APS Superintendent Finalist Carstarphen Visits NAHS


Dr. Carstarphen addresses parents and students in the NAHS cafeteria.

A crowd of more than 75 people packed the North Atlanta High School lobby on Saturday, March 29, to welcome Dr. Meria Carstarphen. Atlanta Public Schools (APS) announced last week that Carstarphen is the only finalist to fill its open superintendent slot. Erroll Davis, the current APS superintendent, has held the post on an interim basis since his July 2011 appointment in the wake of the APS cheating scandal that ended the career of former superintendent Beverly Hall, along with hundreds of APS educators.

Carstarphen, current superintendent of schools in Austin, Texas, was one of four finalists for the post she is expected to fill in the coming month when she is officially hired by the school board.

She arrived at NAHS at 10:30 a.m. The hour-long reception was part of a series of meetings at high schools across the district. During a hectic day-long marathon of meetings Carstarphen also visited Washington, Grady, Jackson, South Atlanta, and Mays high schools.

At NAHS, she was enthusiastically met by APS board members, school administrators, PTSA directors, parents, teachers and students. Her commitment to student perspectives was evident even before she entered the school. Just outside the school entrance, before meeting a gathered throng in the lobby, she fielded questions from North Atlanta student journalists.

Baked goods and refreshments were made available to all event attendees. Carstarphen skipped any proffered morsels or coffee and instead dove immediately into a robust question-and-answer session. Speaking without notes, she offered a rousing message that brought approval and even occasional applause. “My work in public education has been my life,” she said. “And no matter where I’ve been, it’s always been about supporting families, supporting kids, and always doing what’s best for our students.”

Among the APS Board of Education members who were present at the event were Jason Esteves, Leslie Grant, Matt Westmoreland, Nancy Meister and Cynthia Briscoe Brown.

Briscoe Brown said all of her board colleagues were ecstatic to arrive at a finalist like Carstarphen, an educational leader who combines a reformist agenda along with a strong track record of urban education excellence. “We all connected with her in a very direct way,” Briscoe Brown said.  “She has a history of bringing together diverse groups together for a common purpose. She is very energetic and is not into ‘relaxing.’ And that’s good, because we don’t have time for ‘relaxing.’”

Carstarphen started her career as a middle school teacher in her hometown of Selma, Ala. She has worked in educational leadership posts in Columbus (Ohio) Public Schools, Kingsport (Tenn.) City Schools, and the District of Columbia Public Schools. From 2006 to 2009, she was superintendent in the St. Paul (Minn.) Public Schools. She has been superintendent in Austin since 2009. At APS, Carstarphen will lead a district comprised of 50,000 students, 95 schools around 7,000 employees.

“Our work here will be doing everything we can to make APS a first choice for all families in Atlanta,” she said.