New Atlanta Public Schools superintendent Lisa Herring was welcomed with open arms — from a social-distance-safe six feet of distance — at her swearing-in ceremony at district headquarters on July 1. In these unprecedented pandemic-era times, Herring is the leader that district officials are looking toward for leadership in an era of lean budgets and uncertain educational timetables.
Herring, who grew up in Macon, comes into her important position after years of experience in the classroom, as a school counselor, and, most recently, superintendent of the Birmingham (Ala.) City Schools.
Herring is in a unique position, joining APS in the midst of a global pandemic. With so much uncertainty surrounding the reopening of schools, the new leader said she is taking every safety-related precaution possible to ensure that both students and staff are comfortable upon their return in the future. She has been working diligently alongside outgoing superintendent Meria Carstarphen and other school officials to ensure a smooth transition and also to strengthen the district as a whole. During a press conference that followed the swearing-in ceremony, Herring stressed the importance of getting schools safely operational again. She also cited the need to heed learned lessons that the COVID 19-era has brought. “All along, we have to be asking ourselves: ‘How can we come out of this better than we were before?’”
Herring said she knows it will require district-wide collaboration among officials, administrators, faculty, staff and students to help APS reach the goals it has for the coming 2020-21 school year. She said she’s going to make a specific point to work with students and teachers alike to establish relationships that will further improve these schools. In her press conference, As an administrator and district leader, Herring said she’s always championed student advocacy, and recognizes the role this youthful constituency has in influencing school policy. “Student voices are very powerful,” she said. “My message to students would also be a reminder that they should be co-creators in all we do.”
In terms of creating an environment where each and every student feels like he or she is heard and represented within a school community, Herring said she’s always benefitted from her years of experience as a school counselor.
She also said the district must make it a significant priority to address the concerns coming out of the national discussions about racial equity and justice. Herring said she looks forward to learning these discussions and said APS’s standing as a diverse school system will make it a natural place for discussions to happen and more progress to take place. “Our diverse system makes us a unique system,” she said. “We are uniquely APS.”
Herring has taken on the mantle of leadership in one of the state’s most important school districts, one facing large challenges associated with educational delivery in the midst of unprecedented times. But with her track record of accomplishment in the face of such daunting issues, there are many who feel Dr. Lisa Herring is the right leader for the right time.