Dr. Joris Ray steps down as Memphis-Shelby County Schools superintendent

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Dr. Joris Ray has resigned as Memphis-Shelby County Schools (MSCS) superintendent, Herman Morris said during a Memphis-Shelby County Schools meeting on Tuesday evening.

Morris, who was hired by MSCS to investigate allegations against Ray, presented the resolution which would end Ray’s employment with the school district to the MSCS Board around 7 p.m.

READ MORE: MSCS school board launches investigation into Superintendent Joris Ray

The Memphis-Shelby County Schools Board voted to accept Dr. Ray’s resignation, 8-0-1, with one board member abstaining from voting.

Dr. Ray initiated this deal and brought it to Morris.

The Memphis-Shelby County School board accepted Ray’s resignation with eight board members voting in favor and one abstaining, officially starting the search for his replacement and mutually agreeing to sever ties.

In a press conference after the meeting, it was announced that an interim superintendent should be announced within the coming weeks. In the meantime, Deputy Superintendent for Strategic Operations and Finance Dr. John Baker and Deputy Superintendent of Schools and Academic Support Dr. Angela Whitelaw will continue handling the superintendent duties.

The board had initially announced Tuesday’s special meeting to vote on whether or not to keep or fire Ray.

When presented with his resignation letter on Tuesday, the board accepted, removing Ray as superintendent, ending the investigation against him and therefore freeing him from any disciplinary actions that such an investigation might have brought.

That investigation is now concluded, without ever having been completed, per the agreement between Ray and the Memphis-Shelby County School Board. That now finished but incomplete investigation cost about $19,000, according to data given at the press conference immediately following Ray’s resignation.

Dr. Ray will be granted a severance package worth approximately $480,000. It will paid in a lump sum, according to MSCS General Counsel Kenneth Walker.

In July, MSCS held an emergency executive session after divorce documents revealed Ray was accused of having relationships outside of his marriage with possible former and current school district employees. The board decided that an external review of the allegations of impropriety by Ray was needed.

Ray said he had hired legal counsel and was confident that his private actions had not “broken any rules of conduct nor violated any policies.”

Ray’s wife filed for divorce last year. In the documents, Ray’s wife revealed a non-disclosure agreement in one of the relationships. She alleged that district staff set up and participated in meetings with women for Ray outside of his marriage. MSCS has employed at least two of the women named in the court documents within the last five years.

As a result of the July meeting, Ray was placed on paid administrative leave while two independent attorneys, former U.S. Attorney Edward Stanton and former MLGW counsel Herman Morris, investigated the allegations against him.

Following the news of Ray’s resignation, the former Memphis-Shelby County Schools superintendent released the following statement.

“During my tenure as Superintendent we triumphed during one of the most challenging times in the history of education. The COVID-19 pandemic brought about difficulties that threatened the institution of conventional learning. Yet, with the steadfast support of the community, we catapulted MSCS into the national spotlight as a district breaking barriers inside and outside the classroom. Thank you for believing in my leadership. Thank you for believing in the abilities of our students. Memphis-Shelby County Schools has my heartfelt best wishes. We vowed to restore our District to TVAAS Level 5 status. Despite the daunting odds, we achieved that goal. Our students are now on an ascending path to continuous growth and achievement that cannot be derailed by detractors or distractions. Together, we MUST BELIEVE. Together, we WILL ACHIEVE. Together, we are REIMAGINING 901!”

Dr. Ray then tweeted, thanking people for their support during his tenure.

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