ATLANTA — Board members for Atlanta Public Schools voted 6-3 on Monday to extend their superintendent's contract into 2020.
Meria 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. The decision represents a 1-year extension to her existing contract that was set to expire in 2019.
"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," Carstarphen said in a statement. "I will continue to do everything in my power to give our students the education they deserve and look forward to working with any and all who share in that mission."
As one of the longest-serving of current members, District 4's Nancy M. Meister was the first to speak of Carstarphen's accomplishments during the June 4 meeting.
"With the turnaround strategy, we had 16 schools targeted for intervention. Fifteen of the 16 achieved gains," she said. "The implementation had various components and they were innovative and forward-thinking - not what everybody maybe wanted but the outcomes speak for themselves."
The school system has faced some pushback for some of its plans, particularly those involving the merger or closure of underperforming schools across the district.
Carstarphen said the controversial move was part of a long-term plan to improve schools and communities.
“It’s going to take years to do it, but we’re trying to change that conversation in a way that says we’re being thoughtful about the kids we have today, fix some of the stuff we did in the past," she said in a previous interview with 11Alive. "Because some of the kids we have today have been victims of our lower performance and low-quality educational services, and then plan for the future.”
According to a school statement, she has accomplished several goals in four years as the superintendent for APS. These include:
- The district’s graduation rate has risen 18 percentage points, 59.1% (2013-14) to 77% (2016-17).
- 56 APS schools showed gains on the state’s College and Career Ready Performance Index (CCRPI) based upon 2016-2017 data. That is two-thirds of the district.
- 60% of APS schools “beat the odds” because they performed better than statistically expected on the CCRPI.
- On the 2017 Georgia Milestones, 57 schools – or about two-thirds of APS schools –achieved gains when averaged across subject areas, 17 more schools than the prior year.
- On the 2017 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), when compared to the 2015 NAEP results, the average scale score and percent of students scoring proficient and above increased in three of the four tested grades and subjects.
- APS began the 2017-2018 school year with all principal positions filled and only nine teaching vacancies, the fourth consecutive year where APS had fewer than 10 teacher vacancies on Day One.
- APS has expanded training for principals on hiring for teacher quality and increased principal satisfaction with quality of applicants from 56% to 66%.
- In alignment with the district’s strategic plan, APS has ensured larger shares of expenditures go directly to instruction. From 2014 to 2017, the per-pupil spend for instruction has increased by $894.19 per pupil. For that same period, the per-pupil cost for General Administration has declined by $123.12.
- In the area of partnerships and development, since November 2014, APS has either established or re-established over 275 partnerships and raised over $47 million.
Board chairman Jason Esteves said that the "conversation in APS has changed.
"It's beyond graduation dates and Milestones - we can highlight those and talk about the many things that have happened - but, there has been long-lasting change," he said. "And while it's hard and takes time, I'm proud of the work this superintendent and this school board and the staff have done to transform Atlanta Public Schools."
He added that stability is important to fully implement the long-term plan.
"It is not done yet," he said. "Now is not the time to seek change."
In recent months Carstarphen has been 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.
Board members Byron Amos, Nancy Meister, Cynthia Briscoe Brown, Jason F. Esteves, Eshe' P. Collins and Kandis Wood Jackson all voted in favor of the contract extension.
Leslie Grant, Erika Mitchell and Michelle Olympiadis voted against.