Follow-up on yesterday’s post on the transition activities of the Atlanta Public School incoming superintendent – transition costs and donors to be released

June 13, 2014

In yesterday’s post I reviewed some of the facts and some of the speculation regarding incoming Superintendent Meria Carstarphen’s transition activities as she begins to develop a team and a plan for the Atlanta Public Schools for when she assumes the superintendent’s position on July 7th. I noted that there is a substantial lack of information coming out of the transition team and much of what we know today had to be pieced together from multiple sources and documents. Additionally, I faulted both the transition team and the Board for not providing regular updates on the transition activities.

As I noted in updates to the original post, subsequent to publishing the piece, I spoke with Chairman Courtney English who provided additional information on how the Board had intended to interact with Carstarphen’s transition team and what the Board’s plan was to update the public on the funding of the transition effort.

In regards to the Board’s oversight of the transition team, English indicated that it had been his intention from the start of the transition process to mimic the normal relationship between the Board and the Superintendent and that the Board had not intended to provide detailed oversight during the transition phase, but – as in normal operations – it would instead rely on Carstarphen to bring significant issues to the Board as they arose for their consideration. He indicated that it was Carstarphen’s responsibility to staff her administration and bring her selections to the Board for approval (which has now happened on two occasions and previously reported here). English also indicated that doing otherwise would cross the “micromanagement” boundary of the superintendent’s activities and the Board was unwilling to cross that line.

In addition, English provided an update on the funding of the transition team from outside sources. Last month the Board approved raising funds from outside donors to cover the cost of the transition so that the cost would not impact the funds available for normal educational purposes in the General Fund (see here). Originally he estimated the cost would be in the $500,000 to $1 million range. He now anticipates the cost will be closer to $400 thousand and nearly $300 thousand has been raised to-date. Under the transition arrangement, English reviews all transition costs and then authorizes a third-party to make the payments.

While initially there were some concerns about the transparency of the funding and open records requests for information were not being responded to (see here), English indicated that there will be a full and public accounting of the funds and the information would be released next week. He indicated that the public accounting will include a full list of donors, amounts donated and a list of all expenditures made.

Yesterday’s post has been updated with the above information and I applaud Mr. English’s efforts to provide more transparency to the funding of the transition. Additionally, the relationship he defined between the transition team and the Board also makes sense as it begins to establish the appropriate boundaries between the Board and the new Superintendent.

However, I will reiterate my concern regarding a lack of information coming out of Carstarphen’s transition team – my hope is that we will learn a lot more about her plans, the organizational structure and her budget priorities in the next several weeks.

[Follow me on Twitter @Financial_Decon]

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