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Restoring the Pride: APS’ New Superintendent Is Ready To Go

By Stan Washington | 4/18/2014, 10:15 a.m.
On a mild Saturday afternoon this past March, an audience of parents, teachers, school administrators and former graduates sat patiently ...
Meria Carstarphen addresses the audience after the Atlanta School Board voted unanimously for her to be the next superintendent of school system. Her overall goal is to rebuild the tattered reputation of the school system. She officially starts on July 7. AP photo.

“I want to make sure we fill those vacancies with the best principals possible,” she said.

During the townhall meeting at Mays High School, Carstarphen stressed that she believes in strongly supporting principals which is where you start in getting better schools. “Good schools have good principals,” she said which drew a round of applause from the principals and teachers in the audience.

Apparently, the meet-the-public tour worked. After the board’s vote, the crowd in attendance gave Carstarphen a standing ovation. She thanked the board and the city for giving her this opportunity.

“I know it’s time to bring the pride back to this school system,” she said. “There is a lot of deep pride in this school system. I’ve met a lot of retired teachers and administrators and all of them say the same thing that there was a time when the district was moving in the right direction. There was a lot of hope and energy and that is something that people want to bring back. You have my commitment to do my part.”

At the Mays townhall meeting, Carstarphen stressed that she is not a miracle worker and that it was going take a joint effort by teachers, principals, parents, students and the overall community to make APS one of the best school systems in the nation.

After brief opening remarks at the townhall meeting, Carstarphen opened the floor up to a barrage of suggestions and questions from the audiences. The suggestions ranged from reducing class sizes to more resources for special needs students to using more retired teachers to help out overworked and stressed out teachers.

Lorrie Martin a parent of a Mays student said she would like to see the new superintendent and the board work on having a more “consistent” school system from the predominately wealthy white schools on the northside of town to the predominantly black schools on the southside of the city.

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APS New Superintendent Meria Carstarphen. AP photo.

“We need the north schools and the south schools to have the same benefits, to have the same programs – to be in sync with each other,” she told The Atlanta Voice. “That would allow families to stay with their neighborhood schools and not have to (send their children) to the north schools to get what they consider ‘a quality education.’”

Tyrone Smith, the popular principal at Mays wants the new administration and board to tackle budgetary and staffing issues.

“We need to look at individual schools to make sure they have the appropriate staff in place so they can handle the student population that they are given,” he said.

Special education is also another area that needs immediate attention, Smith said.

After the board’s vote Carstarphen warned her staff and fellow educators to prepare for some long hours.

“People, you are going to work harder than you have ever work before, but we will try and make it fun, we will try to make it exciting and we will try to make it rewarding,” she said. “There are so many people across this country that are rooting for Atlanta.”