2018 Communication Technology Award for Superintendents Recipient

2018 Communication Technology Award for Superintendents Recipient

Meria J. Carstarphen, Ed.D.

Meria J. Carstarphen, Ed.D.
Atlanta Public Schools
Atlanta, Georgia

Since taking over Atlanta Public Schools (APS) in 2014, Dr. Meria Carstarphen quickly embraced the challenges ahead of her — rebuilding trust, providing more opportunities for engagement and shifting perceptions to “what’s strong versus what’s wrong.”

As a tech-savvy leader, she has improved all three of these areas by building a culture of transparency — a priority that remains today for APS. Dr. Carstarphen, or “Dr. C” as she’s often called, has captured the attention of internal and external stakeholders, creating an open, accessible reputation for her and the district.

Understanding that effective communication requires a leader to meet stakeholders where they are, Dr. C. knew she had to get creative and customize her communication approach, especially with a diverse student population of more than 50,000 students in 89 schools.

She uses her social media skills to showcase the wonderful stories of APS schools as well as to provide transparency in district decisions and major releases like testing and graduation rates.

This model has expanded throughout the district — every department has a social media presence, principals and teachers are encouraged to share good news on their own platforms and the district website is now a hub of public information. During leadership meetings, Dr. Carstarphen hands out “Twitterific” awards to encourage ongoing social media use.

Not many superintendents can say they are a social media influencer. Due to her digital presence and growing following, many supporters and the news media look to Dr. Carstarphen as a first source for all things Atlanta Public Schools. On a monthly basis, Dr. C garners 300,000 organic impressions, 10,000-plus total engagements and now has more than 17,000 followers. She even garnered national attention with USA Today for her sports workouts with various school teams.

But it’s not just a focus on social media that has led to a change at APS. She regularly blogs, uses videos and livestreaming to share information and works closely with media. She has even held mini-town hall sessions online to poll and talk with community members. Her transparency in communication has built the trust APS once lacked and stakeholders know that she values their opinions and ideas.

Additional initiatives underway that emphasize Dr. Carstarphen’s commitment to transparent communication and engagement include:

  • Initiating Facebook in the Workplace, which will be used as another way to stream information and reach employees.
  • Encouraging the use of Google Classroom and cultivating a partnership with the Atlanta Google office.
  • Focusing on students gaining 21st century skills through the four C’s (communication, collaboration, creativity and critical thinking)
  • Distributing an annual employee Gallup Q12 survey that measures employee engagement as well as a customer service survey that measures employee perceptions on communication.
  • Teaming up with MyPledger to further assist APS’ fundraising campaigns — a ‘text to give’ mechanism that allows the district to communicate with partners about the needs of students and the community in a broader scale.

Dr. Carstarphen is constantly challenging her communications department to dig deeper and share stories in the most relevant, creative ways. They describe her as “a superintendent of the present and future,” and it is abundantly clear that she truly models 21st-century leadership.

NSPRA and Blackboard are proud to recognize Dr. Carstarphen with the 2018 Communication Technology Award for Superintendents.