our search for the next superintendent

Atlanta Public Schools’ next superintendent was projected to be hired by July 1, 2024. The APS BOE has extended the search throughout the remainder of 2024. We know the next superintendent must take bold action to meet the priorities shared among school stakeholders across the district:

  • Hiring and retaining quality teachers and administrators
  • Preparing students to be ready for the next grade, college and career, and
  • Addressing the achievement and opportunity gap

With two new board members on the Atlanta Board of Education, there is still time to share your feedback and encourage the school board to select a superintendent who will innovate for APS.

superintendent characteristics

With insight gathered from surveys, interviews, and focus groups, these are the characteristics the school board wants in the next superintendent:

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  • 98% want a Chief Communicator

  • 82% want a leader Evidence-Based

  • 87% want a leader with Education Experience

  • 81% want an Equity Driven leader

  • 69% want a leader who Knows Atlanta (district map)

top priorities for the superintendent

The  four top-rated priorities that stood out in most surveys, interviews, and focus groups were:

  • Hire & retain talent
    Hire & retain quality teachers and administrators.)

  • College & career-ready students
    Prepare students to be ready for the next grade and ultimately college and career.

  • Close the opportunity gap
    Addressing achievement & opportunity gaps.

  • Safety
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innovation in Atlanta Public Schools

Case Study – Lessons from APS: How Autonomy and Innovation Can Fuel Sustained School Progress

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Attracting and retaining staff with diverse identities, backgrounds, and lived experience in public schools and the public school system

Further diversifying our board to include deeper lived experience and perspective from public school parents and under-resourced communities

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Creating an inclusive working culture that celebrates difference, promotes universal belonging, and fosters ongoing learning and personal growth

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Adopting participatory grantmaking practices to include those with deep lived experience in public schools and the public school system in the decision-making process

Partnering with communities to advance racial justice in education and on other issues, including housing, health, and economic stability

In 2016, Atlanta Public Schools (APS) closed Bethune Elementary School and made the decision to launch a new school in its place: Hollis Innovation Academy. The district hired a new principal to open the new school. Her name was Dr. Diamond Ford, and she was focused on innovation. 
To make the most of the new school’s potential, Dr. Ford was given the freedom to envision a school that served grades K-8 and focused on science, technology, engineering, arts, and math (STEAM). The school received major support early on when, in 2017, the Westside Future Fund signed an agreement with APS that committed $10 million and support toward the vision for Hollis. 
The school was designed differently than most schools. WFF board members joined Hollis’s GO Team and the school leader, Dr. Ford, was granted flexibility in her model. Innovations included additional teachers or paraprofessionals in each classroom, smaller classes, Expeditionary Learning (EL) curriculum, and wraparound services like social-emotional support, academic enrichment, and legal aid. (GO Teams are school-level bodies that provide a limited degree of governing oversight for APS neighborhood schools.)
These initiatives significantly boosted student outcomes. However, leadership and funding shifts resulted in a decline in progress. The 2020 change in APS superintendents led to a loss in school-level autonomy, followed by Dr. Ford’s departure in 2022. The school also lost some external funding after her departure.
In contrast, the Douglass High School cluster has embarked on a more promising effort. Over the past year, the APS Department of Innovation, Improvement & Redesign, the Siegel Family Endowment, the City of Atlanta, and redefinED atlanta teamed up with Douglass school leaders and the community to dream up what the future of the Douglass cluster could be like. They had more than 30 community conversations, workshops, and meetings involving district and local leaders, generous donors, parents, teachers, and families to understand students’ needs.
They realized that making big changes takes time and commitment. So, they started looking ahead 20 years, thinking about how to make their vision last. They decided that the community needed to play a strong and independent role. That way, the good work could continue over the long term, no matter who’s in charge.
As momentum builds for the Douglass cluster, the question remains: will the next superintendent support such initiatives? It’s time for Atlanta to learn the lesson of Hollis and build school models that will protect school-level autonomy, innovation, and sustain positive outcomes for students. The next superintendent of APS must have experience in this type of innovation, believe in what is possible when a city works together on behalf of its children, and commit to this long-term strategy.