Top MSCS administrator is suspended with pay pending investigation into complaint

A top Memphis-Shelby County Schools administrator has been put on paid administrative leave pending an investigation into an employee complaint.

The nature of the complaint against John Barker, deputy superintendent for strategic operations and finance, is unclear. In a statement shared with district employees and the media on Monday, interim Superintendent Toni Williams said the district investigates all complaints lodged against employees and would not comment further.

It is also unclear how long the inquiry will take. Until the investigation is resolved, Patrice Williams Thomas, the district’s chief of staff, will fill in for Barker.

Board Chair Michelle McKissack said Monday that Barker’s suspension was typical district protocol, and denied media reports that he was escorted off district property.

“This is not anything out of the ordinary or unusual,” McKissack said. “He acted accordingly when he was informed of it. There was no dramatic escorting out of the building. None of that.”

Barker could not be reached for comment. 

Barker’s suspension comes nearly three weeks after Joris Ray agreed to resign as superintendent of MSCS. Ray was on paid administrative leave over claims that he abused his power and violated district policies. During the investigation, Barker and fellow Deputy Superintendent Angela Whitelaw were serving as acting co-superintendents.

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

The Latest

Katy Anthes will lead a book study and offer private and small group coaching to help school district leaders and others tamp down heated rhetoric.

Researchers think there is potential for artificial intelligence to aid in identifying students who might have previously gone unrecognized.

The Illinois Workforce and Education Research Collaborative’s recent report found that 14% of students took at least one dual credit course in the 2021-22 school year.

In his first two years, New York City schools Chancellor David Banks has made literacy his focal point. Will budget cuts threaten his progress?

Board President and Vice President Reginald Streater and Mallory Fix-Lopez will remain in their roles for the time being. Mayor-elect Cherelle Parker could pick new board members.

Denver Public Schools is spending federal COVID money on a curriculum of mental health activities to help reduce students’ anxiety.