MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - Memphis City Schools Superintendent Dr. Kriner Cash says there's a very good chance he will leave his job before his contract expires next year.
He now says he's proud of what he did, but fears the merged school systems won't help school children.
Dr. Cash is telling his staff they are free to look for work right now. He's still on the job. As to how long he'll remain city school superintendent, one thing is certain: the end of the Cash era is coming.
The visit by President Barack Obama, congratulating the students and staff at Booker T. Washington High School, was one of the high points in Dr. Cash's four years as city school superintendent. It's just one of the many things he says makes him proud.
"We have accomplished so much here. I've heard it said we've accomplished ten years worth of work in about three and a half years."
Cash is one of those people whose name gets an immediate reaction. In the last few years, a lot of it has been negative.
A lot of things have happened under the Cash regime. It's why he wants to talk about what he's done. The first thing he did was thank teachers and principals for their work this year.
"We've increased the graduation rate three years in a row to a historic 72.6 percent. We had never crossed the 70 percent threshold in a district this complex. We still have a way to go but we've done that. It shows progress can be made."
He talked about health clinics, and the breakfast and supper programs. He said there have been big improvements in math, and that eight out of nine city school divisions have won national awards in the last few years.
"The richest man in the world invested in our school system for seven years and all of the teachers were involved. It's a sea of change for our culture here and we made headway on every mistake so far."
Dr. Cash was a finalist for the superintendent job in Charlotte, North Carolina. He will be looking at other offers, he says. His Memphis time is coming to an end.
His contract expires August 1st next year, but Cash said there's a "good chance" he'll leave before then. "Don't know for sure, but there's a good chance."
Dr. Cash says Memphis will have good and bad memories.
His wife died last fall, and for the first time, he speaks about how her death as affected him.
These days, family means a lot to Dr. Cash. It's more important for him than ever because last September, he wife of 35 years, Lisa, died from cancer.
"One of the things my dear wife would lament was, 'You spend too much time at work. You need to come spend more time with me.' And I didn't realize how sick she was in the last year. And then, to have to lose her so suddenly, it was so sudden for me."
He says his wife was his best friend.
Friends have been tough to find in the last few years. For example, a recent poll of Memphis city school teachers found that just 18 percent of them thought of Dr. Cash's work to be better than average. It was a poll that directly affected his getting the job as superintendent in Charlotte, he says.
"It wasn't a hundred percent poll. You didn't even question 70 percent. You got 28 percent of the teachers in a poll. Depending on who you asked, what you asked. I came here to work, to provide service. I didn't come here to win a popularity contest."
On the horizon, he's not optimistic about the city and county school merger, saying it's a Cain and Abel relationship.
"I'm not sure this merger is merging. I see more [spreading apart] so far."
Dr. Cash has the right to leave before his contract officially expires, and he probably will.