Wednesday will be Austin School Superintendent Meria Carstarphen’s last day with the district before she leaves for the same position in Atlanta.
Carstarphen attended her final school board meeting in Austin Monday night, where she was recognized for her contributions to the district over the past five years.
School board trustee Cheryl Bradley praised Carstarphen for increasing graduation rates to an all time high of 82.5 percent, while also implementing new programs. Bradley said Carstarphen is a superintendent "whose main focus was on [the] student and just not the academic achievement, but the whole child. Because generally we'll talk about just one thing, but this superintendent focused on the whole child."
The increase in graduation rates has put an additional $5 million back in the hands of the district. School board president Vincent Torres thanked the superintendent for her dedication.
“I’ve seen it as I met for breakfast, when she calls me at night, I’ve heard it in her voice as she conveys to me how she would like to have done more and that she’s not going to stop until she’s achieved," Torres said. "It’s a passion and a commitment that you only see from people who are truly dedicated to educating children.”
Carstarphen thanked her senior cabinet and the board for their work. She says it was a demanding job and many coworkers became her family.
“I just want to say thank you to Austin for graciously accepting me into the city and making me a part of the Austin community," Carstarphen said, choking back tears. "I will never forget you.”
However, Carstarphen also issued a warning that the district faces tough financial decisions.
“We haven’t been able to recover," she explained. "The state hasn’t fully funded us or put money back into the system. So we’ve been working with effectively $560 less per pupil in the out years and so things will get tighter over time.”
But those problems will be left to the interim superintendent Paul Cruz and whoever is named the next leader of the Austin school district. Carstarphen officially starts her job in Atlanta in July. The search for a new permanent superintendent will begin as early as this June.