Atlanta Public Schools – News Round Up of Dr. Meria J. Carstarphen

Round up of news on appointment of Dr. Meria J. Carstarphen as the Atlanta Public School Superintendent

In a unanimous vote, the Atlanta Public School Board of Education appointed Dr. Meria J. Carstarphen as the next superintendent. She was given a three-year contract with an annual salary of $375,000 and she will officially begin on July 7th.

The Board conducted the election in a way that showed their unity in the selection. Each Board member read several sentences from the formal resolution and then during the roll call vote, each stood to declare their affirmative vote. It was clear that the Board was proud of the extensive search process they had conducted and very pleased with the selection of Dr. Carstarphen. The community in attendance at the meeting also voiced their strong support for our new superintendent.

There are lots of stories on the selection – the following is a round-up with the key quotes,


Dr. Carstarphen brings nearly 20 years of education and experience in diverse, urban public school districts including Austin, Texas, Saint Paul, Minn. and the District of Columbia.

She comes to Atlanta with an impressive record in transformative educational leadership that has led to significant student performance gains.

“Today marks a critical step toward achieving educational excellence for our students. This is an important moment for our children, communities and our city,” said Courtney D. English, Atlanta Board of Education chair. “Given her focus on the development of the whole child, and using a collaborative approach to see that students achieve, I have the utmost confidence in Dr. Carstarphen’s leadership. She is the right leader at the right time for our system who will deliver the best education possible to our students. It’s time for Atlanta to believe again.”

“Over the past two weeks, I have met with students, parents, educators and other local leaders and residents from across Atlanta who have shared with me their hopes and dreams for Atlanta Public Schools. I look forward to working with the Atlanta community to ensure that every child has access to a quality education so that they have quality choices in life,” said Dr. Carstarphen. “I’m honored and humbled by Atlanta’s belief and confidence in me as we work together to restore pride in Atlanta Public Schools.”

Local and national leaders have expressed their support and endorsement of Dr. Carstarphen as a highly qualified and passionate leader who can restore the public’s trust and drive a successful future for Atlanta’s children. These leaders include former U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, former U.N. Ambassador Andrew Young, Great City Schools Executive Director Michael Casserly, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed and City Council President Ceasar C. Mitchell.

As superintendent of Austin Independent School District since 2009, Dr. Carstarphen has made extraordinary achievements in academic excellence. They include: • Improved graduation rates to an all-time high of 82.5 percent and reduced longitudinal dropout rate by 25 percent • Increased the African American graduation rate to 79.6 percent, specifically African American males to 76.2 percent • Increased overall SAT and ACT exam scores • Increased college application rates to an all-time high of 92 percent • Improved attendance rates at all levels to 95 percent.

Dr. Meria Joel Carstarphen earned a doctorate in administration, planning and social policy with a concentration in urban superintendency from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. She earned a bachelor of arts in political science and Spanish from Tulane University and master of education degrees from Auburn University and Harvard University. She has also studied at the University of Seville, Spain, and University of Innsbruck, Austria. A public school graduate, Dr. Carstarphen hails from Selma, Ala., where she began her teaching career.

Atlanta superintendent hired with unanimous vote – AJC

“It’s time to bring the pride back to this school system … to face head-on those tough challenges we know are in front of us,” Carstarphen said after the 9-0 vote to hire her.

She received a standing ovation from the audience after the vote.

Carstarphen said she’ll try to track down students who were affected by the school system’s cheating scandal — something that hasn’t been done so far. Instead, Atlanta Public Schools expanded tutoring and remediation opportunities for all students.

Atlanta hires leader for troubled school system – AJC [behind pay wall]

By hiring Meria Carstarphen as Atlanta’s superintendent Monday, school board members hope they’ve found a leader who can move past scandals and get back to the business of educating kids.

Standing one by one as they cast their votes, the Atlanta Board of Education voted 9-0 to hand control of the 50,000-student district to Carstarphen, who has led the 87,000-student public school system in Austin, Texas, for five years. An audience of parents, teachers and staff gave Carstarphen a standing ovation.

“This may be closer to an inferno. It’s blistering with heat, but none of those things bother me,” Carstarphen said. “We will have a very special moment to be able to do some great work in this city.”

Her $375,000 salary exceeds the $275,000-to-$325,000 range described in a position profile last summer, but it falls short of the $600,000 salary suggested by Mayor Kasim Reed. The mayor said in October he had raised money from the business community for the superintendent’s salary, but the city school board decided to pay Carstarphen entirely with taxpayer money.

The full text of her contract — including details about vacation time, sick days and other perks — wasn’t released Monday.

Carstarphen said she wants to raise the school system’s 59 percent graduation rate, improve lackluster academic results, expand early childhood education, grow advanced placement classes and create alternative pathways to graduation.

“I’m like everyone else — very excited about having someone here who actually knows what they’re doing,” said Davis, a former business executive who previously served as chancellor of the University System of Georgia. “She’s an experienced superintendent, far more than I.”

Dr. Meria Carstarphen named Atlanta Public Schools superintendent – CBS46 [with video]

“You have my commitment to do my part to ensure the district is really being thoughtful about all of the challenges it has had in the past,” Carstarphen told the crowd at district headquarters.

She said she would focus on operations, academics and leadership issues.

Carstarphan will officially start on July 7, but will be back and forth to Atlanta in the interim.

“This is a hard job,” said outgoing Superintendent Erroll Davis, who led the district since 2011. “It’s day-to-day trench warfare. It is hand-to-hand combat but I have to admire the people who want to do these things.”

[Added] Dr. Meria Carstarphen Confirmed as APS Superintendent: Hear Part of Her Speech – WABE

[Added] APS votes to hire new superintendent – WSBTV [with video]

You have my commitment to do my part to ensure that the district is really being thoughtful about all of the challenges that it has had in the past, but also mining out the nuggets of extraordinary work and quality work that can be – and will be – scales up across the system.

‘Believe again’ – New super, new day for APS –

“This moment represents a time for the city to believe again,” [BOE Chairman] English said. “It’s time for us to believe again. We’ve been through a dark time and that time is over.” 

During her remarks after the vote Carstarphen, said that she knows her job involves rehabilitating the public image of APS. “I know that it is time to bring the pride back to this school system,” she said. 

The new superintendent warned APS staff that there’s much to do. “People, you’re going to work harder than you’ve ever worked before,” she said during the press conference. “We’ll try to make it fun. We’ll try to make it exciting. We’ll try to make it rewarding.” 

APS confirms new superintendent. Will the warm glow endure? – Get Schooled Blog

Atlanta Public Schools will begin a new chapter under a dynamic young superintendent confirmed by the school board this afternoon.

Whether Meria Carstarphen can transform APS remains to be seen. The 44-year-old brings a record of success, energy and personal charisma to a system still recovering from a test cheating scandal brought to light by the AJC.

While I’ve received a few emails from Atlantans concerned the school board only brought forth one finalist in its search to replace Erroll Davis, parents and community members overall seem delighted with the selection of Carstarphen.

She will begin her tenure with a critical asset – a supportive school board. Six of the nine APS school board members are also new to their jobs, elected by reform-minded voters in November.  Four of the board rookies are ex teachers under the age of 40.

However, relations between superintendents and school boards can degenerate from warm and fuzzy to cold and hostile in a short time. Given the rapid turnover among big district leaders – see Cobb County – Carstarphen would be wise to make her mark and her reforms quickly while she has the good will of the board and the parents.

APS Press Release – Dr. Meria Carstarphen – Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent – Key Provisions of Contract

  • Three-year contract
  • Base Salary: $375,000
  • Retirement Contribution: 10% of the annual salary
  • Medical, vision, dental, disability and life insurance coverages
  • One-time relocation reimbursement
  • Automobile Allowance: $1200 a month
  • Expense Allowance: $800 a month
  • Annual performance evaluation to be conducted by Board
  • Contract does not include any provisions for performance bonuses

To place Carstarphen’s compensation in context, the AJC published the following schedule (see here – behind pay wall),

 Metro Atlanta Superintendent Salaries

  • Meria Carstarphen, incoming Atlanta superintendent, $375,000.
  •  Erroll Davis, Atlanta, $258,837
  • Michael Hinojosa, Cobb County, $247,625
  • Michael Thurmond, DeKalb County, $275,000
  • Robert Avossa, Fulton County, $315,587
  • J. Alvin Wilbanks, Gwinnett County, $503,623

And one more point of context on Carstarphen’s compensation which I prepared based on salary data provided by APS, 

 Carstarphen Comp multiples

And from the Austin Independent School District, where Carstarphen served as superintendent since 2009,

Austin Superintendent Carstarphen formally accepts job in Atlanta – Austin American Statesmen

“As I leave Austin, I feel assured knowing that AISD will remain in the good hands of our extraordinary educators, leaders and community — from our Board of Trustees and our front-line service providers to our civic leaders and families,” Carstarphen said in a written statement shortly after she formally accepted the new position.

Carstarphen has been lauded for raising overall graduation rates and for steering the district through difficult financial storms, including a district state of financial exigency in 2011 for which 1,110 positions were eliminated and legislative budget cuts to public education. She also was successful in launching a number of successful programs, including dual language and Early College Start programs.

But the school leader was criticized for the loss of two of four bond proposals last spring and for not getting community buy-in for such decisions as partnering with IDEA Public Schools to form an in-district charter school, among other things. She has had a rocky relationship with some trustees, and the school board in December did not give her a contract extension during her evaluation. Her contract would have expired in June 2015.

“It has been a privilege to serve the students and families of Austin — and to work with and for you,” she said in her statement.

Austin ISD appointing Dr. Paul Cruz as interim superintendent – KXAN

Cruz was part of Carstarphen’s senior cabinet. He is currently the Chief Schools Officer for AISD and provides academic guidance and support for all campuses. It is a position he’s held for the last five years.

Dr. Carstarphen – good luck in your new role – the community is behind you and we all look forward to working with you and on behalf of improved educational outcomes for the students in Atlanta!

Robert Stockwell is the financial watchdog for APS and posts at Financial Deconstruction


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