Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Meria Carstarphen dances with Harper-Archer Elementary School dancers after she delivered her final State of the District address in November, 2019. Bob Andres /AJC FILE PHOTO

Atlanta school board bids farewell to Carstarphen at her final meeting

The Atlanta school board thanked Meria Carstarphen for her six years of service on Monday during her final meeting as superintendent.

“She took the bull by its horns and fundamentally changed our culture, our system, our processes, and ultimately our results. And because of that, we function better. We are more trusted,” said board Chairman Jason Esteves.

Last year, the board announced that a majority of its members did not support renewing Carstarphen’s contract, which expires June 30.

The decision to part ways proved controversial. Carstarphen’s supporters urged the board to reverse course, but the board launched a superintendent search and last month hired the current leader of the Birmingham, Alabama school system. Lisa Herring will start as APS superintendent July 1.

Board members previously cited a range of reasons for not extending Carstarphen’s contract. At the time, one member, Cynthia Briscoe Brown, said she thought the district needed a leader with a different set of skills as APS launches its next, five-year strategic plan.

During Monday’s virtual meeting, which doubled as the board’s public goodbye, Briscoe Brown credited Carstarphen for helping the district make “tremendous strides.” Carstarphen was hired in 2014 in the wake of a massive cheating scandal that ruined the district’s reputation.

“We are in a much better place than we were,” Brown said. “There are times when we haven’t made it look easy, and there are times when it’s been messy, but we have made a difference, and you have made a difference. And I just want to thank you for that.”

Esteves said the board would present Carstarphen with a glass sculpture in recognition of her service. Her portrait also will be placed in the district’s archives along with pictures of past superintendents, he said.

Carstarphen thanked board members, district employees, parents, taxpayers, and students, whom she called “the best part of the job.”

“The kids are what makes it special,” she said. “I know I’ll forever be changed, and I hope that Atlanta Public Schools will be changed too for the better,” she said.

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