5 traits Atlanta wants in a new superintendent

The Atlanta school board officially opened the search process for a new superintendent after creating a profile of that person Tuesday. (Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com)

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

The Atlanta school board officially opened the search process for a new superintendent after creating a profile of that person Tuesday. (Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com)

The Atlanta school board approved a profile Tuesday that it would like to see in the district’s next superintendent. The profile was compiled and presented by Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates, the search firm the board has hired to help look for Atlanta Public Schools’ new leader. Lisa Herring left the position several months ago after the board announced it would not extend her contract past its end date of June 30, 2024.

Board chair Eshé Collins said HYA engaged more than 400 community members before creating the profile, which contains five main traits.

Chief Communicator

HYA partner Micah Ali said the firm will be looking for a leader who can collaborate and build bridges.

“(We’re looking for) someone who’s effective at formulating and advocating and bringing communities together,” Ali said. “The superintendent is going to have to be effective at understanding the issues that are in the southwest, southeast, north, etc., but making certain that you’re able to collaborate with everybody and find synthesis therein.”

Equity Driven

Ali said stakeholders consistently mentioned literacy as the most important focus area for the district. Atlanta students performed below statewide averages in reading and English/Language Arts on the 2022-23 Georgia Milestones.

“When we hear the word ‘equity,’ we oftentimes harken to race, but what we’re saying here in the Atlanta public school system (is) ... rightsizing the district in a way that brings about substantive change,” Ali said. “Everyone surveyed talked about instruction.”

The school board recently adopted its first literacy policy, which requires the district to use instructional methods aligned to the “science of reading.” APS has also partnered with the Atlanta Speech School to offer a pilot program in eight schools that is based on the “science of reading,” which focuses on phonics, fluency and comprehension in the younger grades.


Ali said HYA will look for a candidate who has a track record of using data to drive decision-making.

“(We want) somebody (that) has to be able to utilize data to make decisions and then allow that data to focus on student outcomes,” he said.

Ali said this trait is critical, given the board’s Student Outcome Focused Governance plan, which outlines goals in numeracy and literacy proficiency as well as college and career readiness the district aims to meet by the year 2026.

Knows Atlanta

Ali made it clear that the ideal candidate will either know or get to know Atlanta very well. He also said it would be desirable to find a leader with experience in an urban school district, noting that they tend to be more “complex” than rural or suburban districts.

“Not complexity in people but systems,” he said. “You’re running a transportation department, real estate interests, students, human capital, benefits, etc. We often focus on people who have been a principal or teacher. A school superintendent has to be responsible for every facet of the school system.”


HYA said Atlanta’s next superintendent must have held the top spot in another big district with a diverse population in an urban setting.

What’s next?

The superintendent application closes Jan. 12. The board aims to pick a finalist in March, according to a timeline presented by HYA.