The Austin Chronicle

Carstarphen Headed to Atlanta

By Richard Whittaker, March 27, 2014, 5:03pm, Newsdesk

Breaking news out of Atlanta: Austin ISD Superintendent Meria Carstarphen is the sole finalist to become the new head of Atlanta Public Schools, leaving her current employers potentially and abruptly leaderless.

According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Atlanta Public Schools has confirmed that Carstarphen is positioned to replace interim superintendent Erroll Davis as the head of their schools.

This may come as a surprise to AISD, which had given no indication that she was leaving. In fact, Carstarphen has over a year left on her contract.

However, it seems just like Carstarphen's MO: When she quit as the superintendent of St Paul Public Schools to come to Austin in 2009, their board was actually negotiating a contract extension with her in good faith that she was going to stick around.

UPDATE 5:35pm: AISD has confirmed that Carstarphen is indeed preparing to leave Austin. In a statement, she said that the Atlanta school board is scheduled to make a final vote on April 14.

However, this decision seems to have blindsided the board. Communications director Alex Sanchez said that AISD board president Vince Torres was informed of her decision this morning, and that there will be an extended executive session next Monday to discuss both the selection process for a replacement, and the potential appointment of an interim superintendent (internally, the lead contender for a temp position is considered to be former district legal counsel turned Carstarphen's chief of staff Mel Waxler.)

At many levels, Carstarphen's exit is no surprise. The increasing tension between herself and the board has been apparent since last year's elections, and the current trustees declined to extend her current contract past the end of the 2014-15 school year. However, there have been consistent rumors that she has been looking for another position since 2011. In fact, when she was hired, then-board president Mark Williams tried to placate critics who said she was simply using Austin as a stepping stone to bigger and better things.

Which raises the question, is Atlanta a step up? It's actually a smaller district (circa 50,000 students compared to AISD's 86,000), and currently emerging from a shocking testing scandal that included Carstarphen's mentor, former superintendent Beverly Hall. However, explaining her seemingly inevitable departure, Carstarphen said, "As a daughter of the Deep South, I have a personal draw to Atlanta and it's deeply rooted in my own upbringing and personal experience in civil rights, having been born and raised in Selma, Alabama. "

Copyright © 2017 Austin Chronicle Corporation. All rights reserved.