Carstarphen: ‘I came to Atlanta on a mission of faith’

Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Meria Carstarphen says she remains committed to the job during her remaining months as the district’s leader.

Carstarphen spoke Thursday at an Atlanta Press Club lunch. Her remarks were highly anticipated after the school board announced last month that it would not extend her contract when it expires June 30.

Carstarphen said Thursday she intends to stay on the job “as long as I can” so long as she’s able to work in an environment with “high expectations and rigor.”

She said the community wants to see APS continue to do good work and they want her to be accessible and visible.

"They want to know that APS is not going off the rails at a critical time," Carstarphen said. "Hopefully, that gets us to the appropriate transition point, if it comes to that. But, as far as I'm concerned, I think, that it's imperative that we do the job that we were brought here to do."
She said she hasn't thought about what she'll do after leaving APS.

During her prepared remarks, she focused on Atlanta’s inequities and the need to make sure that low-income students receive an education that gives them choices after they graduate. She said that’s a key to breaking the cycle of poverty.

Carstarphen pointed to the successes of her administration and the challenge of coming to APS in 2014, in the wake of a cheating scandal that had left the district in disarray.

“I came to Atlanta on a mission of faith that rose above any adult agenda: A mission to help kids who were cheated, families who were deceived and taxpayers who were shortchanged,” she said.

Five school board members, in interviews after the contract announcement, said they did not support extending Carstarphen's contract. They cited a variety of reasons, ranging from a need for more financial and academic accountability to the desire to find a new leader to guide the district through its next five-year strategic plan, which begins in 2020.

The board has begun a search for a new chief and aims to have someone on the job by July 1.