The Atlanta school board announced Friday it won’t offer Superintendent Lisa Herring a contract extension. Herring’s current contract with Atlanta Public Schools ends in June 2024.
“So long as she is the Superintendent, Dr. Herring and the Board will continue the critical work that has begun, particularly the laser focus on student achievement,” school board chairwoman Eshé Collins said in a statement. “We are confident that as the Superintendent transitions and the Board embarks on the search for the next transformative leader for APS, the work will continue uninterrupted, and APS will remain a great place for children.”
Herring expressed disappointment over the board’s decision in a written statement.
“In December of 2022, I received my last performance evaluation and satisfactory feedback with emphasis on the focus of additional engagement and stronger communications efforts,” the statement said. “I have worked diligently to honor the work and expectations of our board and community.”
She went on to list accomplishments achieved during her tenure with APS, including an improving graduation rate and corporate partnerships that she said have resulted in donated technology and student internships.
The move is déjà vu for the school board. In the fall of 2019, the board decided not to extend then-Superintendent Meria Carstarphen’s contract. It conducted a national search and tapped Herring to replace her. Herring has led APS since July 2020.
State law limits district superintendents to three-year contracts. If a school board wants to retain its superintendent after that period, it usually offers a contract extension of one or two years.
A group that calls itself “Transparency Now” launched an online petition in February urging the school board not to renew Herring’s contract. The document, which has more than 1,300 signatures, cites low test scores, high chronic absenteeism and a spike in disciplinary incidents as examples of poor leadership. The district has said the COVID-19 pandemic impacted students’ learning and social-emotional growth and compounded existing problems.
APS parent Amy Harward opposed extending Herring’s contract. She said Herring has a “top-heavy” approach to managing the district, where too many decisions are coming from the central office instead of schools.
“It feels like now’s a really great opportunity to pivot and create a different direction,” she said. “I do understand that the interim period will be hard. But if we don’t make these changes now ... the cultural issues, the systemic issues ... they’re just going to become entrenched and be a part of APS permanently.”
Herring was hired shortly after the COVID-19 pandemic began. Some parents pushed back on decisions she made related to the pandemic, such as delaying the return to in-person classes and announcing a change to the bell schedule in a letter without seeking feedback from parents.
“I am sympathetic, and I have given grace,” Harward said. “I don’t hold Dr. Herring accountable for COVID learning loss, for example. But I do want to hold her accountable for making strides towards improvement.”