The Atlanta Public Schools Needed A Change Agent. They Got One In Meria Carstarphen.
When we placed Dr. Meria Carstarphen as Superintendent of the Atlanta Public Schools in 2014, she inherited a school system reeling from the aftermath of a cheating scandal and gearing up for the subsequent trial. Having taken her post in Atlanta only five months prior to the start of the trial, Carstarphen was charged with spearheading a transformation and restoring organizational integrity at the APS.
It was a tough task.
Some five years later, Dr. Carstarphen had taken the district of nearly 52,000 students to new heights. Through her leadership, she shifted the goals of the district to be more student-focused through various initiatives, one of the most successful of which was the launch of a full-time virtual academy for families seeking a nontraditional approach to education. Since Dr. Carstarphen took the helm at APS, graduation rates have zoomed from 59 percent in 2014 to 80 percent in 2018. Carstarphen’s passion for public education led her to introduce social and emotional learning initiatives which were instrumental in a dramatic 34 percent decrease in student arrests and suspensions. “We wrap our arms around [student’s] families as well with a support network to help break cycles of poverty, violence, mobility, unemployment and health disparities,” Carstarphen stated in an interview with a Georgia news publication, “...and this will help us keep kids in school.”
The good news doesn’t stop there, either. Carstarphen’s continued dedication to the students and families of APS has garnered a 15 percent increase in giving to the district, through both individual gifts, collaborations, and partners such as The Grove Park Foundation, which recently secured a million-dollar investment from Bank of America to build a brand new school building.
“A major part of transforming APS means embracing this change,” Carstarphen said. “While change can be tough...it’s not always a bad thing. We have to break up with our old ways of doing things, and in the last four years, we have made changes and embraced change.”