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Former Memphis superintendent Kriner Cash could lead New Orleans school district

Former Memphis superintendent Kriner Cash is one of three finalists being considered for the top job in Orleans Parish School District, in New Orleans.

The Times-Picayune reported last week that Cash, former New York City schools chief operating officer Veronica Conforme, and former Bermuda education minister Edmond Heatley are being considered to permanently replace Stan Smith, who has been the New Orleans district’s interim superintendent since July 2012.

The 11,000-student New Orleans school district is made up of just a fraction of public schools in the city: Louisiana’s state-run Recovery School District (RSD) runs 62 New Orleans schools, while the traditional district runs just 20, 14 of which are charter schools. Just how and when schools will return from the RSD to the New Orleans district is unclear. The superintendent job notice says candidates must have a “high tolerance for ambiguity.”

Cash may be able to cite his time in Memphis as a qualification for that requirement. Cash, who became superintendent of Memphis City Schools in 2008 and resigned last January, led the district through preparations for a merger with suburban Shelby County Schools, which involved an evolving school board and contentious debate about the future of the area’s public schools. That merger became official last July.

Cash was also chief when the district was awarded a nationally-touted $90 million teacher effectiveness grant from the Gates Foundation, as the state-run district in Tennessee took over and began running its first schools in Memphis in 2012, and as the charter sector in Memphis began to grow. 

A board had already decided not to renew Cash’s contract after the 2012-13 school year. He officially remained in an advisory role after he resigned, until July 2013. 

Dorsey Hopson II, then the attorney of legacy Memphis City Schools, became interim superintendent after Cash’s departure and was selected to be permanent superintendent of the merged Shelby County Schools system in September. Hopson’s contract is itself up for renewal soon.

Jon Aitken, who had been superintendent of the suburban Shelby County school system before the suburban and Memphis school systems merged, also resigned last winter but remained in Shelby County, unlike Cash. Aitken will be superintendent of Collierville’s school system.

Second-round interviews for the New Orleans post will take place in June.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the number of schools in the RSD. The RSD has 62 schools in New Orleans, and an additional five schools are run by the state.