Atlanta school board says it will oust its superintendent when her contract ends in 2024

Atlanta school board members announced Friday that they’re getting rid of district Superintendent Lisa Herring when her contract ends next year.

Atlanta Public Schools Board Chair Eshé Collins, in a statement, didn’t explain why the board decided to not renew Herring’s contract after it ends June 30, 2024.

“So long as she is the superintendent, Dr. Herring and the board will continue the critical work that has begun, particularly the laser focus on student achievement,” Collins said. “We are confident that, as the superintendent transitions and the board embarks on the search for the next transformational leader for APS, the work will continue uninterrupted, and APS will remain a great place for children.”

Herring had previously been superintendent of the Birmingham, Alabama, school district before she was hired in Atlanta in 2020. She said in her own statement that board members had graded her work well, saying, “My desire to lead Atlanta with this work is still strong and present.”

“In December of 2022, I received my last performance evaluation, and satisfactory feedback with emphasis on the focus of additional engagement and stronger communications efforts,” Herring said. “I have worked diligently to honor the work and expectations of our board and community.”

Superintendents who are not renewed in Georgia sometimes leave before their contracts end, with districts appointing interim leaders instead of keeping a lame duck in office.

A group calling itself Transparency Now had launched an online petition urging Herring’s ouster and calling on people to pressure school board members to not renew Herring’s contract. The group cited low test scores, insufficient attention to students with disabilities and discipline problems among the reasons.

It was the same decision on another superintendent that led to Herring’s hiring. Board members decided in 2019 to get rid of Meria Carstarphen. She had been hired in 2014 in the wake of a test cheating scandal that led to a number of guilty pleas by teachers, as well as 11 that were convicted following a monthslong trial.

Carstarphen had wanted to stay, leading to an unsuccessful pressure campaign to retain her.

Herring was hired during the COVID-19 pandemic, and Atlanta schools held virtual classes longer than most other Georgia school districts. Like other school systems, Atlanta has been trying to help students make up ground.

The 50,000-student Atlanta district is Georgia’s sixth largest school system and confronts the same inequalities as the city does. Less than half of the city’s population is Black, compared to 72% of public school students in Atlanta. And while overall income levels in the city are higher than Georgia as a whole, so are poverty levels, reflected in a school system where nearly three-quarters of children qualify for free or reduced price meals.

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