Superintendent Joris Ray announced hires for four of the five remaining top leadership posts for Shelby County Schools on Monday.
Ray named Yolanda Martin as chief of human resources, Genard Phillips as chief of business operations, Lakshmi Visvanathan as chief information officer, and Tutonial “Toni” Williams as chief of finance. Martin and Phillips are internal hires, Visvanathan is coming to the district from a private corporation, and Williams rejoined the district five weeks ago as the interim chief of finance. Each will report to John Barker, the district’s deputy superintendent.
That leaves open the chief of schools position, which Sharon Griffin left in 2018 to lead the state-run Achievement School District. Angela Whitelaw, now deputy superintendent, temporarily filled that role until earlier this year.
Ray, whom the school board named superintendent in April after abandoning a national search, described each of the hires as “consummate professionals who will undoubtedly move the needle for Shelby County Schools as we seek to implement academic equity.
“I’m building a team of innovators who must be bold and courageous in ensuring operational effectiveness in the district. These servant leaders are ready for the next challenge and will be instrumental in the alignment of resources and building culture at Shelby County Schools,” Ray said in a statement.
Ray’s 16-member cabinet is larger than the leadership team under former superintendent Dorsey Hopson, though fewer staffers report directly to Ray. Below is a list of the new cabinet members, their salaries, their duties, and their backstory provided by the district.
Yolanda Martin, chief of human resources
Duties: Handles recruiting and retaining employees as well as salaries and benefits.
Her story: Martin was most recently deputy chief of human resources and has held various positions during her 14 years with Memphis City Schools and then Shelby County Schools, including teacher, assistant principal, principal, and principal coach. She was a principal of the year finalist in 2016 while at Downtown Elementary School. She has also led developing the district’s strategic plan for staffing and teacher retention. Martin is a Central High School graduate and U.S. Navy veteran. She earned a master’s degree in education administration from Texas A&M University.
Genard Phillips, chief of business operations
Duties: Oversees facilities planning and maintenance, nutrition services, district purchases and contracts, transportation, and risk management.
His story: Phillips was most recently the district’s director of facilities maintenance. Previously, he held senior operations management positions with Sony and Technicolor. Phillips earned a master’s degree in operations management from the University of Arkansas.
Lakshmi Visvanathan, chief information officer
Duties: Provides data systems for administrators and classroom technology for students and teachers. She will also take over the restart of a massive project to help the district’s computer systems talk to each other and automate some administrative tasks.
Her story: Visvanathan most recently served as senior vice president of information technology at the drugstore chain Fred’s Inc, which is headquartered in Memphis. She earned a master’s degree in business administration from Colorado State University.
Tutonial “Toni” Williams, chief of finance
Duties: Crafts and maintains the district’s budget, monitors spending, looks for new sources of revenue, and allocates money to the district’s nearly 200 schools.
Her story: Williams was named interim chief of finance last month. She previously worked with Shelby County Schools in various roles as a senior accountant, manager, and director of budget and accounting and reporting. Williams most recently served in the same role with Millington Municipal Schools, a neighboring suburban school district in Shelby County. She has held leadership and financial positions with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and as a financial analyst with Georgia corporations. She is a Whitehaven High School graduate and earned a master’s degree in accounting from Clark Atlanta University.
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