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In a unanimous show of support, Memphis school board to consider extending superintendent’s contract

Superintendent Joris Ray stands at a podium with a microphone at Whitehaven High School in an award ceremony.
Superintendent Joris Ray’s contract currently expires in 2023 and he is paid $285,000 annually.
Max Gersh / The Commercial Appeal

The Shelby County Schools board will consider extending Superintendent Joris Ray’s contract next month after giving him a high evaluation score last week.

The board voted unanimously Tuesday to give the public notice that it would discuss and vote on amending the annual $285,000 contract sometime in November.

“The board recognizes the importance of stable, exemplary leadership during the novel coronavirus pandemic as it seeks to transform the district and improve student achievement,” the resolution said.

Board policy requires 15-day notice before voting to amend the superintendent’s contract. Ray currently has a four-year contract that ends in 2023. The decision shows strong support from the school board for Ray, who is in charge of making most decisions about the district’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, including its reopening timeline.

Ray, who has spent his entire career in Memphis schools, is in his second year at the district’s helm after the school board appointed him in April 2019. Last week, the board scored his performance 4.13 out of 5 during the 2019-20 school year, signaling that he “completely met expectations.”

The superintendent is also one of 20 finalists for the Green-Garner Award, the top prize for urban school leadership from the Council of Great City Schools, a national group of urban school districts. His predecessor, Dorsey Hopson, was also a finalist for the award in 2018.

The school board met over the weekend and discussed adding more detail and data to his performance evaluation, but the board has not figured out when a revised evaluation would go into effect.

Tuesday’s resolution was presented by board member Althea Greene, who had previously urged the board to extend the superintendent’s contract in April as the district ramped up its response to the pandemic. That was before the board had evaluated Ray’s performance, so the proposal was postponed. In other action Tuesday night, Greene will now lead the board in updating how it evaluates Ray.

Board member Stephanie Love was the resolution’s co-sponsor and several board members signed on as co-sponsors before the vote.

“There are still things we have to get done and I know in order to do that, we most definitely must have stability,” Love said before the board voted.

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