New SCS interim superintendent: ‘I want to listen’

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- With the new year, Shelby County Schools will have a new interim superintendent, and the former teacher says he wants to hear from those working in the classroom.

Board members voted Doctor Joris Ray into the job Wednesday night, just before Dorsey Hopson leaves to work in the private sector Jan. 8.

“I want to talk to teachers," Ray said. "I want to get in the classrooms and listen and talk to them. I want to talk to students because often times they are left out of the education process.”

Ray is currently the chief of academic operations and school support for the district. Before that, he served as assistant superintendent.

“I was once a child in this school district and I love this school district. I taught in this school district.”

He taught at Kirby Middle School and then moved up the ranks. He's expressed an interest of having a pulse on the community, saying his goal is to get input from parents, teachers, students, board members and other organizations.

“I think as a great leader you must listen.”

Ray says these next few weeks will be spent transitioning with the help from current Superintendent Dorsey Hopson.

“I'm very excited to continue the work that superintendent Hopson started.”

That includes Hopson’s recent proposal to consolidate 28 schools, rezone 22, build 10 new ones and add on to five others.

The plan was pitched as a way to save money in the long-run because older building cost the district with reoccurring maintenance issues, but many are against it.

“We’re going to do what’s best for students, we’re going to engage the public and I want to see the appetite for all the board members. At the end of the day, we have some $500 million worth of deferred maintenance.”

Ray didn’t explicitly say he was for or against that plan — just that he wants to keep getting feedback on it.

He’s starting in the interim role next month and also says he’ll apply for the permanent position.