Meeting tonight could determine unified schools superintendent

John Aitken
John Aitken
Dr. Kriner Cash
Dr. Kriner Cash

(WMC-TV) – The Unified School District voted to consider a search for a new superintendent, which could leave the two current school chiefs out in the cold.

Many people went to Tuesday night's meeting expecting debate on the contracts of both sitting superintendents. That did take place, including debate of the non-renewal of Kriner Cash's contract. Earlier the board voted to consider a new superintendent search.

There has been a lot of informal talk about buying out Dr. Cash's contract, which is set to expire shortly after the two districts officially merge next year.

Meanwhile, John Aitken's contract includes a $400,000 severance package if he is not named superintendent of the unified school district.

Some unified board members feel any decision about leadership should wait until the suburbs vote on creating their own municipal districts.

"School board elections and the municipal referendums are both on August 2. So until that dust settles we need to hold off on working to determine who leads the school district," said Martavius Jones, Unified School Board.

Board member Betty Mallott is expected to propose that Superintendent Aitken be given responsibility for managing the merged district. She will ask that Dr. Cash winds down operations of Memphis City Schools.

Many Shelby County parents and teachers greeted board members with signs of support for superintendent John Aitken.

Inside, both he and MCS Superintendent Kriner Cash sat side by side as merits of a search were debated. Both of them are currently under contract and manage the day-to-day operations of the respective districts.

While it is unclear what their roles will be moving forward, a majority of the board voted to at least discuss instituting a superintendent selection process. Such a search could take many months and cost up to a million dollars.

Well worth it according to some.

"Ladies and to select a superintendent," asked Sara Lewis, a Unified School Board member.

"I think we do owe it...and see who is interested," board member Diane George stated.

"I support doing a national search, and that world class leader may very well be in this room," another member, Patrice Robinson added.

Those against considering a search felt there is currently adequate leadership during the merger. Meanwhile, a motion to go ahead and transfer operations of MCS to county schools, giving administrative authority to John Aitken, and leaving Dr. Kriner Cash to wind down operations of MCS was sent back to committee.

The contracts of superintendents Aitken and Cash are currently being discussed.

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