Unified School Board Members Split about Future Superintendent

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(Memphis) Some are calling it a surprise.

"It was absolutely a curve ball," said David Pickler, a member of the Unified School Board.

Others think the decision by the chairman of the Unified School Board was fair. He announced a meeting to be held next week to discuss ending the contracts of both Kriner Cash and John Aitken.

"I think it was the right thing to do because it would have been a one-sided conversation," said School Board Member Tomeka Hart.

Cash is the superintendent of Memphis City Schools.  Aitken is in charge of schools in Shelby County.  When the two districts merge in 2013, one man needs to be in charge. And it turns out, neither leader could be hired for the job.

"You can`t just say it should be one or the other," said Hart.  "I am open to a process that doesn`t limit our choices."

Hart says whoever is selected should be someone local but that the decision doesn't have to come next week.. Hart believes the first thing the Board needs to discuss is the future of the new school system, "First, we need to determine what kind of school system we are going to have and then you determine based on that what kind of leader you need and then based on that you have a process and you pick the best person out of that process."

But Pickler, also on the Board, believes there's already a  clear choice, someone who has the skills and is already under contract until 2015.

"I am strongly in support of John Aitken as the long-term superintendent," said Pickler.  "He is widely respected by his peers and widely respected by the teachers."

 And he says the Unified School Board should make the decision sooner, rather than later.

"The board needs to step up," he said.  "We need to decide who is going to be that one leader and move forward and get us through this process."

The school board plans to discuss the contracts of Cash and Aitken at its next meeting Tuesday, June 19.