APS Superintendent Carstarphen’s first day on the job – “expectations are high and time is short”

Cartarphen HeadshotThe AJC reported on Dr. Meria Carstarphen’s first day on the job as superintendent of the Atlanta Public Schools. Carstarphen was sworn in, met with administrative staff and visited Therrell High School.

As she assumes her duties, the AJC reports,

She faces a host of challenges including raising graduation rates that hover at 59 percent, repairing the image of a school system still tainted by the stigma of a test-cheating scandal and getting the district’s often inefficient bureaucracy to work better for schools.

School starts in one month, and some Atlanta parents, residents and staff are impatient to see evidence of change under a new administration. She’s been asked to improve everything from test scores and special education services to school meals and bus routes. And she faces intense scrutiny throughout the district and the region.

As she starts, Carstarphen will emphasize student attendance,

Carstarphen says she’s already begun making changes to how the district operates. Among the differences Carstarphen says parents and students will see by the time school starts Aug. 4 is an emphasis on attendance. The district will be pushing out the message that attendance for students and staff from Day 1 is essential, she said.

“It’s one of those common-sense approaches to how to we improve the experience in school,” she said. “We need people to turn up on the first day of school and be ready and excited.”

Over the last two months, Carstarphen has led a transition team to organize her administration and develop plans for the school system. As part of the transition, Carstarphen was deeply involved in selecting the 23 new school principals and is reconsidering the academy structure,

Carstarphen says she’s already changed the principal selection process to include more staff input and plans to tweak it more with the goal of recruiting top principals as early as the fall.

She has started to examine where the district should move away from an earlier high school redesign that split Atlanta high schools into individual academies. Last fall, the APS board voted to ditch the idea of independent theme-based schools on a single campus at Washington High School. This year, the three theme-based academies at Therrell will be united under a single principal.

Carstarphen will also focus her efforts on the large and often unresponsive central bureaucracy,

And Carstarphen has begun reorganizing APS’ central office to make the district’s expensive bureaucracy more functional and do a better job of supporting schools. She says she plans to create a “sea change” in the district’s culture to put children first.

“I do think people understand that,” she said. “And if they aren’t up to making that transition they really don’t have a place on the APS team anymore.”

She has shown in the past in both Austin and St. Paul, where she also served as superintendent, that she hits the ground running and begins making changes quickly.

This could be a very interesting summer as Carstarphen begins to put her mark on APS.

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