Collierville superintendent reflects on nearly 40 years in public education as he prepares for retirement

Collierville superintendent reflects on nearly 40 years in public education as he prepares for retirement

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - After nearly four decades in education the award winning superintendent of Collierville Schools is retiring.

Superintendent John Aitken is not only known for his work at Collierville, he also had a hand in the changing of Memphis City Schools to Shelby County Schools.

"I think probably the biggest blessing I got was getting an offer to come to Collierville," Aitken said.

When that happened 36 years ago Collierville had a little more than 7,000 people in the entire town. Now it has more than that in the school district alone.

Back then Aitken was hired to work at the high school as a math teacher and coach.

"I coached freshman football, assistant basketball and track," he said.

After working in Collierville for 9 years, he later began work at Houston high school in Germantown.

"I stayed there 16 years. Five years as assistant principal and then 11 years as principal," Aitken said.

He then became superintendent over 52 suburban schools in Shelby County in 2009.

One year later, Aitken was part of Memphis and Shelby County history when Memphis City Schools surrendered its charter and became a part of the unified Shelby County School District - making it one of the largest in the country.

"The suddeness of how it happened and the plans of trying to put two corporations together two organizations together without a real plan," Aitken said.

He was one of two superintendents involved in that process along with 24 school board members.

After he retired from Shelby County Schools Aitken encountered his second biggest challenge - creating a brand new school district in the town that brought him to the Mid-South.

"Working with the other municipal folks to form a school district in six months, people probably don't realize how difficult that was and the amount of hours and work because we just did it," he said.

But he didn't stop there. Aitken immediately began planning for and overseeing the opening of a state of art $94 million Collierville High School.

Now he's retiring to spend time with his family.

After decades of accomplishments, achievements and awards Aitken offers a bit of advice to his successor and parents everywhere.

" Don’t ever forget the value of public education in our country," he said. “What happens there effects the community and public education and the ability to provide opportunities for all kids.”

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