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meriacarstarphen.jpg Atlanta Public Schools
Atlanta Schools Superintendent Meria Carstarphen

Atlanta board says it won't renew superintendent's contract

Meria Carstarphen, whose contract runs through June, has led the district since 2014.

The Atlanta school board says it will not renew the contract of Superintendent Meria Carstarphen

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that Carstarphen was told in July that the board would not support a renewal, but the board waited until now to announce it publicly so as not to disrupt the start of school.

“We asked her to work with the board on a transition plan,” School board Chairman Jason Esteves said. 

Carstarphen sent a message to district colleagues after the announcement saying that she has “always done what I believed to be right.”

“The disparity in educational outcomes for Atlanta’s children has been inter-generational and systemic. The solutions are not easy, which is why I so passionately wanted to stay and finish the job I was hired to do,” she wrote. 

Esteves would not say how many board members were against renewing her contract, just that a “majority” did not want to see it extended. Esteves said he hoped Carstarphen would remain on the job until her contract expires June 30. 

Carstarphen was hired in 2014, and has said she wants to remain on the job. 

Groups and community leaders have voiced support for and opposition to a contract renewal.

Buckhead Coalition President Sam Massell sent a letter Saturday urging renewal of Carstarphen’s contract. The organization joins other high-profile Atlanta figures, including U.S. Rep. John Lewis, former mayors Shirley Franklin and Andrew Young and former Georgia Gov. Roy Barnes, who previously asked the board to retain the superintendent. 

On the other side, the Atlanta Federation of Teachers issued a statement saying Carstphen “must go.” The teachers group said the superintendent had pursued “privatization” by outsourcing the daily operations of six schools to charter school groups. The teachers union contends those charter schools operate with “little oversight” and that “the results have been mediocre.” 

The school board last voted on a superintendent contract renewal in June 2018. Board members approved that extension by a 6-3 vote.

Before coming to Atlanta in 2014, Carstarphen was superintendent of the Austin (Texas) and St. Paul (Minn.) districts.

Carstarphen's statement:

It is with great sadness that I must inform you that the Atlanta Board of Education this morning decided to launch a search for a new superintendent. Serving the children of Atlanta Public Schools in this role – and working alongside each of you – has been the greatest honor of my professional life. 
As I have expressed for the past few months, I had a sincere desire for a contract extension so that our team and I could complete the vision and charge I was hired to achieve for the benefit of Atlanta’s children: Rebuild and restore trust in Atlanta Public Schools and position it for the future, especially after the largest cheating scandal in the history of public education. 
I’ve always been committed to working diligently and collaboratively to achieve the District’s goals and our mission to prepare every student for college and career. I feel we are well on that path. In fact, APS has made great progress from rising graduation rates to higher test scores to increased autonomy and resources for our schools. 
I love hard. I work passionately. And when necessary, I fight for you and Atlanta’s children. I have always done what I believed to be right. I've always worked conscientiously to execute our mission and vision. And I have always had the belief that, despite challenges we have faced, we have always been able to come together and take actions in the best interests of children. For that, I am really proud of all of us.  
The disparity in educational outcomes for Atlanta’s children has been intergenerational and systemic. The solutions are not easy, which is why I so passionately wanted to stay and finish the job I was hired to do. 
The Atlanta community entrusts its children and its hard-earned tax dollars to us. We owe it to our community to continue to get up each day and show up for our children. I am incredibly humbled by the support and grateful for our community of students, caregivers, principals, teachers, staff, alumni and partners who have been so supportive of the work we have done. 
I’ve said many times: I love Atlanta … I believe in Atlanta. I believe in you, and I believe our team will continue to get the job done for children. Despite progress and gains, this work is not done. 
As hard as it is sometimes, given the challenges inside and outside of the system, I do love my job and want to work to ensure that Atlanta has a homegrown educated workforce. I’ve made Atlanta my home, and there is still so much more work to be done. We have come a long way since the dark days of scandal, and I hope we can continue the progress. 
Our children need all of us — the Board and Superintendent, along with the community — to fight for them and to be their voice to have the best chance at choice-filled lives.
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