New interim superintendent delivers state of Shelby County schools

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Shelby County's new interim superintendent laid out his plans for the district on Thursday.

A day after his contract was approved as interim superintendent, Dr. Joris Ray laid out his plan to get the district to its 2025 goal of improving graduation rates and preparing more students for college and the workforce.

Ray talked about the steps he wants to take like offering more AP courses, enrichment classes and ACT prep.

He pointed out right now, only 23 percent of Shelby County students score higher than a 21 on the ACT.

"That's a problem. We have to do something about it," he said.

Ray discussed adding more counselors and support for students.

"Childhood trauma is real," he said. "Schools are a microcosm of society."

he also addressed a hot button issue: school closures.

The district has a $500 million in deferred maintenance, so former Superintendent Dorsey Hopson had proposed closing and consolidating some schools and building new ones.

Ray said he's not sold on Hopson's plan just yet.

"We want to listen to the community. We want to listen to teachers, and we are going to listen to our students," said Ray. "We aren’t going to make a rushed decision, but we have to look at the conditions, the building conditions that child are in now."

School board vice chair Stephanie Love said she wants to make sure schools in her district don't close.

"I`ll most definitely have a say in it," said Love. "There are plenty of options we can look at, but I`m solely speaking about the district I represent."

Love said she and other board members will be watching Ray's plans and how they pan out.

Ray's contract was approved Wednesday. It's temporary at a $285,000 salary.

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