Board Members Consider What Made Aitken Leave

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(Memphis) John Aitken says he wanted to step down as Shelby County Superintendent because he wanted to reevaluate several things after decades with the district.

With just a couple of months left until the merger there are still many questions about what actually caused Aitken to call it quits.

Though Aitken is mum on the details of his decision, several other people say it could have been too much oversight from the county commission and a federal judge that tied the superintendents hands to the point he wanted to call it quits.

The merger of Memphis and Shelby County schools has seen much controversy and ups and downs, but the constant has always been former Superintendent John Aitken.

Now he is gone and unified board member and Arlington Mayor Mike Wissman says the Shelby County Commission is to blame.

“I hate the fact the county commission keeps sticking their nose in and actually hurting the process.  They’re putting a lot of pressure on the board and the board already has enough trouble making decisions as it is, and the county commission is basically wanting to run the school board if you ask me,” said Wissman.

Just one day before Aitken resigned the commission approved increasing the unified board from seven members to thirteen.

Some commissioners say this will basically recreate the dynamic that lead the Memphis City School Board to give up its charter.

Commissioner Sidney Chism doesn’t think that’s the reason Aitken resigned.

“We haven’t made any decisions about whether or not the board is going in the right direction as far as leadership is concerned,” said Chism.

In fact, Chism says he wanted Aitken to be chosen as the unified superintendent, reflecting a popularity seen across the community.

But some school board members had reservations so they were moving forward with a nationwide search.

School board member Chris Caldwell believes Aitken could have been chosen at the end of that search if he had stuck around.

He thinks federal oversight could be to blame.

Just a couple of weeks ago a federal judge appointed a special master to oversee the merger, and some feel that undermined Aitken.

“It’s just amazing all the things that continue to get thrown into the mix.  And we’re trying to do something historical that has never been done before and so to have all these unknown factors continually thrust into this I just think makes the job harder,” said Caldwell.

Aitken told News Channel 3 “It’s time to step back and reevaluate some things for me personally, and appreciate the board giving me that opportunity.”