Unified schools superintendent still in question

(WMC-TV) – Memphis and Shelby County school leaders are trying to decide who will be the superintendent for the new unified school district.

One school board commissioner wants to transfer city school operations to Shelby County Superintendent John Aitken before the merger even happens next year.

Meanwhile, Memphis City Superintendent Dr. Kriner Cash's contract is still in effect.

School Board Commissioner Betty Mallott's resolution says the transitions should begin as soon as possible to ensure a successful transfer by next August.

"There is so much work to be done in less than a year's time," said Commissioner Mallott.

If approved, the county superintendent would begin accepting responsibilities for Memphis City Schools and the current operation would wind down.

Mallott said the decision about a superintendent is not about personalities, but instead is about planning.

"There are hard choices to be made in the next 10 or 11 months and we have to go ahead and start making them," said Mallott.

"I think there are some things other board members want to discuss first, like the contract situation between Dr. Cash and Mr. Aitken," explained Commissioner Reginald Porter.

While some commissioners want to buy out Cash, others say the effort to oust him was not transparent.

Some commissioners question if the vote to extend Aitken's contract to 2015 was announced in a timely manner. They wonder about the legal ground of the agreement that promises Aitken $400,000 if he is not named unified schools superintendent.

"We need to look at how we ramp down some operations for Memphis City Schools before we completely dissolve Memphis City Schools," said Porter.

Porter says his best case scenario would be a new superintendent search.

"If these two gentlemen want to put their names into the hat, that's fine," he said.

Mallott said parents' comments that Aitken is a compassionate leader outweigh concerns that he is unfamiliar with an urban school district.

Mallott's resolution will be heard at the Tuesday night school board work session.

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