Shelby County education director brings controversy from previous job


SHELBY COUNTY, Tenn. — Dr. Cedrick Gray was introduced as the Shelby County Director of Education last week. He has a long history of work in local education, but his most recent job ended with the state threatening to put his district on probation.

WREG has obtained the audit Jackson, Mississippi, schools performed in 2016 before he resigned.

“It does feel like a homecoming," Gray said about coming to the county where he once worked.

Gray is an experienced educator who’s spent his entire career at different levels in the field. He worked in classrooms in Shelby County and served as superintendent of schools in both Fayette County, Tennessee and Jackson, Mississippi.

“He comes with really great references, routes in this community and a vast array of experiences as both a classroom teacher, a school leader and superintendent of the largest district in one of our neighboring states," Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris said.

"Just like in Shelby County, Jackson, Mississippi, and the state of Mississippi, we had three to  four years of constant success," Gray said. "It was powerful, almost magical."

But Gray’s tenure in Jackson ended suddenly and with controversy.

WREG obtained an audit from June 15, 2016, where the State of Mississippi said it would recommend to put his district on probation.

In the audit, the state finds Gray did not “provide effective educational leadership," saying he failed “to ensure a positive, safe and secure school climate exists for students where teachers and staff feel supported.”

It also found issues with hiring practices in the district, saying as many as 200 teachers didn’t have valid licenses, and one principal was found to have a criminal record with a felony.

The audit found 21 violations total.

We asked Gray last week about the issues in Jackson.

"Standards changed, assessments changed, and accountability systems changed," he said. "I knew at that point, we needed wholesale changes in the district. The school board at the time did not agree with those wholesale changes, so we agreed to disagree.”

As director of education, he will be expected to act as the correspondent between the county, which provides much of the funding for the schools, and the districts themselves.

He said in the two years since he left Jackson, he has taken a lot of time to reflect that will help him in the months to come.

The Shelby County Commission still must approve Gray's hiring, which they are slated to decide on in their first meeting of the new year. Gray's proposed salary is $119,465.

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