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Carstarphen for AISD Super

St. Paul, Minn., super announced as sole finalist for superintendent position

By Richard Whittaker, 1:46PM, Thu. Feb. 26, 2009

Meria Carstarphen (center) just before the formal announcement that she is the sole finalist in the AISD superintendent search
Meria Carstarphen (center) just before the formal announcement that she is the sole finalist in the AISD superintendent search
Photo by Richard Whittaker

Austin ISD has a single finalist to become its new superintendent: Dr. Meria Carstarphen, the current superintendent of St. Paul, Minn.

Carstarphen flew in from St. Paul last night for a press conference with her (potential) new board this morning. She was very cautious to not be presumptive about her appointment, and also assuaged any fears from her current district that she would be leaving them in the lurch (just to prove that people can be really paranoid about their supers, The Pioneer Press sent out an alert when she was seen at Minneapolis-St. Paul International airport with luggage.)

She was selected (not appointed: there's still a 21-day pubic vetting and consultation process) on a unanimous 8-0 vote. Trustee Robert Schneider was absent due to an unavoidable medical appointment. Plus, it wasn't all kumbayas: District 2 Trustee Sam Guzman publicly apologized for a lack of openness in the process.

Carstarphen comes with a pretty heavy resume, and was quick to note that she's actually at the end of her three-year contract with St. Paul (Minnesota has maximum superintendent contracts, unlike Texas.)

The Harvard PhD. started off her professional career teaching middle school Spanish and documentary photography in Selma, Ala.. However, the bulk of her resume is is data management and stats crunching, including two years as chief accountability officer for DC's public schools and two years as public accountability officer in Kingsport, Tenn.

She's also not a complete stranger to the district, having worked on national boards with outgoing Superintendent Pat Forgione.

St. Paul has a lot of similarities to Austin (big urban district being the number one.) But the ethnic mix is very different (AISD is majority Hispanic; St. Paul is much more evenly divided between black, asian, white and Hispanic students.) The biggest learning curve may be dealing with the cash: As she noted, St. Paul has half the number of students but two-thirds the budget of AISD.

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