MEMPHIS, Tenn.– Dr. Joris Ray has resigned as superintendent of Memphis-Shelby County Schools. During a special school board meeting Tuesday night, the board agreed to sever its relationship with Dr. Ray and discontinue any ongoing investigation regarding policy violations.
Eight board members agreed to the termination. One member did not vote.
MSCS Board Chair Michelle McKissack said the decision for Ray to leave the school district was mutual.
“The board and Dr. Ray have mutually agreed to sever ties and conclude the investigation,” she said. “The decision spawned from discussions from our legal counsel and his attorney. Based on tonight’s vote, we believe this is the best path forward for the families, for the staff, and for the students of Memphis-Shelby County Schools.”
The decision comes after the school board began an external investigation after divorce documents showed Ray admitted to infidelity in his marriage and listed names of women who could be school district employees.
The school board initially voted in a special called meeting in July to initiate an independent investigation into possible policy violations and place Ray on paid leave.
According to general counsel Kenneth Walker, Dr. Ray will leave with a severance package worth $480,000 which covers the 18 months he had left on his contract. Ray will also receive a separate check for unused vacation days and sick days earned during his time as superintendent, according to his severance agreement.
Walked added that since the investigation was concluded but not completed, there will not be a final report and any information gathered during the investigation will not be released to the public.
As for finding a new superintendent, the district said it will be up to the new school board to decide if the next superintendent will be hired from within or if a national search will be done. The new board will be seated in September.
Until then, Deputy Superintendents Dr. John Barker and Dr. Angela Whitelaw will continue to serve the district.
“We recognize that this process has been difficult for not only the board tonight but also for our families, for our students, staff, and our community,” McKissack said.
Ray was not at Tuesday night’s meeting but he released a statement reflecting on his time as superintendent, saying:
“During my tenure as Superintendent we triumphed during one of the most challenging times in the history of education,” Ray said. “The COVID-19 pandemic brought about difficulties that threatened the institution of conventional learning. Yet, with the steadfast support of the community, we catapulted MSCS into the national spotlight as a district breaking barriers inside and outside the classroom.”
He also thanked teachers and staff for their dedication to students adding:
“Thank you for believing in my leadership,” he said. “Thank you for believing in the abilities of our students. Memphis-Shelby County Schools has my heartfelt best wishes. We vowed to restore our District to TVAAS Level 5 status. Despite the daunting odds, we achieved that goal. Our students are now on an ascending path to continuous growth and achievement that cannot be derailed by detractors or distractions. Together, we MUST BELIEVE. Together, we WILL ACHIEVE. Together, we are REIMAGINING 901!”
Ray did not talk about his resignation or what he plans to do in the future.