Memphis superintendent gets high marks on evaluation for first full school year

Interim superintendent Joris Ray presents before the Shelby County Commission during a budget preview last week.
The school board appointed Superintendent Joris Ray in April 2019. (Caroline Bauman / Chalkbeat)

Superintendent Joris Ray earned high marks from Shelby County Schools board members in his evaluation for his first full school year. 

Ray’s overall score was 4.13 out of 5, showing that he “completely met expectations” during the 2019-20 school year. His highest score was in business and finance as board members praised him for securing laptops and tablets for students and hiring new leaders for district finance, human resources, and information technology. 

His lowest score was in staff relations and evaluations, but still mostly met expectations. Board members noted they thought staff morale has increased, he publicly praises employees, and that his relationship with teacher associations is evolving. Board members said Ray needs a more accurate and rigorous evaluation of staff. 

The evaluation reflects robust support from the nine-member school board. All but one were in office when Ray began his tenure: Sheleah Harris joined the board this summer after unseating Scott McCormick. Having support from board members, who hire the superintendent, is especially crucial as the district works though managing the pandemic and helping its students grow academically.  

Board member Kevin Woods commended Ray for improving district culture among staff and hiring staff who push for better academics. Board member Shante Avant said Ray keeps students at the forefront of his decision-making. 

“We will continue to work hand-in-hand with him and make sure we’re keeping the main thing, the main thing, which is educating our children,” she said. 

Student achievement makes up 30% of the superintendent’s evaluation score, but the main measure, annual state tests, was canceled this spring because of the coronavirus pandemic. Board members still gave him a 3.98 out of 5 for student achievement because of academic programs Ray started before the pandemic. 

The score is higher than Ray’s initial evaluation from his first six months since board members appointed him in April 2019. Prior to that, Ray was the interim superintendent for three months and a member of the previous superintendent’s cabinet.

The board expects to discuss using different data to evaluate the superintendent next year when they meet Friday and Saturday to discuss goals and long-term plans. Board member Stephanie Love said evaluations for Ray and central office staff should be as detailed and involved as teacher evaluations.

“Then and only then will we be on the same page and everyone will be held accountable for our children,” she said, noting that she and board member Althea Greene plan to bring a resolution the board directing Ray to create a better evaluation system for employees.

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