Shelby County Schools
Joris Ray, superintendent of the Shelby County (Tenn.) school district.

Shelby County (Tenn.) board selects interim leader as superintendent

May 3, 2019
Joris Ray has been interim superintendent in the Memphis-area school system since January.

The Shelby County (Tenn.) school board has voted to appoint Joris Ray as district superintendent.

Chalkbeat Tennessee reports that the board opted to name Ray, who has been interim superintendent in Shelby County since January, rather than carry out a national search for a new district leader.

The board's resolution described Ray as an “exceedingly qualified candidate,” and said a national search was unnecessary and would cost the district valuable time and resources.

Board members had previously indicated that they planned to conduct a national search with ample opportunity for public input.

“Time is of the essence and the board does not feel that it can afford to have the district held at a stand-still while a national search progresses or unnecessarily spend money on a search when an exceedingly qualified candidate is currently serving as the interim superintendent,” the resolution read.

Ray replaces Dorsey Hopson, who left for to work for the health insurance company Cigna after nearly six years at the district’s helm.

He started as a teacher at Kirby Middle School in Memphis in the late 1990s and then served as assistant principal before moving into district-level roles in alternative schools and academic support. His annual salary as interim superintendent is $285,000. That salary may change in contract negotiations.

At a February board meeting, many educators in attendance said they backed hiring Ray, and shared stories about his commitment to students in the district. Board members noted a similar flood of support for Ray from their constituents over the past few weeks.

Board member Michelle McKissack, who previously wanted a national search, said she changed her mind after a trip to Nashville with Ray to advocate for Memphis schools during a meeting with the governor.

“He proved that he was indeed the superintendent of the largest district in the state, head and shoulders,” McKissack said. “He looked the governor straight in the eye and told him why the district opposed the education savings accounts.”

Shante Avant, the board’s chairwoman and another early proponent of a national search, cited the outpouring of support from district employees as a factor in her vote to hire Ray.

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