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Atlanta school board will not renew superintendent's contract

She was hired in 2014 and has overseen major changes and, recently, consolidations in one of the largest school systems in the state.

ATLANTA — The Atlanta Public Schools board decided they will not renew the contract of Superintendent Meria Carstarphen when it expires on June 30.

Just last year, the board voted 6-3 to extend her contract into 2020.

Carstarphen was hired to the position by a unanimous vote in 2014 and has overseen major changes and, recently, consolidations in one of the largest school systems in the state.

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"Because a majority of the Board does not support an extension, and no new contract is being offered, there is no action for the Board to take," the school board said in a statement. 

In June, Carstarphen said she still had work to do.

"Now is the time to finish what we started in turnaround so that the next phase of our work focuses on removing all barriers to a high quality experience across the district," she said.

RELATED: READ: Atlanta Board of Education letter announcing Meria Carstarphen decision

The board said her efforts have helped repair "many of the issues that plagued our school system a decade ago." 

In her first two years, the district’s graduation rate rose 18 percentage points, from 59.1% in 2014 to 77% in 2017, the school board told 11Alive last year.

Since the extension last year, the board said they "received input from many in the community related to the future of our system."

The Board notified Carstarphen in July there was not majority support on the Board for another extension and this was reiterated to her several times over the past few weeks. 

"We asked her to work with the Board on a transition plan for June 2020, as is customary in these situations," the statement said. "We waited until now to address this publicly because we did not want to disrupt or overshadow the start of the academic year."

Last year Carstarphen was named Georgia Superintendent of the Year by the American Federation of State and County Municipal Employees and the Georgia Federation of Public Service Employees. She was also a 2018 National Public Relations Association Communication Technology Award for Superintendents Award recipient.

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"The Board acknowledges there will be some disagreement related to this decision, but we believe it is important for the good of the entire system to move forward now," the Board said. 

Below is the letter Carstarphen sent to the staff about her contract:

My Beloved APS Colleagues:

It is with great sadness that I must inform you that the Atlanta Board of Education this morning decided to launch a search for a new superintendent. Serving the children of Atlanta Public Schools in this role – and working alongside each of you – has been the greatest honor of my professional life.

As I have expressed for the past few months, I had a sincere desire for a contract extension so that our team and I could complete the vision and charge I was hired to achieve for the benefit of Atlanta’s children: Rebuild and restore trust in Atlanta Public Schools and position it for the future, especially after the largest cheating scandal in the history of public education.

I’ve always been committed to working diligently and collaboratively to achieve the District’s goals and our mission to prepare every student for college and career. I feel we are well on that path. In fact, APS has made great progress from rising graduation rates to higher test scores to increased autonomy and resources for our schools.

I love hard. I work passionately. And when necessary, I fight for you and Atlanta’s children. I have always done what I believed to be right. I've always worked conscientiously to execute our mission and vision. And I have always had the belief that, despite challenges we have faced, we have always been able to come together and take actions in the best interests of children. For that, I am really proud of all of us.

The disparity in educational outcomes for Atlanta’s children has been intergenerational and systemic. The solutions are not easy, which is why I so passionately wanted to stay and finish the job I was hired to do.

The Atlanta community entrusts its children and its hard-earned tax dollars to us. We owe it to our community to continue to get up each day and show up for our children. I am incredibly humbled by the support and grateful for our community of students, caregivers, principals, teachers, staff, alumni and partners who have been so supportive of the work we have done.

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I’ve said many times: I love Atlanta … I believe in Atlanta. I believe in you, and I believe our team will continue to get the job done for children. Despite progress and gains, this work is not done.

As hard as it is sometimes, given the challenges inside and outside of the system, I do love my job and want to work to ensure that Atlanta has a homegrown educated workforce. I’ve made Atlanta my home, and there is still so much more work to be done. We have come a long way since the dark days of scandal, and I hope we can continue the progress.

Our children need all of us — the Board and Superintendent, along with the community — to fight for them and to be their voice to have the best chance at choice-filled lives.

With much love, respect and hugs,

Meria

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