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Schools chief hired after cheating scandal won’t be rehired

September 9, 2019

ATLANTA (AP) — Atlanta’s school board won’t renew the contract of the superintendent who was hired to lead the district in the aftermath of a cheating scandal in which 11 former educators were convicted.

Board Chairman Jason Esteves announced Monday that the board told Superintendent Meria Carstarphen about the decision in July but delayed the public announcement to avoid disrupting the start of school, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

Esteves said he hopes she’ll remain until her contract ends June 30.

“We asked her to work with the board on a transition plan,” he said.

Carstarphen was not present at Esteves’ announcement.

In a message to Atlanta Public Schools colleagues she wrote, “The disparity in educational outcomes for Atlanta’s children has been inter-generational and systemic. The solutions are not easy, which is why I so passionately wanted to stay and finish the job I was hired to do.”

Officials said letting a contract expire doesn’t require a public vote.

Esteves wouldn’t say how many board members opposed renewal.

Brigitte Peck, parent of a student at North Atlanta High School, criticized Esteves for refusing to say who wanted to keep Carstarphen and who wanted her out.

“We don’t know who supported her so we can’t find out why they didn’t support her,” Peck said. She said transparency is fundamental to “a system that the community trusts,” and the board is not being transparent.

Carstarphen came to Atlanta in 2014 from the Austin Independent School District in Texas. Before that, she was superintendent in St. Paul, Minnesota.

The cheating scandal prior to her arrival came to light after the Atlanta newspaper reported that some scores were statistically improbable.

A state investigation in Atlanta determined that educators from the 50,000-student school system fed answers to students or erased and changed answers on tests after they were turned in, going as far back as 2005. Evidence of cheating was found in 44 schools with nearly 180 educators involved, and teachers who tried to report it were threatened with retaliation.

In 2013, 35 educators were indicted on charges including racketeering, making false statements and theft. Many pleaded guilty, and some of them testified at the months-long trial for 12 former educators. Jurors convicted 11 of racketeering and acquitted one on all charges.

When he sentenced 10 of them, Fulton County Superior Court Judge Jerry Baxter called the cheating scandal “the sickest thing that’s ever happened in this town.”

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Information from: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, http://www.ajc.com

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