John Aitken Talks To Us About Why He Stepped Down As Superintendent

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(Memphis) “Physically, emotionally, it’s hard work,” says John Aitken, when asked about the job of School Superintendent.

He went from being a leading candidate for Superintendent of Shelby County Unified Schools to abruptly ending a more than 30 year career in education.

“It was absolutely my choice,” he says.

Talk first surfaced of his seeking a buy-out last week.

He says things started to become clear to him, “I felt it was the right thing to do as this Superintendent search kept moving. They were starting the community meetings. They were going to start interviewing candidates. I thought it would be disingenuous of me if it was not the right thing for me personally and for my family, they needed to know now.”

He says the time he would have to spend away from his family to run one of the largest school systems in the country helped make up his mind.

“Family time has been sacrificed. My middle child is a special needs adult son. He needs some time with dad,” says Aitken.

So John Aitken took a $300, 000 buyout, something you might not expect to see when a person is under contract.

“It was my request, but a part of the contract had a mutual consent and they exercised that,” says Aitken.

But is he really walking away?

Municipalities seeking to start their own school districts already hinted they would clamour to have him at the helm.

Aitken won’t say if he will consider it, “It’s nice to know that you are wanted I guess.”

He says what gratifies him most is that the system has continued to run efficiently despite  uncertainty, “Schools gonna open in August. You just won’t have John Aitken.”

Aitken is now serving as an advisor to  the school system until the end of May.

He says he goes back to the office to tie up loose ends, but is out of the day-to-day  operations of the school system.