Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Meria Carstarphen delivered her final State of the District address at the newly renovated Harper-Archer Elementary School on Nov. 7, 2019.  The school board has begun a search to find her sucessor. Bob Andres /
Photo: Bob Andres/
Photo: Bob Andres/

5 things to know about Atlanta Public Schools’ superintendent search

Over the next six months, the Atlanta school board will tackle one of its most important jobs. 

Hire a superintendent. 

The school board announced in September that a majority of its members did not support extending Superintendent Meria Carstarphen’s contract when it expires June 30. The decision — reached out of public view in closed session — upset Carstarphen’s supporters who wanted her to continue to lead the 52,000-student district. 

The superintendent oversees a more than $1 billion total budget and thousands of employees. The chief, along with the board, charts the course and sets the vision for the district. 

Here are five things to know about the Atlanta Public Schools’ superintendent search:  

1. The board has hired a search firm 

The board picked the Illinois-based consulting firm of Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates to help with the search and recruit candidates. 

Five search firms expressed interest in the job. The board interviewed representatives from three of the firms and picked Hazard, Young because of its experience and knowledge of APS. The firm’s consulting fee is $39,500, plus travel expenses and other costs, according to board documents. 

2. Some still want Carstarphen to stay 

While the search for her successor has launched, some continue to call for the board to reverse its decision and retain Carstarphen. 

The board faced opposition from some of her supporters when they announced they would part ways. In interviews afterward, board members expressed a range of reasons for the decision. They included a need for more academic and financial accountability as well as a desire to find a new leader to guide the district’s next five-year strategic plan. 

In the weeks after the announcement, Carstarphen’s backers urged the board to reconsider. They mailed flyers and circulated an online petition, though the board has pressed forward with the search. 

But some haven’t given up. 

This past week, Mary Norwood, the former two-time mayoral candidate, said she hoped the school board would keep Carstarphen

Norwood said: “Nothing is done until it’s done. I’ve run for office too many times to not know that. Nothing is over until it’s truly over.” 

3. Candidate names will be  kept confidential 

School board members have made it clear they want to keep the names of applicants quiet until they select one finalist for the job. 

State law allows school districts to withhold applicants’ names from the public until a finalist or finalists are chosen. Board members have said that they’ll get more qualified candidates if they keep their identities secret. 

A board attorney even offered advice on how to keep the search under wraps, saying the board can hold interviews at his law office and bring candidates up to a secured conference room via a service elevator

4. The community has opinions 

The board held a series of community input meetings in October to get feedback about what the public wants in the district’s next leader

Many said the next superintendent should have classroom and administrative experience and said the district should be focused on providing an equitable education for all students. 

A board consultant compiled a report summarizing the feedback in an online report found here

5. The board wants someone in place by July 1 

The school board has agreed to a timeline for making the hiring decision. If they follow it, a new superintendent will be on the job by July 1

The board plans to publicly post the job next month. Candidates would be screened and interviewed early next year. 

A sole finalist would be named in May. 

By law, the board must wait 14 days after the finalist’s name is announced before it can vote to hire that person.

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