APS superintendent search nets 84 applicants, continues despite virus

Atlanta school board chairman Jason Esteves said the search for the district’s next superintendent is on track despite disruptions from the spread of the coronavirus. VANESSA McCRAY/AJC
Atlanta school board chairman Jason Esteves said the search for the district’s next superintendent is on track despite disruptions from the spread of the coronavirus. VANESSA McCRAY/AJC

The search for the next Atlanta Public Schools superintendent is proceeding despite disruptions from the spread of the coronavirus.

Board Chairman Jason Esteves said the board has been able to conduct meetings related to the search and interviews in person and, more recently, via video conference.

Other districts around the country have suspended superintendent searches amid school building closures and travel difficulties, but Esteves said the Atlanta board is on track to announce a finalist no later than May and have the new leader on the job by July 1.

“It is full speed ahead,” he said. “We are continuing and anticipate meeting our timeline.”

He declined to specify how many candidates the board has interviewed so far. Georgia law allows school boards to keep much of the search process confidential, including interviews with candidates, until the field is narrowed down to a finalist.

Esteves said the board's search firm, Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates, has spoken to more than 100 people from across the country, and 84 people applied for the position.

The board announced in September that it would search for a new superintendent after a majority said they did not want to extend Superintendent Meria Carstarphen's contract, which expires June 30.

Esteves said the use of video conferencing for some search meetings has not diminished the process.

“We started early enough to where I think we’re getting a fair read of all the candidates we’ve spoken to and have had opportunities to see them in person,” he said.

He said no candidates have withdrawn from the search process because of the coronavirus disruptions.

Atlanta board members have been planning to visit the home district of the finalist they choose, but the board may need to make travel adjustments, depending on what happens with the coronavirus pandemic.

After the board announces a sole finalist, it must wait 14 days before voting to hire that person. Typically, school boards use that time to introduce the finalist to parents, staff and community members. Superintendent finalists often attend public meetings at school buildings to get to know the district and to hear from constituents before the board officially hires them.

That part of the hiring process represents the biggest challenge, Esteves said, because of restrictions on how many people can gather in a room and public health recommendations that say people should distance themselves from one another.

Esteves said the board anticipates being able to have the public meet the finalist, though how that would work will depend on what happens this spring with the coronavirus.

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