Atlanta school board vice chair Eshe’ Collins (left) and board chairman Jason Esteves talk to the media and parents after they announced that the board would not extend superintendent Meria Carstarphen’s contract, during a special meeting at the APS headquarters in downtown Atlanta on Monday, Sept. 9, 2019. (Photo by Phil Skinner).
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

In their own words: Atlanta school board members on Carstarphen decision

Atlanta school board in their own words

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution asked all eight members of the Atlanta Board of Education to explain why they supported or did not support an extension of Superintendent Meria Carstarphen’s contract. The District 2 seat representing central Atlanta is currently vacant. Here are board members’ responses, some of which have been edited for length:

For an extension

Nancy Meister
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Nancy Meister

District 4, north Atlanta

I fully support an extension of the Superintendent’s contract. As the longest sitting Board member, who fought for transparency during dark times at APS, I’ve seen a tremendous positive culture shift. Meria has worked diligently to provide a student-centered culture, increased principal and teacher retention, increased graduation rates by 20.8%, and (made) a significant shift of resources to schools. She has followed board direction on external affairs and has consistently had great performance reviews. I’ve experienced collaborative progress with Dr. Carstarphen. Timing of this transition is concerning as the momentum will be adversely stopped. Students must be the center of this discussion.

Eshé Collins
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Eshé Collins, board vice-chairwoman

District 6, south Atlanta

I strongly support Dr. Carstarphen’s extension. There is still a lot of work to do, and stability is extremely critical to our success. We are in the beginning years, and in some cases, months of key initiatives like our signature programs, college and career readiness and many other programs. None of these things existed when I was elected in 2014. Yes, there are more issues to address, but the solution isn’t a non-renewal of her contract. It has been a tough road for the board and Dr. Carstarphen, but in the end, we are doing some great things for Atlanta’s children.

Kandis Wood Jackson
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Kandis Wood Jackson

At-large Seat 7

I supported an extension of Dr. Carstarphen’s contract for several reasons, including because, under her leadership, we have seen (1) improvements in student achievement; (2) increased stability across the district; and (3) a keen (and passionate) focus on the overall viability and success of APS. I believe APS is heading in the right direction and wanted to continue this momentum under the consistent leadership of Dr. Carstarphen.

Against an extension

Leslie Grant
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Leslie Grant

District 1, southeast Atlanta

Consistent with last year, my position is to NOT extend.

Michelle Olympiadis
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Michelle Olympiadis

District 3, east Atlanta

I support the decision. Our district has experienced changes that have student impact, while systems and processes to ensure fiscal responsibility and student outcome accountability have been marginalized. Even with the best efforts of dedicated staff, we are at a breaking point. Over the past five years, the board supported APS in developing strong partnerships to address our students’ needs immediately. Moving forward we must ensure that the district creates a sustainable foundation rooted in continual improvement with strong supports and wrap around services with our dollars and invite our other public and private partners to join our mission.

Erika Mitchell
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Erika Mitchell

District 5, west Atlanta

I am consistent with my position I took last year, NOT to extend Dr. Carstarphen contract. I would like to commend and thank my board colleagues for their concerns for Atlanta Public Schools students. As well I would like to thank the superintendent for the time she has served. While much has been said regarding what drove our decision I would like to reassure Atlanta citizens that it was based on the best interest of all students. I look forward to the continued unifying and growing educational and career opportunities for our students and strengthening of the board healing and understanding from the city.

Cynthia Briscoe Brown
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Cynthia Briscoe Brown

At-large Seat 8

I don’t support an extension. We’ve made good progress in 5+ years, but we have more to do to give every child what they need. APS is in a different place from 2014. Our Superintendent needs different skills going forward. Our new strategic plan begins July 2020; transitioning now allows us to hire to the plan. Finally, our work must transcend any individual or group to ensure lasting positive change for current and future students. As we move forward, I commit to continue working with families, students, employees, community partners, and my colleagues to support and serve all our kids.

Jason Esteves
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Jason Esteves, board chairman

At-large Seat 9

Now is the time to transition. I am proud of the progress that has been made in recent years, but more work is needed to give our students the schools they deserve. That can only happen if the superintendent and Board are aligned and collaborate effectively towards common goals. The next phase of APS’s progress is vital to our long-term success. We need a superintendent who will implement this phase with us and see it through to completion.

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