Former board members disagree over Herenton's service as superintendent - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Reported by Jason Miles

Former board members disagree over Herenton's service as superintendent

Maxine Smith's den is full of memories.  They include one associated with a foot-stool.  It's where Willie Herenton sat when he told her he was running for mayor.

"Well, he came in and I said "are you kidding?" Smith recalls.

At that moment, she thought he should continue to serve as superintendent of Memphis City Schools.

"I felt he was doing a good job as superintendent but he felt it was time to go and I was with him," Smith says.

Smith was on the Memphis school board for nearly 25 years.  She was Herenton's chief supporter when he was first appointed in 1979.

"I think he definitely was the right man at the right time," says Smith.

"We had gone through a national search of which he was not a part," recalls former board member Mal Mauney.

He may have been Herenton's biggest critic.

"I can't think of anything good that he did," says Mauney.  "I can think of a lot he didn't do," he adds.

Mauney voted against Herenton's appointment and considers his 12-year stint as superintendent less than stellar.

"Mediocre at best," says Mauney.

He can't imagine why the current board would consider returning Herenton to the helm.

"If i were on the board I would be very careful about re-appointing him," says Mauney.

On the other hand, Smith believes education has always been in Herenton's heart.

"He proved himself by his training, by his professionalism, going through all the ranks of the school system," she says.

She contends it may remain the best fit for him.

Herenton made history when he became Memphis's first elected African-American mayor.  He was also the first African-American to hold any administrative or policy-making post for the school district.

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