Dr. Meria Carstarphen

Following a period of uncertainty earlier this year when three Buckhead schools in the Atlanta Public School System were facing vacancies in their principal positions, the 2014-15 school year kicked off Aug. 4 with new faces in the top spots.

Curtis Douglass takes the helm at North Atlanta High School, where he previously served as assistant principal; Woodbridge “Buck” Greene Jr., formerly principal at Johns Creek High School in Fulton County, is filling the top spot at Sutton Middle; and Kara Stimpson is taking over at Morris Brandon Elementary.

Dr. Meria Carstarphen takes over as superintendent, in the midst of the school system dealing with fallout from the cheating scandal.

“I believe Meria Carstarphen is the right person at the right time,” said District 8 School Board member Cynthia Briscoe Brown at a recent Buckhead Council of Neighborhoods meeting. “We need her passion, confidence and abilities.”

Carstarphen has started the year with a focus on both students and staff. In advance of the school system’s first day on Aug. 4, she launched an aggressive “Day One: Be There” campaign aimed at getting students registered and in class on time, citing statistics showing more than 5,000 students absent from class on the first day.

And on July 31 she announced the first pay raise for APS employees in more than five years.

“Having a great school district starts with having talented and dedicated employees, and we are committed to Atlanta Public Schools becoming one of the nation’s leading districts,” Carstarphen said. “I believe the children of Atlanta deserve this type of commitment.”

Here’s a look at what school officials say is in store at Atlanta public schools this year:

• 50,000 students are expected to enroll.

• Twenty-two new principals have been hired.

• The Atlanta Classical Academy in Buckhead opens as a new APS charter school, offering kindergarten through eighth-grade classes.

• While E. Rivers Elementary students and staff will remain for now at their temporary site, the former Sutton Middle School facility, construction of the new E. Rivers school will be completed in December.

• North Atlanta High School has a new bell time: 8:45 a.m. All other high schools start at 8:30.

• APS is launching the Gifted High School Redesign Program, in which newly designed gifted models will include mentorship, internship, resource seminars and directed studies.

• Students in grades 3 through 12 will have access to secure Microsoft Outlook email through the APS student portal “My Back Pack.” Students can use their email to share digital notebooks and collaborate with teachers and other students.

• APS students can take Advanced Placement, gifted honors and world language classes through the online Atlanta Virtual Academy.

• APS has created an ombudsman to confidentially address student, parent and community issues.

Ann Marie Quill

Ann Marie Quill is Associate Editor at Reporter Newspapers.