Atlanta School Chief Ready To Focus on Future, Not the Past

May 13, 2014

APS superintendent, Dr. Meria Carstarphen at Atlanta Press Club luncheon sponsored by Communities in Schools, an organization that works to prevent students from dropping out.
Credit Rose Scott / WABE

  The newly hired superintendent of the Atlanta Public Schools says transition won’t be easy as APS tries to move on from the cheating scandal.

Speaking during at Atlanta Press Club luncheon, Dr. Meria Carstarphen today gave a glimpse into her vision for the district.  

WABE’s Rose Scott has more.

Standing before the APS board, business and philanthropic leaders and educational partners, Dr. Carstarphen says APS will undergo a culture change.

“We are talking about children first, we spend less time on the politics, we spend less time on adult issues and we make the right decisions for the right reason and the right moment, so  we can move forward.”

And all of that according to Carstarphen should be achieved in an open and transparent manner.

Recently hired away from the Austin Independent School District, Carstarphen talked about changes her old district had to implement.

And while APS and Austin are different, there are some similarities.

“And one area that I’m particularly proud of and I think that we have to have a conversation about here in Atlanta is the disproportionate placement; we have a large African American student population, but the disproportionate placement of those students in everything from special education to disciplinary alternative education programs.”

Although summer vacation is approaching for the students, the district needs to fill many principal vacancies before students return in August.

Leadership in the schools is critical says Carstarphen and after the speech I asked about the expectations of an APS principal within her vision.

“The principal makes and breaks the culture of the school every single day.”

Carstarphen went on to say that shouldn’t be viewed as pressure, but instead an extension of the district’s commitment and resources principals will count on.

There were nineteen principal vacancies when Carstarphen was hired and nearly half are now filled.

Carstarphen says she’s already been involved in some of those hires by making recommendations.

Simply having principal experience is not enough if you want to work in APS, says Carstarphen

“Are they the right match for the community? Are they interested in serving that population? Do they have the skills to uniquely work with English language learners where most of the parents don’t speak English as a first language at home?  And if you don’t have those specific skills, but are you open to having a kind of leadership team and building people around you to that can support that?

Last month the APS board voted to accept outside money to pay Carstarphen before her contract officially begins.

According to APS, that would help Carstarphen start transitioning to the district with some key hires of her own.