Memphis-Shelby County Schools is about to begin the search for its next leader, who will guide Tennessee’s largest district through a critical moment focused on pandemic recovery and rebuilding trust after former Superintendent Joris Ray’s resignation.

The MSCS board plans to officially launch the search next month, and will likely start accepting bids from search firms soon after, board Chair Michelle McKissack said Friday. 

A timeline hasn’t been set — that will be part of the search firm’s job — but McKissack said Friday she hopes the new chief will be in place by the end of this school year.

“I think it would be best for any incoming superintendent to have that running space of starting before the beginning of a new school year,” McKissack said.

In the meantime, Toni Williams, the district’s chief financial officer, is serving as interim superintendent.

The last time the board searched for a new superintendent, it abandoned a national search in favor of promoting Ray, a longtime district leader who’d been serving as interim superintendent for months. This time, board members have broadly expressed support for a national search. 

What do you think? Chalkbeat Tennessee wants to hear from you. 

What kind of leader do you think MSCS needs? What should their top priorities be? And should the next superintendent be a local person who knows the district well or someone who can bring an outsider’s perspective? 

Tell us your opinion in our survey below. Select responses will be published. (If you are having trouble viewing the form, please visit

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