Superintendent Meria Carstarphen, center, poses for a “selfie” with school board Chairman Jason Esteves, left, and school board member Cynthia Briscoe Brown, right, on the first day of the 2018-2019 school year. BOB ANDRES /BANDRES@AJC.COM
Photo: Bob Andres/bandres@ajc.com
Photo: Bob Andres/bandres@ajc.com

As APS approaches key decisions, superintendent gets mid-year review

The Atlanta school board chairman provided a brief report Monday on the superintendent’s mid-year evaluation, saying the board remains pleased with her progress. 

The board conducts its review behind closed doors, as allowed by state law. However, Chairman Jason Esteves gave a short update at a meeting Monday about the work of Superintendent Meria Carstarphen. 

“... (A)s a board we remain pleased with her progress to implement our collective vision for the system. We are on target with the five-year strategic plan through this mid-year evaluation check-in process. Dr. Carstarphen has demonstrated progress in her performance goals for this school year,” he said. 

VIDEO: Day One with Meria Carstarphen

Video: Day One with Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Meria Carstarphen
Video: Mandi Albright/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Carstarphen was hired in 2014. In June, the board voted 6-3 to extend her contract through June 30, 2020. Board members who voted against the extension offered a mix of reasons ranging from concerns that the district has overlooked traditional schools in favor of charter schools to worries about how the district spends its money. 

In his remarks Monday, Esteves pointed to the improvement in the four-year graduation rate, which reached 79.9 percent for the class of 2018, up from 59 percent in 2014. 

The 2018 statewide average is 81.6 percent

Esteves said the superintendent also has “planted seeds” for growth in other places.

This is poised to be a key year for the 52,377-student school district.  

APS administrators and the school board are working to create a rating system for Atlanta schools that, if approved, could usher in some of the most significant changes to how schools are run since the district adopted a turnaround strategy in 2016. 

The turnaround plan targeted poor-performing schools that were, at the time, in jeopardy of being taken over by the state. The result was to close and merge some schools, turn a handful over to charter-related operators to manage and offer more academic support and social services. 

Now, school leaders are creating a grading system, unique to APS, to rate all schools and figure out what should happen to those that succeed or fail based on that measurement. In other school districts, similar work has led to school closures, mergers, more charter schools and new ways of operating schools that give them more flexibility. 

The district is currently seeking community input on that effort and has scheduled meetings at 6 p.m. Jan. 16 at Long Middle School and at 6 p.m. Jan. 22 at Sutton Middle School. The board could vote to approve a plan in March

At Monday’s meeting, Carstarphen thanked the board for its support. 

“I am honored to be the superintendent of Atlanta Public Schools. It’s a lot of hard work, but it is most joyous and inspiring because of the people I work with,” she said.

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