Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Atlanta Public Schools hires Meria Carstarphen as next superintendent (Update)

Posted By on Tue, Apr 15, 2014 at 10:41 AM

FRESH START: Dr. Meria Carstarphen will take the reins as Atlanta Public Schools' next superintendent.
  • Max Blau
  • FRESH START: Dr. Meria Carstarphen will take the reins as Atlanta Public Schools' next superintendent.
After a yearlong search for a new superintendent, the Atlanta Public Schools Board of Education unanimously approved the hiring of Dr. Meria Carstarphen as the next leader of the embattled school system.

Three weeks ago, APS school board members announced Carstarphen as the lone finalist to replace Interim Superintendent Erroll Davis, who joined APS three years ago in the wake of a massive cheating scandal that shattered the public's trust in the school system. Carstarphen comes to Atlanta from Austin, Texas, where over the past five years she has improved high school graduation rates, test scores, and college application rates.

Carstarphen, who will start her new job on July 7, said her first orders of business would come in "operational, academic, and leadership" areas. She emphasized the importance of investing in early childhood education and said that students impacted by the cheating scandal would need to be given special attention.

"At the heart of it, you'll have to individually find those students and, where necessary, create individual plans for them to make those past wrongs right," she told reporters.

APS Board Chairman Courtney English said the hiring marked the "end of trying times" for the troubled school system. More than 450 candidates threw their names into the hat for the leadership position, he said.

But not everyone is convinced that she's the right person for the job - or that the process was handled fairly. Several local school advocates have raised concerns the school board's lack of community input with the new superintendent's hiring. Georgia Federation of Teachers President Verdallia Turner thinks people should have "red flags in their heads" over the board's "opaque" decision to select Carstarphen.

"The process doesn't represent what normal democratic-minded person would expect," added Ed Johnson, a local public education advocate and former school board candidate. "They would expect public engagement, transparency, and not just coming forward with just one candidate."

When asked if APS moved too quickly through the process, Davis said that he felt most top candidates were unlikely to compete for this kind of a leadership position.

"When you're dealing with these superstars that they were dealing with, I believe, then they're not going to hang around [through the process]," he told reporters. "There's always only going to be one finalist."

As part of a three-year contract, the incoming superintendent will receive a base annual salary of $375,000, plus $2,000 per month in expense allowances.

NOTE: This story has been updated to include more information.

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