Memphis-Shelby County Schools communication chief to leave

A woman standing in front of an arch of blue and white balloons speaks at a podium
Memphis-Shelby County Schools’ communications chief Jerica Phillips speaks at a district event. Phillips is leaving her position at the end of this month, the district announced Friday. (Courtesy of Memphis-Shelby County Schools)

Jerica Phillips, Memphis-Shelby County Schools’ chief of communications, will leave her position at Tennessee’s largest school district at the end of the month.

In a Friday news release, Superintendent Joris Ray announced Phillips recently accepted a position at ALSAC, the fundraising and awareness organization for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, where she will lead areas of media relations and strategic communication.

Phillips is the third member of Ray’s cabinet to depart this school year. In September, Chief of Schools Antonio Burt left the district to become the head of KIPP Memphis Public Schools, a network of five charter schools in the city. And Gerald Darling, the district’s chief of safety and security, announced his retirement in January.

Ray did not name a temporary or permanent successor for Phillips on Friday, but he lauded Phillips’ growth as a “key leader” of his cabinet since he became superintendent. After a career in journalism, Phillips joined the district as the deputy chief of communications in 2019, according to her LinkedIn profile, and she assumed the top communications role a year later.

In the news release, Ray highlighted several of Phillips’ accomplishments in the role, from her role in urgent communication and storytelling through the pandemic and her input in creating the district’s “Reimagining 901” strategic plan, to the district’s recent rebrand and her leadership in a restructure of the district’s communications office.

“We admire and will sincerely miss her fervor for storytelling and ability to authentically influence others to action,” Ray said in the release. “We’re pleased that she will remain in the community, carry on her advocacy for children, and continue her parental involvement in schools.”

Phillips’ last day at the district is May 27.

Samantha West is a reporter for Chalkbeat Tennessee, where she covers K-12 education in Memphis. Connect with Samantha at swest@chalkbeat.org.

The Latest

Too often, educators of color are tracked into disciplinary roles and tapped to lead equity efforts. I’ve been there.

A Chalkbeat analysis of Illinois campaign finance disclosure paperwork found a mix of small donations from family and friends, sizable personal loans, and both money and in-kind support from existing political groups.

Early voting has kicked off in Memphis, and five of the nine seats on Memphis-Shelby County Schools board are on the ballot on Aug. 1.

The pilot program will expand from six to eight school districts this school year.

Dr. Elisa Margarita, winner of a 2024 Math for America Muller Award, brings science to life at Brooklyn Tech, the nation’s largest high school.

Republicans want to cut funding for 'woke' schools, expand school choice, and end teacher tenure. Project 2025 takes these ideas to another level.