ATLANTA— The Atlanta Board of Education today voted unanimously to hire Meria Joel Carstarphen as Superintendent of the Atlanta Public Schools. 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 will lead and provide oversight to a district with an $850 million budget, 49,000 students, 7,000 employees, and more than 105 learning sites.
Dr. Carstarphen will help to rebuild the public’s trust and confidence in Atlanta Public Schools. 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.”
Dr. Carstarphen was selected as the sole finalist for superintendent of Atlanta Public Schools on March 27. Since then, she has attended more than 30 events in all six school board districts and every cluster, reaching 1,200 members of the community, including parents and community members leading up to today’s vote.
“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.”
Dr. Carstarphen is excited to be in Atlanta. She is eager to join the Board of Education and the Atlanta community in working collaboratively to make Atlanta Public Schools the best in the nation.
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
• Secured the system’s highest financial ratings by multiple rating agencies such as first ever and retained AAA bond rating, received awards for budget transparency and financial reporting
• Received largest USDE Teacher Incentive Fund grant in country for $62.3 million
Dr. Carstarphen credits the support of an amazing team with these results. They were achieved in part due to efforts to move away from a culture of high-stakes testing to one that emphasizes the whole child, every child; social and emotional learning; equal arts-rich environments; alternative pathways to graduation and disciplinary program reform.
She managed Austin’s urban school district with an annual budget of $950 million; 12,000 employees; and 87,000 pre-K-12 students in 123 schools. Her professional experience includes teaching at the middle school level, and teaching elementary education in Seville, Spain, and Caracas, Venezuela. In leadership roles, she has led the Saint Paul Public Schools in Minnesota, and in accountability positions in urban public schools systems in the District of Columbia, Tennessee and Ohio.
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.
Carstarphen will start work officially on July 7, 2014, replacing Superintendent Erroll B. Davis Jr. who was appointed superintendent on July 1, 2011.