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Atlanta school leader seeks to repair system

The next leader of Atlanta Public Schools, Meria Carstarphen, said Tuesday she’s seeking a “culture change” that puts students first and moves past controversies.

“Everybody has said, given where (APS) is, you can only go up. That’s not true. You can’t go into it with that mindset,” Carstarphen said during a speech at The Atlanta Press Club.

She said the city school system needs to learn from its cheating scandal but can’t dwell on it. The cheating occurred on standardized tests in 2009, when 185 educators participated in changing students’ answers, according to a state investigation.

“In some ways, it can hold the system back if we don’t start letting some of those things go,” she said. “It’s not to forget that they happened, it’s not to ignore the problem, but it is to start putting it in its place and to start shedding some of these things and stepping out of the past and into a very very bright future.”

Carstarphen said she wants to hire staff, reduce the bureaucracy of education administration, improve employee morale and raise the school system’s 59 percent graduation rate.

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“Once we do it, right, there’s an expectation that we continue long past my tenure,” she said. “Once we do it, we don’t ever want to have to go back and redo it.”

Carstarphen is already working to hire her staff and evaluate the school system’s needs during a transition period.

She’ll take over as superintendent July 7, and current Superintendent Erroll Davis plans to retire.

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