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Dr. Meria Joel Carstarphen Introduced As Lone APS Superintendent Finalist

Dr. Meria Joel Carstarphen (left, standing next to APS Board Chair Courtney English) is the finalist for the position of APS superintendent. She was introduced to the public and press late Thursday afternoon, March 27.
Dr. Meria Joel Carstarphen (left, standing next to APS Board Chair Courtney English) is the finalist for the position of APS superintendent. She was introduced to the public and press late Thursday afternoon, March 27.
Credit Rose Scott, WABE
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Late this afternoon, the Atlanta Board of Education introduced the lone finalist for the position of Atlanta Public School superintendent at a press conference at Hope Hill Elementary School.

She is Dr. Meria Joel Carstaphen and is currently the superintendent of the Austin (Texas) Independent School District.  Dr. Carstaphen (pronounced car-STAR-fin) is a native of Selma, Alabama, who joined the Austin school system in 2009 as both its first African-American superintendent and its first female superintendent.

Dr. Carstaphen has nearly twenty years of experience in urban public schools.  Prior to her position in Austin, she had been the superintendent of the St. Paul Public Schools in St. Paul, Minnesota.  She began her career as a middle school teacher.

Over the next several days, Dr. Carstaphen will take part in a series of school visits and public forums to meet with teachers, students, parents, employees, elected officials, and others.  The board will vote on Dr. Carstaphen’s formal appointment at their regular meeting on April 14.

WABE’s Rose Scott reports that Dr. Carstarphen said her passion for teaching comes from her home town of Selma. She also described schoolchildren as “the one boss in her life.”

Saying that Atlanta deserves a great school system, Dr. Carstarphen responded to a question from Rose Scott about the APS cheating scandal, captured in the following tweet:

Her biography, posted on the Austin IPD web site, details her experience:

Dr. Meria Joel Carstarphen has served since July 2009 as Superintendent of the Austin Independent School District, an urban public school district with an annual budget of $950 million, 12,000 employees, and 87,000 pre-K-12 students in 123 schools. Dr. Carstarphen previously served as the superintendent of Saint Paul Public Schools in Minnesota, and in accountability positions for public school systems in the District of Columbia, Kingsport, Tennessee, and Columbus, Ohio. Dr. Carstarphen’s professional experience includes teaching at the middle school level, as well as elementary education in Seville, Spain, and Caracas, Venezuela.

She earned a doctorate in Administration, Planning, and Social Policy with a concentration in urban superintendency from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Dr. Carstarphen earned a bachelor of arts degree in political science and Spanish from Tulane University, and master of education degrees from Auburn University and Harvard University. She also has studied at the University of Seville, Spain, and University of Innsbruck, Austria. A public school graduate, Dr. Carstarphen hails from Selma, Alabama, where she began her teaching career.

Dr. Carstarphen currently serves as an Adjunct Faculty member in the University of Texas Department of Educational Administration. She is a member of the Austin Area Research Organization and serves on the boards of the Council of Great City Schools, Educational Testing Service, Austin Partners in Education, Austin Public Education Foundation, the Austin Symphony and Ballet Austin, and is on the Children’s Hospital/AISD Health Service Advisory Board. She is a student mentor through the Seedling Foundation.

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed welcomed Dr. Carstarphen in a statement, praising her for her emphasis on “a holistic educational approach – rather than on a culture of testing” while at the same time increasing graduation rates and lowering dropout rates.

In his statement, Reed said, ““I believe we have found a proven, visionary leader in Dr. Carstarphen, who has consistently produced verifiable, concrete results. I will do everything in my power to support her in our collective efforts to make the Atlanta Public Schools system the best in the nation. Our children, and our city, deserve nothing less.” 

Reed also thanked APS board chair Courtney English, former Atlanta chief operating officer Duriya Farooqui, and search committee chair Ann Cramer for their long and hard work on the search committee. “These committee members gave countless hours of their personal time towards finding a new leader for our system, of the first caliber,” Mayor Reed said. “I’m grateful for their service, and look forward to seeing the children of the Atlanta Public Schools system benefit from the results of their excellent work.” 

If confirmed on April 14, Dr. Carstarphen will succeed interim superintendent Erroll Davis, who was appointed after the retirement of Dr. Beverly Hall following revelations of systematic cheating on standardized exams at APS.