Nice article on APS Superintendent-elect Meria Carstarphen in AJC


Mark Niesse did an extended piece from Austin on Atlanta Public School Superintendent-elect Meria Carstarphen (see here – behind pay wall). The following are some interesting quotes pulled from the piece [emphasis added]:

Known in Texas for connecting with kids and at times dividing adults…

She’s that combination of someone who’s really warm and doesn’t suffer fools gladly, which is a great quality for a superintendent in an urban district,” said Andres Alonso, a former classmate from Harvard University’s doctoral Urban Superintendents Program…

“I can implement anything. I feel like I’ve had to do that,” she said during her introduction at Hope-Hill. “Be careful what you ask for, because it will be done.”

When Carstarphen arrives in the heart of the South, she’ll depart a community that has mixed feelings about her leadership. Her strongest opponents said she lost their confidence in 2011 when she urged hiring charter school management to run two schools, and when she was blamed for a task force’s recommendation to close several schools.

In the eyes of Jason Sabo, the father of an eighth-grader and an opponent of the closure of Barton Hills Elementary, Carstarphen became defined by the controversies. “I felt like she lurched from one crisis to the next,” said Sabo, who also praised Carstarphen for protecting pre-k education from budget cuts and helping students from poor backgrounds. “You can give her credit for uniting the city of Austin — both in support and opposition.”

Carstarphen’s most strident supporters said she made a difference in the ways that mattered: improving academic results. Graduation rates rose from 74.3 percent in 2008, the year before Carstarphen took the job, to 82.5 percent in 2012.

She’s not afraid to propose solutions that to some may upset the establishment but are for the good of our children,” said Andy Anderson, an involved parent of two children in Austin schools.

The president of the Austin Council of PTAs, Monica Sanchez, praised Carstarphen for connecting with students, keeping them in school. “In the world of adults, there’s always controversy and there’s always challenges, but I think she was very focused on keeping students No. 1 in her mind,” said Sanchez, who has a third-grader and fourth-grader in an Austin elementary school.

Business community members like Gene Austin, CEO of software company Bazaarvoice, said Carstarphen relied on metrics and data to solve problems and improve student achievement. “She’s a passionate leader. She throws herself at challenges,” he said.

As I read about Carstarphen, there are two themes that come up consistently – she is focused on the kid’s educational outcomes (not parent’s political agendas) and she is a tireless worker that focuses on results. This should be a fun and interesting ride – and if history is any guide – while parents may get upset occasionally, APS’s educational outcomes will improve.

Trade-off accepted!

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