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Thursday, August 30, 2012

Memphis polls yield low grades for Jacksonville superintendent candidate Kriner Cash

From the Charlotte Observor, by Ann Doss Helms

This is a story they wrote about him when he was applying for their superintendnet position.

Most teachers and staff of Memphis City Schools gave Superintendent Kriner Cash below-average grades in a survey released while Cash was in Charlotte auditioning for the superintendent’s job.

The random-sample email poll of employees was commissioned by a panel overseeing the merger of Cash’s urban district with the suburban Shelby County Schools. A report says it was done to identify “confusion and concern” among employees of the two districts.

Cash, one of three finalists to be superintendent of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, got an A for overall job performance from 3.5 percent of the 1,225 Memphis City Schools staff, mostly teachers, who responded. He got a B from 14 percent, a C from 30 percent, a D from 22 percent and an F from 26 percent (some did not answer that question). The survey has a 2.9 percent margin of error for city schools employees, according to a report posted late last week by the Shelby County Transition Planning Commission.

A March phone survey of just over 1,200 members of the public in Memphis and the surrounding county yielded similar grades for Cash.

Cash and the president of the Memphis teachers’ union both said Monday they don’t believe the staff survey accurately represents the views of the district’s 16,000 employees.

“There’s a lot of anxiety in the climate right now, but it is not reflective of my leadership,” Cash said.

Like teachers in CMS, those in Memphis have faced job cuts and a new system of rating teacher effectiveness based on “value-added” test score numbers, classroom observations and other factors. But those in Memphis also face the looming merger with the smaller Shelby County district.

Cash said “you’re not going to win popularity contests” while trying to make a “sea change” in the culture of low-performing schools. But he said his recently deceased wife was a longtime teacher and he values that work.
“I have the highest respect for good teachers,” Cash said. “Everything I do is with teachers at the helm.”

Keith Williams, president of the Memphis Education Association, said he thinks the survey was designed to ensure that Cash isn’t chosen to lead the merged district. Memphis serves mostly black and low-income students, while Shelby County Schools are predominantly white and not as poor. Williams said the Transition Planning Commission has “really overreached the bounds” of its mission and is “trying to destroy Dr. Cash.”

Employees of both districts, but especially Shelby County Schools, gave county Superintendent John Aitken more favorable grades than Cash’s.

Williams described Cash as personable and a good listener who lets teachers have a voice in change. “I would think that Charlotte would benefit greatly from someone of his expertise and skill levels to bring people together,” he said.

Cash, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Chief Academic Officer Ann Clark and Heath Morrison, superintendent in Reno, Nev., spoke at a series of public forums and had private interviews with the school board last week. The board is scheduled to meet again Wednesday and Thursday in closed session.

Whether the Memphis survey would affect the CMS decision wasn’t clear Monday. Board Chairman Ericka Ellis-Stewart and Vice Chairman Mary McCray couldn’t be reached for comment. Neither could Randolph Frierson, president of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Association of Educators, who helped interview candidates last week.

Judy Kidd, president of the Classroom Teachers Association, has voiced support for Clark as “the only person who can hit the ground running to get this district moving forward.” Her group emailed members urging them to support Clark in an online poll being conducted by the research/advocacy group MeckEd. As of Monday evening it had garnered almost 1,700 responses, 75 percent supporting Clark. Morrison got 13 percent, and Cash 11 percent.

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