State Education Commissioner Candace McQueen on Wednesday announced that Achievement School District (ASD) Superintendent Malika Anderson is stepping down from her role, effective at the end of the month. At that time, the department’s Deputy Commissioner and Chief Operations Officer Kathleen Airhart will step in as interim superintendent. Dr. Airhart has been in her role at the department since January 2012. Prior to that, she was superintendent in Putnam County from 2006-2011 and was named Tennessee Superintendent of the Year in 2011.
Superintendent Anderson has been with the ASD since 2012, serving as a member of the ASD’s executive leadership team, and since January 2016 she has led the district as its second superintendent.
As superintendent, she has overseen all of the district’s 32 schools in providing the necessary strategies, resources, and support to improve students’ outcomes.
Commissioner McQueen said, "Over the past five years, the overall performance of students in Priority schools has improved, and the ASD has been effective at changing the conversation about all students’ capabilities to the benefit of students in the state’s Priority schools. Priority schools are those that fall in the bottom 5 percent in performance. Under Tennessee’s plan to transition to the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), schools which are listed as a Priority school more than once are eligible for intervention through the ASD to support school improvement.
“The ASD remains critical to our work as a state to improve students’ performance, especially in our Priority schools, and this is an ideal time to transition to a new leader of the district as we move into a new phase with the implementation of our ESSA plan.
“Superintendent Anderson has embraced all students’ full potential and has worked diligently to change outcomes and beliefs in our students’ capabilities, and we will seek to build on that vision as we move forward. This transition in no way disrupts our work. We are taking what we have learned about school improvement over the past five years and using that knowledge to maximize students’ success by putting in place a strong set of evidence-based options that will drive improvements in students’ performance.”
“As educators and committed supporters on the front lines can tell you, the work of improving Priority schools is some of the most challenging and fulfilling work one can undertake in the field of education,” Superintendent Anderson said. “I have had the great privilege to participate in and lead some of these efforts, all centered around the hopes and priorities of students and families who rightly seek equitable access to the excellent schools and opportunities for success that all children deserve. And although I will transition out of my role as superintendent of the ASD, I will forever champion our continuing work, love and high expectations for every child the ASD is blessed to serve.”
The search for a new superintendent starts immediately. In its search, the department will have a particular focus on identifying a leader who can build on the what the state has learned about school improvement; who is deeply committed to the Memphis community, in particular; and who understands the systemic challenges that students in our Priority schools often face – both in and out of the classroom – and will build supports that foster the development of the whole child.