The board of education for Memphis-Shelby County Schools said on Thursday that the district’s superintendent had been placed on paid administrative leave awaiting the conclusion of an independent investigation.
In a statement, MSCS board chair Michelle McKissack said, “We have asked for a rigorous and complete investigation into these charges.” As members of the district’s school board, it is our job to look into any allegations of misbehavior against the district’s only superintendent.
The Daily Memphian reported on Wednesday that Joris Ray acknowledged having sex with three women in recent divorce proceedings. According to the Commercial Appeal, two people named in court documents have or have worked for the district.
Just one mention of the alleged encounters in the court filings found by Chalkbeat: a nondisclosure agreement signed by one of the women in January 2004. Ray’s eyes, it’s unclear if he directly monitored each lady or how closely they collaborated.
According to the district’s communications office, Joris Ray appreciates the board of education’s oversight function and wants “a fair examination of his adherence” to district standards. Ray is a middle school social studies teacher.
To be sure that my private behaviors have not breached any norms of conduct or rules, I am sure that they have,” he remarked.
McKissack and board vice chair Althea Greene knew about the claims against Joris Ray only after they received messages and voicemails from the public regarding the Daily Memphian piece, according to their remarks to Chalkbeat in an exclusive interview.
On Herman Morris‘s advice, the board convened an extraordinary executive session late that night and agreed to launch an inquiry. School board meeting information was unavailable on either the district website or the BoardDocs system, the school board’s online agenda management system.)
For the time being, he will continue in charge of Tennessee’s most extensive school system, where he has served as superintendent for the previous three years. Upon the inquiry’s conclusion, the board will review the “next and required measures.”.
Finally, the board recommended the community “refrain from making judgments and waiting for a conclusion to be known.”
As of Thursday, the board of directors has provided little information regarding the investigation process. According to McKissack, no schedule for the appointment of independent legal counsel has yet been established.
McKissack said that we want to go quickly, but we also want to be complete.
Board members expect the investigation’s findings to help them decide whether or not the district’s current policy on workplace romances needs to be revised.
Managerial or supervisory employees and their subordinates are prohibited from having romantic or sexual relations, according to the district’s most recent revision of its staff manual in August 2021. Conflicts of interest, favoritism and prejudice may arise, and all parties must declare any links they have with the management, according to the document.
Divorce of Joris Ray:
Permission by a staff member is suspicious and may be perceived by others or by the staff member themselves later as having been provided as a consequence of pressure or intimidation, according to another clause of the policy.
As the leader of MSCS, Joris Ray, now 48 years old, has been dogged by scandal since day one of his tenure. In April this year, the board of education decided not to conduct a countrywide search for a new school head.
As a longstanding district employee, Joris Ray served as interim superintendent for several months and was considered an “exceptionally competent candidate” by the board members at the time. They also thought that a broad search across the country would be time- and money-consuming for the district.
Some Memphis citizens, however, objected to the choice and staged a protest. Several months before, Joris Ray had been accused of sexual harassment by a number of people. According to the findings, an examination at the district level found no evidence of wrongdoing.
While the pandemic was at its height, Joris Ray’s decision to have students learning online for most of the 2020-21 school year brought him into a confrontation with Republican Governor Bill Lee and other party officials. A strong showing from the school board, however, has led to good marks on his evaluations and an early contract renewal through 2025.
While Joris Ray was under fire for the district’s poor performance on state-mandated tests during the most recent school year, the board remained unwavering in supporting him throughout the year.
Two school advocacy groups, Memphis Lift and Whitehaven Empowerment Zone asked Joris Ray to quit as superintendent a month ago when the criticism had reached a boiling point.
New calls for Ray’s resignation were launched Thursday by Memphis Lift Executive Director Sarah Carpenter, who questioned why the board let him continue serving as superintendent while an inquiry was proceeding. Carpenter also asked why the board continued to pay him for his position although he had been fired.
In the words of vice chair Greene, Joris Ray is presumed innocent unless proven guilty.
She insisted that the recent occurrences had not shaken her confidence in Dr. Ray’s capacity to run the organization. To put it another way, “We’re testing it out.”