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Memphis-Shelby County Schools superintendent delivers State of the District address

Published: Feb. 23, 2022 at 11:06 AM CST
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Memphis-Shelby County Schools (MSCS) Superintendent Dr. Joris M. Ray delivered his annual State of the District address on Wednesday.

In a room filled with students, staff, administrators and community leaders, Memphis-Shelby County Superintendent Dr. Joris Ray gave an update on the state of the schools.

“We’ve come a long way, but we have a long way to go,” Ray said. “But know this, we will get there if we work together.”

Dr. Ray acknowledged the pandemic made things difficult for teachers and students, but he celebrated their progress.

”We have administered nearly 12,000 vaccinations to adults and eligible children at our district sites.”

Ray announced an $11 million investment to provide $1,500 bonuses for teachers and “teacher-types” and a $500 bonus for education assistants.

The superintendent also launched the “Strategic Partners for Literacy” Program, a new partnership he says will ensure literacy success by 3rd grade.

This comes as a Tennessee Department of Education report card revealed only 11% of Memphis-Shelby County Schools students scored on track or mastered state tests for the 2020-2021 school year.

MSCS received an “H” grade meaning it was held Harmless for the school year.

Ray believes the pandemic played a major role in the low numbers.

”Our children have seen parents die, they’ve seen grandparents and aunts and uncles ill, some of our children being ill themselves. They’ve seen classmates pass away, and I don’t think the 11% is a true indicator of how our children will perform.” Ray said.

Other initiatives include an honors course expansion for students in grades 7 through 12 who qualify, adding 750 Specialized Education Assistant (SEAs) positions this school year, investing $5 million of ESSER funding to install filtered water bottle filling stations, removing 99.3% of lead from drinking water, and a new hands-on internship program called Power 1000 will employ 1,000 juniors and seniors.

The event ended with the reveal of the new Logo for Memphis-Shelby County Schools, designed with help from students and staff.

Dr. Ray also mentioned he would begin exploring year-round schooling for Memphis-Shelby County Schools to give students more time in the classroom to focus on literacy and math.

As for next steps, Ray says he wants to talk to experts to start initial conversations.

For more on the State of the District address, click here.

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