Birmingham superintendent Herring announced as sole finalist to lead APS

Dr. Lisa Herring was announced as the sole finalist for superintendent of Atlanta Public Schools.

Courtesy of Atlanta Board of Education

Dr. Lisa Herring was announced as the sole finalist for superintendent of Atlanta Public Schools.

The Atlanta Board of Education announced Dr. Lisa Herring, current Birmingham superintendent, is the sole finalist to replace Dr. Meria Carstaphen. Herring, who starts July 1, will be tasked with reopening schools amid the COVID-19. pandemic 

Herring has prioritized equity in education throughout her experience in various roles in urban school districts in Charleston, Louisville and Birmingham. She emphasizes that the current pandemic magnifies the inequities within the APS community and  forces the district to evaluate its resources. Herring plans to work closely with the district’s equity task force to ensure  future policies reflect the needs in all district communities.

“That lens of equity has to be the eye that we now continue to look through from this point forward to figure out where our deficits exist, not just in the resource place of a laptop or wifi, but in a resource place from school to school and classroom to classroom,” Herring said. “From textbooks to health and support, we need to examine that carefully, and we will pause and take time to do that with a sense of urgency, but a deliberate pause, so that we can make decisions that will equitably impact students.” 

Herring said in Birmingham she has encountered some of the issues that are unique to urban school districts. Herring is prepared to utilize what she has learned from other districts while serving in APS. 

“The biggest thing that I’ve learned is that at the end of the day, for all of the resources, for all of the efforts that are tied to hiring individuals who are capable and qualified to lead, for all of the focus that we put on strategy and equity, at the end of the day, all of this work is about the student,” Herring said. “What I learned immediately in the first few months of my first superintendency was that we have to be child-focused. It’s not about the adults as much as it’s about the children.”

What I learned immediately in the first few months of my first superintendency was that we have to be child-focused. It’s not about the adults as much as it’s about the children.”

— Dr. Lisa Herring

Herring was born and raised in Macon and attended Spelman College for her undergraduate degree. 

“Coming home has  the same feeling as when you walk into the door of a place that’s familiar and happy and healthy and holds memories,” Herring said. “It’s a joyous feeling. It comes with, as I shared earlier, excitement and, because of the season that we’re sitting in the pandemic, with a high sense of care and concern.”

Herring credits some of her success as superintendent to her relationship with the Birmingham school board and the mayor, and she hopes to form the same kind of relationship with the Atlanta board and other district stakeholders. She also recognizes the importance of developing impactful relationships with individual school clusters, including the Grady Cluster.

“I’m excited and encouraged to look forward to the times where, hopefully face to face, we can sit at the table and build relationships with me and leaders, whether it’s student leaders, school leaders or community stakeholders who are invested in the success of Grady,” Herring said.

Atlanta Board of Education
The tweet from the Atlanta Board of Education announcing the sole finalist for superintendent.

Grady teacher and GO-team member Mario Herrera shares the same desire to build a relationship with the future superintendent, even during the midst of a pandemic.  

 “I think transparency is really important,” Herrera said. “I love the way Dr. Carstarphen communicates. It sounds like Herring, in her own way, communicates the same way. I hope that the transparency and focus on students remain consistent.”

Additionally, Herrera looks forward to seeing equity in education pushed forward by the superintendent with input from all areas of the district. 

“What I’m hoping is that all schools, including Grady, become part of that conversation about equity, because people have different definitions of equity,” Herrera said. “If I am a parent or a teacher at say, Washington High School or Mays High School, I’m going to see equity differently than if I am at Grady or North Atlanta. So, I hope that the issue of equity when it comes to how policies are made and how resources are distributed.”

Grady senior Bria Brown is the chair of the APS student advisory council and was also on the community panel for the superintendent search. She, too, valued the importance of equity when helping to select the superintendent finalist. 

“Since I was the only student who was there to represent student interests, I really was looking for someone who would be a champion for students,” Brown said. “I think for APS, it is important that we have a superintendent that is in tune to the inequities that we face in the district and ways that we can help bridge the gap between schools that historically service higher socioeconomic areas and those that are disadvantaged.”

Tina Fernandez, mother of junior Lucia Fernandez and founding executive director of Achieve Atlanta, a non-profit that assists APS students in their pursuit of post-secondary education, was on a committee that gave input on the future superintendent. She is excited to see how Dr. Herring will reach out to the Grady community and encourage success. 

“I believe the best thing Herring can do is set a vision for excellence and then empower [Principal Dr. Betsy Bockman] and the teachers at Grady to deliver on that vision,” Tina Fernandez said. “An effective leader understands how to balance using ‘pressure and support’ to manage a team to the outcomes everyone wants to see.”

Once Herring transitions into the role of superintendent, it will be up to her to oversee the district’s response to COVID-19. Until then, she encourages students and families to remain positive and safe.

If I could inspire hope, it’s the fact that the reality of our not walking into a school building every day does not mean that learning has stopped.”

— Dr. Lisa Herring

“If I could inspire hope, it’s the fact that the reality of our not walking into a school building every day does not mean that learning has stopped,” Herring said. “We own that there’s an opportunity to have more resources, more effective and appropriate resources in all households, and I believe that we will get there. In the meantime, this is a chance for us to engage in creative, supportive ways to learn. I can’t call it, but there will be a date in which we will return, and when we do, the other reassurance of hope will be that we will do all that we can to make sure that that’s a safe return as well.”

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