MSCS board and Dr. Joris Ray agree to part ways, district to pay Ray $480K in severance

Published: Aug. 23, 2022 at 10:19 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - The top educator for the Memphis-Shelby County School district and Shelby County’s highest-paid employee is out.

Superintendent Dr. Joris Ray resigned on Tuesday after an investigation was launched into allegations of extramarital affairs with school district staff.

Ray’s resignation is effective immediately.

The school district will have to pay him almost half a million dollars in severance.

School board members say the agreement reached with Ray was necessary in order for the district to move forward.

“We believe this is the best path forward,” said Memphis Shelby School Board Chair Michelle McKissack.

In an 8-0-1 vote, Memphis Shelby County school board members voted to accept a mutual agreement to end their employment relationship with Ray and accept his resignation.

Board member Stephanie Love chose not to vote on the mutual agreement.

“On August 12, counsel for Dr. Ray contacted my office and expressed that Dr. Ray had the desire to sever his employment and relationship with the district through a mutual agreement,” said Attorney Herman Morris, who served as counsel for the board.

The district will have to pay Ray $480,000 in severance.

“The superintendent was given the lesser of 18 months as opposed to the remaining balance on his contract,” said MSCS Board Attorney Kenneth Walker.

The cost of the investigation? About $19,000 is “concluded” and not “completed,” according to Walker.

“The board has not received any documentation at all from the independent legal counsel Dr. Stanton,” McKissack said.

Dr. Ray served as superintendent since 2019.

In a press release from Ray’s legal counsel, Robert L.J. Spence, Jr. Esq. wrote that Ray “regrets unsubstantiated allegations emanating from a deeply private matter were made public through the media.”

In a statement, Dr. Ray said:

“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!”

Now, the district will look to find Ray’s replacement.

“We will continue to do as we do. Your child’s principal, your child’s teachers, all the support systems within our school, they are still very much still there for you,” McKissack said. “That has not changed. That will not change. We’re going to move forward and we will become stronger as a result of all of this.”

The board is expected to release more information on the search for the next superintendent soon.

Deputy Superintendents Dr. John Barker and Dr. Angela Whitelaw will continue to lead the district for now.

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