Dr. Meria Carstarphen

Executive Producer

Dr. Meria Joel Carstarphen brings an impressive record in transformative educational leadership in urban pre-k through 12 public school districts. Dr. Carstarphen has nearly 20 years of experience in diverse, major metropolitan districts, including Atlanta, Georgia; Austin, Texas; Saint Paul, Minnesota; and the District of Columbia. She began her education career as a middle school teacher in her hometown of Selma, Alabama. She also has worked internationally with elementary-level children in Seville, Spain, and Caracas, Venezuela. Most recently, in Atlanta, she led the district’s 50,000 students, 6,300 employees, and 98 learning sites, and oversaw the system’s $1 billion annual budget. Currently as the founder of Uplift!, Dr. Carstarphen researches and advises on strategies for ending intergenerational poverty for families and children in public school systems; she is also a co-founder of UNITE, a national impact initiative for positive change.

Her impact in achieving significant student performance gains is based in whole child development and a deliberate move away from over-reliance on high-stakes testing to an educational culture with great principals and teachers. She believes that every child will succeed if nurtured in a strong social and emotional learning environment with access to arts-rich experiences, alternative graduation and career pathways and equitable and supportive systems. Leadership roles include the GA Governor’s GRACE Commission for Human and Sex Trafficking Prevention Campaign and the Council of Great City Schools (CGCS) Board of Directors and Executive Committee, 2006-2014.

As a dedicated member of her communities, she often serves on the boards of the local arts organizations such as Ballet Austin and Atlanta Ballet and the Woodruff Arts Center. She gives generously to college scholarship programs and as an alumnae 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 recently 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.

Highlights of her awards and distinctions include: National Down Syndrome Congress Honoree (2020); Atlanta Business Chronicle’s “Power 100 – Most Influential Atlantans” (2019); American Federation of State and County Municipal Employees and the Georgia Federation of Public Service Employees Superintendent of the Year (2018); Newcomb Alumnae Association at Tulane University Outstanding Alumna Award (2018); National School Public Relations Association Communication Technology Award (2018); Anti-Defamation League Torch of Liberty Award (2017); Georgia Trend Magazine’s “Top 100 Most Influential Georgians” (2016-2019); CoolGirls Cool Woman of the Year (2016); Jackson Foundation Phoenix Award (2015); Atlanta Business Chronicle Most Admired CEO (2015); NAACP DeWitty/Overton Award (2013); Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce Regional Superintendent of the Year Award (2011).

She is passionate about working to make communities stronger, especially through the equalizing power of education from early childhood through college. She is a proud graduate of public schools, Tulane University, Auburn University, and the Harvard Graduate School of Education. She also has experience in research, journalism and documentary photography. She is an avid runner and a dedicated mentor to many. Dr. Carstarphen hails from Selma, Alabama where she was born and raised in a family of four girls.

Learn more at meriacarstarphen.com