ATLANTA - The sole finalist for superintendent of Atlanta Public Schools greeted students at Hope Hill Elementary School with high fives Thursday afternoon.
The APS Superintendent Search Committee selected Dr. Meria Carstarphen from a list of four candidates.
She will replace Erroll Davis, who is set to retire. Davis stepped
into the job in July 2011 after then-Superintendent Beverly Hall was named, along with nearly 200 educators, in a state cheating investigation.
“It's going to be very important that we learn from it and put measures in place to move things forward,” Carstarphen told Channel 2’s Amy Napier Viteri.
Carstarphen said implementing accountability and compliance measurements to avoid a repeat of the cheating scandal is a priority.
“It's a culture shift that you can't just assume happens. You have to work to make it happen,” Carstarphen said
In Austin, Texas, Carstarphen has increased graduation rates by eight points since 2009. Channel 2 Action News learned her school board passed on the chance to extend her contract beyond 2015.
In a statement, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed referenced Carstarphen's holistic educational approach, rather than a culture of testing, and said, "I will do everything in my power to support her in our collective efforts to make the Atlanta Public Schools system the best in the nation. Our children, and our city, deserve nothing less."
Carstarphen says the district's budget will be a priority, and getting talented leadership staff in place is something she will focus on immediately.
She also wants feedback from the district's staff and this community, especially the parents.
“They'll have to share that with me and I know that will be a tough process, but it will be part of the healing,” Carstarphen said.
Carstarphen will work with a young and ambitious school board that was voted into office last fall.
The election replaced six out of nine board members, creating an opportunity for the board and the incoming superintendent to start fresh.
“She has a proven track record of delivering transformative results for children,” said Atlanta Board of Education Chairman Courtney English. “This city could use some unity. She’s the right leader at the right time.”
Carstarphen possesses nearly 20 years of experience in urban public school systems. Currently, she serves as the superintendent of the Austin Independent School District, which she joined in 2009 as its first African American and first female superintendent.
She served previously as the superintendent of St. Paul Public Schools in Minnesota. Her hometown is Selma, Ala., where she began her career in education as a middle-school teacher.
Community Open House - Saturday, March 29:
- Washington HS 9-10 a.m.
- North Atlanta HS 10:30-11:30 a.m.
- Grady HS 12-1 p.m.
- Jackson HS 1:30-2:30 p.m.
- South Atlanta HS 3-4 p.m.
- Mays HS 4:30-5:30 p.m.