26. Meria Carstarphen

Illustration by Alex Fine
Illustration by Alex Fine

Focus Education
Age 45
When she arrived from Austin last year, Atlanta Public Schools superintendent Meria Carstarphen inherited a system reeling from a scandal of historic proportions. With the cheating trial finally over, she’s begun the slow process of raising graduation rates from 58.6 percent (now 59.1 percent) in a 50,000-student school system rife with economic inequality. Her efforts to overhaul the internal culture, amid evidence of continued cheating by a few principals and teachers, have proven even more challenging. Backed by a supportive board, Carstarphen is in the midst of revamping how individual schools are governed in hopes of giving parents and teachers more power.

Fiscal fix Faced with a decades-old unfunded pension crisis, Carstarphen and the board, which has considered asking voters to approve $400 million in pension obligation bonds, are in the process of figuring out how best to address the long-ignored problem.

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This article originally appeared in our October 2015 issue.