Austin ISD superintendent leaving for same position in Atlanta

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin Independent School District Superintendent Dr. Meria Carstarphen was named the sole finalist for the same position within Atlanta Public Schools.

A formal vote by the Atlanta school board to approve Carstarphen’s hiring is set for April 14.

Carstarphen joined AISD in July 2009 and said she planned to work with the AISD Board of Trustees to develop a successful transition plan.

“Five years ago, I fell in love with Austin and our school district,” she said in a statement. “And, for five years, it has been a privilege to serve AISD and to be a champion for public education and Austin’s children.”

The board will meet March 31 to explore their next step. No interim superintendent has been named.

“We’re always aware that we need to be ready to begin that discussion and the process (of selecting a superintendent). It’s a fairly lengthy process. It may take as much as eight months to a year,” said Vincent Torres, AISD board president.

Torres also said AISD hit a record graduation rate under Carstarphen and that she helped move the district away from a culture of testing — among other things.

Carstarphen was born and raised in Selma, Ala., and said she has a personal draw to Atlanta.

“I look forward to the opportunity to support the Atlanta community and rebuild the Atlanta Public Schools,” she said. “I will always strive to be part of the solution for urban public education in our great country.”

In a statement, Atlanta Board of Education officials also pointed to graduation rates in Austin that they said  increased to an all-time high of 82.5 percent, SAT and ACT exam scores increased, and college application rates increased to an all-time high of 92 percent under Carstarphen’s tenure.

“If she believes that Atlanta, Georgia is the best place for her, then that’s where she needs to be. We need to have someone here that’s all in and that really wants to be here, and that can work that relationship with the community,” said Ken Zarifis, president of Education Austin, the teacher and school employees union for AISD.

Zarifis says it’s too soon to determine what Carstarphen’s legacy will be for Austin schools.

“When you step into a district and the first day you’re on the job Pearce Middle School is closing. Two years later, you have $5.4 billion taken out of state funding for education. Those are very difficult challenges to manage. So I think we need to give time to see what this all means.”

Carstarphen will replace replace Erroll B. Davis, Jr., who was appointed as superintendent of APS on July 1, 2011. His contract ends June 30, 2014.

Carstarphen was selected from a list of four candidates by a district search committee with Atlanta Public Schools.

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