The Memphis-Shelby County School Board voted unanimously Tuesday to appoint Althea Greene as its new chair, as the district enters a crucial period.
Greene will succeed Michelle McKissack, whose two-year term as chair is ending. McKissack was reelected to the board in August, but recently announced that she is eyeing a run for Memphis mayor in 2023.
Greene, pastor of Real Life Ministries and owner of a catering company, was appointed to the board in 2019 by the Shelby County Commission. She spent 38 years as an educator in MSCS before retiring in 2018.
Greene will face an immediate challenge: leading a search for a new superintendent after the district spent more than $400,000 to buy out the contract of its scandal-plagued former superintendent, Joris Ray.
The superintendent search is set to begin next month.
The board leadership transition also comes at a time when Memphis students, like others across the nation, are grappling with pandemic learning losses, as well as the violence plaguing the city and the trauma that comes with that.
“That’s not the culture and climate we want for our students,” Greene told Chalkbeat on Sept. 8, after four people were killed and three injured during a teenager’s shooting rampage on the day before.
Ezekiel Kelly, 19, has been charged in connection with the slayings. The shooting spree, Greene said, was all that students were talking about at the schools she visited that day.
“We’re going to have to work together as elected officials to change that, and to make sure that we put the correct laws and the correct policies in place,” she said.
The board also voted unanimously to tap fellow board member Sheleah Harris as its new vice chair. Harris, also a former educator, is the founder of Living Grace, a nonprofit that serves homeless youth in Memphis.