Ray Resigns: Education Advocate says School board member told her ‘We Need to Clean House’

Dr. Joris Ray Resigns
Published: Aug. 24, 2022 at 5:56 PM CDT

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Memphis-Shelby County Schools’ top educator has been under review since last month, but the board accepted his resignation last night.

His severance pays of approximately $480,000 is causing an uproar with some Stakeholders within MSCS.

“My phone has been ringing off the hook today about people upset about money he’s getting,” said Sarah Carpenter, executive director of the education advocacy group Memphis Lift.

Carpenter says the fight about Ray’s pay lies with the school board.

The board voted to accept a mutual agreement to end their employment relationship on Tuesday.

“This was obviously a negotiated deal between both sides,” said employment attorney Alan Crone with the Crone Law Firm.

Crone says the only way the district could have avoided paying the 18-month severance pay was to prove Ray violated his contract with cause.

“And if they thought that wasn’t going to happen, then they would have had the investigative costs, their attorney’s fees, if there was a lawsuit, they would have that distraction,” said Crone.

Ray was elected as the superintendent in 2019, receiving high praise for his leadership during the pandemic.

Tuesday night, the board celebrated the district being named a level five school under Ray’s leadership. However, accusations of extra-marital affairs with subordinates left many questioning his ability to lead.

School board members are now searching for his replacement.

Carpenter, who attended last night’s school board meeting, said one of the board members spoke to her privately about what needs to happen next.

“We need someone to disrupt, and I won’t call out the board member name that walked up to me and said keep the pressure

on. They need to clean up this whole building; that’s what a board member said to me last night,” said Carpenter.

Carpenter would not say which school board told her that it was “time to clean house at the district,” but she was clear about what had to happen to find the next leader of the state’s largest school district.

“We’ve got to have a national search, and I’m not saying nobody in Memphis is able to do their job, but we got to do a search. Our kids deserve the best in this country,” said Carpenter.

Crone says it will likely be next summer before a permanent superintendent will be named.

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