Atlanta Public Schools officials extend their search for superintendent

Erika Mitchell (middle) and other members of the Atlanta Board of Education take their oath on Monday, January 8th, 2024. (Juma Sei/WABE)

As chair of the Atlanta Board of Education, Erika Mitchell sees her job clearly. The same goes for the rest of her board. 

“We are charged with developing policy, approving budget [and] hiring and firing the superintendent,” Mitchell said. “We have other responsibilities outside of that, but those are the three main areas.”

Picking a superintendent has been especially top of mind for Mitchell and the board this week. 

The current Atlanta Public Schools (APS) superintendent – Danielle Battle – is serving an interim term after the board decided not to renew Lisa Herring’s contract last June. 

Hiring Battle’s replacement is arguably the most important thing that the board will do, as the superintendent is in charge of APS’ vision. 

“[You are] ultimately responsible for everything that happens in our system,” Superintendent Battle said at a town hall last month. 

The board initially committed to finding Battle’s replacement by the end of her interim term on June 30. But they voted to extend Battle’s contract this week, giving them more time for a search. Battle’s contract has been pushed to Dec. 31 of this year.

In part, the decision was prompted by an information breach. Details of those being considered for the role were leaked. 

According to APS Board Chair Erika Mitchell, the leak put candidates for superintendent in a  “precarious situation in their current role.”

But Mitchell also said the extension is necessary to help the board make the right decision. 

The Atlanta Board of Education sit on their dais. (Juma Sei/WABE)

Battle’s replacement will be the district’s fourth superintendent since 2014. According to Mitchell, that turnover has eroded trust between the district and the community.

The board chair added that rushing a decision could jeopardize how the district is rolling out initiatives like its new student literacy policy.

The new policy centers on evidence-based methods for teaching kids to read; districts across the state are doing the same.

“There is a crisis here in Atlanta Public Schools,” Mitchell said about the district’s literacy rates. “We need to ensure that all students are reading on grade level and proficient. And that is not the case.”

Note of disclosure: APS owns WABE’s broadcast license.