APS superintendent-elect Carstarphen makes strong statement in support of principal autonomy

Superintendent-elect Meria Carstarphen is travelling around the district today speaking with and getting to know the community and the parents in Atlanta. During her appearance today at the North Atlanta High School, given the importance of the school and principal autonomy issue during the recent election, I asked her the following question and her answer follows.

Question – What are your views on giving district principals the authority, responsibility and accountability for matters in their schools?

What do I thing about authority, responsibility and accountability – in other words – autonomy to principals. One thing I have learned is that when you have a great principal, you have your own pot of gold. [applause]

If you have a great principal, teachers feel more inspired and hopeful about what they are doing in school. It is important that, when you have really good ones, and they really know what they are doing that you give them the flexibility to do what they need for their school community.

It is always a bad proposition to use a broad brush approach to leadership with principals where you are saying that all of them should have the same resources or tools. The demographics of the schools are different and their needs are different. And you have to trust that your front-line leadership understands what those issues are and you have to listen to them as you think about how to support them in school. When they are strong, it is great.

Also it can be a double edged sword. When they are not strong or we have not supported them properly and they do not have all the skill that they need – things don’t work out as well as they should either. It depends on the strength of the staff in place and getting to know them. Also, the community will let me know really fast whether or not they believe their principals are able to run the ship and run it in the right direction.

I have met a few principals already and they are awesome. And you can see from the support of their communities how loved they are and how strong they are. They can trust and know that they will have my support and I will not micro-manage them if they are able to show and prove that they can do the job. (Significant and sustained applause)

My sense from her answer is that Carstarphen, who has also served as the Accountability Officer in a prior district, will move to extend additional authority to the principals who are ultimately responsible for creating an environment in which children learn. At the same time, I also think that the school leaders will be held fully accountable for results.


I will also note that a quick review of the Austin ISD budget shows that resources are budgeted for each school in the district and accountability measures for each school are also presented with the school budget. If she institutes these measures here, it will be a welcome addition to the budget process.

There were additional questions from the audience and some interesting answers – in a good way – I will report further on them in subsequent posts.

[Follow me on Twitter @Financial_Decon]

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