County Commissioner & SCS Superintendent spar over questions about reopening schools

SHELBY COUNTY, Tenn. — Letters between a Shelby County Commissioner and Shelby County Schools Superintendent show a heated argument about the reopening of schools at the end of August.

Commissioner Edmund Ford, Jr. said he couldn’t care less if the superintendent’s feelings are hurt because his focus is to make sure teachers get hazard pay and kids are safe.

Shelby County Schools Superintendent Joris Ray fired back saying he’s losing his patience with the commissioner and he’s doing everything he can to keep people safe.

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“If I ruffle some feathers it doesn’t matter to me if people get mad at me being direct. They will have to get over it,” said Commissioner Edmund Ford.

Ford was referring to the Shelby County Schools superintendent Dr. Joris Ray. The two have sent strongly worded letters back and forth for two weeks.

Commissioner Ford said he wants more information about how students and teachers will be safe if someone tests positive for the virus. He also asked about hazard pay for teachers and staff.

“All they want are simple responses, that’s all,” said Ford.

Superintendent Ray said hazard pay is not available for SCS employees but said SCS will accept funding if the Commission is offering. Dr. Ray also said SCS would be working with the Health Department.

Ford also asked for funding for transportation, asked about free testing for students, plus staff, and more.

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The commissioner wasn’t happy with the answers so he wrote back asking about why the CARES Act money isn’t used towards hazard pay.

“I believe that teachers and educators should be compensated the same way as one of those workers that city and county government officials are going to take care of in the form of hazard pay,” said Ford.

Dr. Ray responded to Ford’s letter but not about the hazard pay. He said in part that his patience “is wearing thin at your continued questioning of my leadership.” Dr. Ray emphasized he is working with the health department to make sure staff and teachers are safe.

“I could care less if an individual who is appointed by the school board got his feelings hurt,” said Ford.

In the letter, Ray also said he is not a career politician and is not well versed in manipulative election tactics.

Commissioner Ford said he’s seeing what can be done legally to make sure CARES Act funds for SCS will be given to teachers and staff for hazard pay.

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