Meet Dr. Meria J. Carstarphen

Dr. Meria Carstarphen has more than 20 years of transformational leadership and executive management experience with a track record of dramatically improving student and organizational outcomes. She is passionate about working to make communities stronger especially through the equalizing power of education from early childhood through college.

Nationally recognized as an experienced public education leader skilled at managing billion-dollar public organizations efficiently and effectively, her collective impact spans over 800,000 students, more than 20,000 employees and hundreds of schools. Over her career, she has served as teacher, administrator, and superintendent in major metropolitan public school districts including Atlanta, Georgia; Austin, Texas; and Saint Paul, Minnesota. While her most immediate background has been domestically focused, she has also worked and studied abroad.

Dr. Carstarphen has demonstrated experience working closely with local, state, and national elected officials to make recommendations and advise on policy for public institutions, ranging from human trafficking and community health to accountability assessments and economic impact. She has shared her expertise on blogs, podcasts, speeches, and panels as well as publications in National Geographic, Education Week, The 74 Million, and School Administrator magazines and other periodicals. She also contributes to research to support the field on American urban superintendency, for example, by participating in collaborations such as “Communicating the Vision” in the book, Every Child, Every Classroom, Every Day: School Leaders Who Are Making Equity a Reality and “The Secrets of Successful Women: Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent” for Forbes Magazine.

She earned a doctorate in Administration, Planning, and Social Policy with a concentration in urban superintendency from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Dr. Carstarphen received master of education degrees from Harvard University and Auburn University graduate schools and a bachelor of arts degree in political science and Spanish from Tulane University. She has also studied at the University of Seville, Spain and University of Innsbruck, Austria.

Currently she provides executive, management, and entrepreneurial leadership as founder and Chief Executive Officer of a consulting group focused on achieving transformational outcomes in education through executive and research support for global enterprises. Most recently, she was named Senior Scientist, the first ever in education, for Gallup. In her most recent superintendency, Dr. Carstarphen was the superintendent of Atlanta Public Schools (APS) where she led the district’s nearly 52,000 students, 6,000 full-time employees and 87 schools and oversaw the system’s $1 billion annual budget. In 2014, Dr. Carstarphen was charged with leading the transformation of APS following the largest cheating scandal in the history of public education. In partnership with an outstanding leadership team, caregivers, community, and elected stakeholders, she restored organizational integrity through transparency, engagement and access, and created a student-focused culture not driven by adult agendas. During her tenure, APS saw improvements in the graduation rate, student achievement, staff, parent and alumni engagement and college-going rate.

As a dedicated member in the community, she has served on the boards of the local arts organizations such as Ballet Austin and Atlanta Ballet and the Ordway and Woodruff arts centers. She gives generously to college scholarship programs and as an alumna of her alma mater she serves on the President’s Council for Tulane University. For several years, she served on the Board of the Educational Testing Service, a nonprofit educational measurement organization to advance quality and equity in education by providing fair and valid assessments. She has completed terms of service on the visiting committee for the Harvard Graduate School of Education and as a commissioner with the Aspen Institute’s AspenSEAD, a national commission focused on social emotional and academic development.

She also has experience in research, journalism and documentary photography. She is a recovering marathon runner and dedicated mentor to many.

Dr. Carstarphen hails from Selma, Alabama where she was born and raised in a family of four girls.


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Doctor of Education in Administration, Planning and Social Policy Concentration in Urban Superintendency

Harvard University Graduate School of Education, Cambridge, MA - Herold Hunt Fellowship, 1998-2002

Master of Education in Administration, Planning and Social Policy

Harvard University Graduate School of Education, Cambridge, MA - John E. Stevens Fellowship, 1998-1999

Master of Education in Administration of Elementary and Secondary Schools

Auburn University, Auburn, AL - Graduate Research Assistant, Truman Pierce Institute, 1996-1997

Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Spanish

Tulane University, Newcomb College, New Orleans, LA - Class Speaker at Commencement, 1988-1992

Community Leadership

Southeast Regional Educational Laboratory, Governing Board Member

Governor’s GRACE Commission for Human and Sex Trafficking Prevention Campaign

President’s Council, Tulane University

Commissioner, Aspen Institute for Social Emotional and Academic Development

Council of Great City Schools Member, (2004-2020) and Board of Directors and  Executive Committee

Atlanta Ballet, Board Member

Woodruff Arts Center, Board Member

Rotary Club of Atlanta

Harvard Graduate School of Education Visiting Committee

Educational Testing Service, Board of Trustees

Austin Ballet, Board Member

Council of the Chief State School Officers

Harvard Graduate School of Education Admissions Committee

Industrial Areas Foundation Labor Relations Training


National Down Syndrome Congress Honoree

Wellspring Living Hope Award

Atlanta Business Chronicle’s “Power 100 – Most Influential Atlantans”

American Federation of State and County Municipal Employees and the Georgia Federation of Public Service Employees Superintendent of the Year

Newcomb Alumnae Association at Tulane University Outstanding Alumna Award

National School Public Relations Association Communication Technology Award

Anti-Defamation League Torch of Liberty Award

Georgia Trend Magazine’s “Top 100 Most Influential Georgians”

CoolGirls Cool Woman of the Year

Jackson Foundation Phoenix Award

Atlanta Business Chronicle Most Admired CEO

NAACP DeWitty/Overton Award

Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce Regional Superintendent of the Year Award

Faculty Fellowship with National Geographic Magazine and Freelance Photographer

Southern Community Partners of the Lyndhurst Foundation Fellowship

Do what you love and you will never work a day in your life!