MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The Memphis-Shelby County School board is beginning an external investigation into “recent allegations of impropriety” by district Superintendent Joris Ray.

The board voted on the measure during an emergency meeting with legal counsel Wednesday night.

Divorce documents obtained by WREG show Ray admitted to infidelity in his marriage. The documents name women who could be school district employees.

District policy strongly discourages romantic or sexual relationships between a manager or other supervisory employee and their staff.

That’s why MSCS board chair Michelle McKissack says the board needs to find out if policy has been violated.

“We have called for a full and complete review into these allegations,” said Michelle McKissack, MSCS board chair. “If there are allegations of impropriety against the superintendent, the sole position we oversee at the school district, then it’s our sworn obligation to look further into the allegations.” 

Ray will continue to serve as superintendent during the investigation.

“Despite rumors and reports, the Board urges the community not to rush to judgment and to allow due process to play out. The Board is committed to uncovering the truth in support of MSCS employees and families,” McKissack said in a statement.

Board members maintain Ray is still a good example for Shelby County children.

“He is the face that our students see. He is someone that the kids look up to. We want to continue to make sure that credibility is there,” MSCS Board Vice Chair Althea Greene said. “I stand behind my superintendent. I stand behind my one employee. And at this point, he is still a great leader. My confidence remains solid and strong.”

The board’s next steps are to hire a lawyer to start looking into this.

McKissack and Greene said they were overwhelmed with calls from constituents on the matter, forcing them to take action on an investigation.

Ray released a statement on the allegations Thursday afternoon.

“I am aware that on rare occasion, the personal and professional aspects of a public figure’s life intersect,” Ray said in part. “In this case, allegations asserted in my private divorce matter have been made public and are being discussed outside the confines of the judicial system. As such, I’d like to express to this Board, the education community, and the public that I am confident that my private actions have not broken any rules of conduct nor violated any policies.”

The board did not specify the nature of the allegations against Ray. However, public documents from Ray’s divorce proceedings contained allegations of relationships with women outside his marriage. It is not known whether those could involve district employees.

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Read the full statement from Ray:

Recently, some have watched as a personal family matter has played out publicly. Divorces are hard. I have hired a law firm who I’ve been working with, and they are focused on that personal matter.

My focus is on the students, teachers, employees, and families of Memphis-Shelby County Schools. I know that our School Board is also focused on ensuring the efficiency of our District and the well-being of our students and staff, and they have my full cooperation in those pursuits.

As Superintendent of Memphis-Shelby County Schools, I understand that my public actions are subject to scrutiny by the School Board, members of the community, and the media. As a matter of principle, I strive to represent the District, faculty, staff, students, and parents with integrity and professionalism.  

I am aware that on rare occasion, the personal and professional aspects of a public figure’s life intersect. In this case, allegations asserted in my private divorce matter have been made public and are being discussed outside the confines of the judicial system. As such, I’d like to express to this Board, the education community, and the public that I am confident that my private actions have not broken any rules of conduct nor violated any policies. 

I respect the Board’s oversight responsibility to conduct due diligence as it relates to allegations of violations of policies and welcome a fair investigation of my adherence to the policies of Memphis-Shelby County Schools. I will cooperate with the investigation in every way possible. I apologize that my private life has become a public distraction from the serious educational work that remains to be done. I will refrain from further public comment on the matter.

Together, we MUST BELIEVE.

Together, we WILL ACHIEVE.  Together, we are REIMAGINING 901.