursuits plus plenty of grateful reflection on a career she felt so suited to take on and where she was so widely loved. “The spirit inside of me is so glad,” she said. “And I’ve worked with so many wonderful administrators, teachers and students. I love people and I’ve had the wonderful privilege of working for so many decades among the very best people in the world.” 

In past articles in The Warrior Wire, the iconic Jackson was referred to as “North Atlanta’s Personal Ray of Sunshine.” The great arc of her career and her decades of contributions, means – even after her retirement –  the immense good she achieved will shine on in people’s hearts for many years to come.