MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris announced a new director of education Thursday to help act as a bridge between the County and school districts.
Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris admitted having a director of education wasn’t his idea.
“I ran against David Lenoir. He was the republican nominee. This was something he talked about often on the campaign trail. Wherever I find a good idea, I will steal it while also giving credit," he said.
Harris says the position will fill the communication and planning gaps that currently exist between school districts and Shelby County government.
“We’re talking about a portfolio that’s our highest issue for expenditures. We spend about $400 million on education and have a $1.2 billion budget,” Harris said.
The mayor selected Dr. Cedrick Gray for the position. He’s a native Memphian who’s spent his entire professional career working in education, from classrooms at White Station Middle School to superintendent in Fayette County and later Jackson, Mississippi.
"My experiences play a key role in the work going forward," Gray said.
But his tenure in Jackson ended in conflict; he resigned in late 2016 as the state put his district on probation for numerous violations.
“Standards changed, assessments changed and accountability systems changed. 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," Gray said.
Harris said the past issue didn’t bother him throughout the interview process.
"He comes with really great references, roots in this community and a vast array of experiences as a classroom teacher," Harris said.
Gray said his immediate goals are to come up with plans for early childhood education, workforce readiness programs and evaluate facility needs. He also wanted to look in to departing Superintendent Dorsey Hopson's facility plan.
He said he will attend school board meetings for all seven school districts within Shelby County.
County Commission still has to approve the hiring. Gray's proposed salary is $119,465.