Commissioners talk about superintendent struggle

(WMC-TV) - Shelby County school board commissioners have a lot to say after a controversial meeting over superintendents.

Talks ended with the city superintendent headed out the door and the county superintendent one step closer to becoming heir to the merged school system next year.

For some, the next steps are cut and dry. For others, the battle has just begun.

Shelby County School Board Commissioner Martavius Jones wanted Memphis Superintendent Dr. Kriner Cash at the helm of the merged school system next year.

"I didn't see it as a fair and equitable process," said Jones.

Fellow commissioner Kevin Woods was among the majority of commissioners who voted to let Dr. Cash's contract run out and to keep County Superintendent John Aitken's contract alive through the merger.

"What we do know is we've got to have a leader, we've got to make a decision, we've got to merge this district in order to make some tough decisions down the road," said Commissioner Woods.

Jones called the vote a popularity contest.

Shelby county schools are 38 percent African American, but Aitken would take on a district that is 85 percent African American with a track record showing he has trouble leading an urban population.

"One of the deficiencies of Shelby County Schools is how they educate low-poverty students," said Jones.

"I think the jury is still out whether or not John has the desire or the passion to be a part of an urban district, but what is true is he has the desire, passion and support of the children, the teachers that he is leading," said Woods.

Woods said board members are heavily considering a new search despite the million dollar price tag.

"The cost is still minimal when you talk about educating 150,000 kids," explained Woods.

Jones said a legal opinion has been requested, asking if the county school board gave enough public notice for the extension of Aitken's contract.

"I hope that we can resolve this without any legal action, although legal action may be required as it relates to interpretation of Mr. Aitken's contract," said Jones.

Next Tuesday, the board will vote if and when they will have a search for a new superintendent. But you can expect anything to happen between now and then.

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