Monday, April 16, 2012
Memphis City Schools Superintendent Kriner Cash returned from his tour as a finalist for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools superintendent last week to a report showing his employees give him low grades as a leader.
The city district Cash leads is being merged with the suburban Shelby County Schools, and the commission overseeing the merger polled employees of both districts on a range of issues. Of the 1,225 Memphis City Schools employees who responded, most of them teachers, about 3.5 percent gave Cash an A, 14 percent B, 30 percent C, 22 percent D and 26 percent F (the rest didn't answer that question). They rated county Superintendent John Aitken much higher. (Read the report here; ratings of the two superintendents by Memphis City Schools employees are on page 18, and by Shelby County employees are on page 36).
Cash said 1,225 of his 16,000 employees is not a representative sample. He said his district is going through a stressful time, with budget-driven job cuts in the past, a merger in the future and a quest to rate teacher effectiveness in progress.
"You're not going to win a popularity contest" while trying to make a "sea change" in failing schools, he said. But Cash, whose recently deceased wife was a long-time teacher, said values their work.
"I have the highest respect for good teachers," Cash said. "Everything I do is with teachers at the helm."
Almost 1,000 Shelby County employees responded to the survey, and their view of the two leaders was an even sharper contrast. Cash got an F from 48 percent of that group, while 74 percent gave Aitken an A.
Cash said what he hears from his staff doesn't jibe with the survey results. "No one is paying a whole lot of attention to that here," he said.
Updated 8:30 p.m.: The same panel did a phone poll of about 1,200 members of the public in March and got similar opinions about Cash's performance (see page 16).