Now that Joris Ray has been named Shelby County Schools superintendent, an alliance of ministers is ready to step up to help him help the children.
Two groups of ministers – the Memphis Baptist Ministerial Association and the Progressive Baptist Church Council of Memphis – endorsed Ray for the position, which he held on an interim basis following the resignation of Dorsey Hopson.
With the ministers among an electric crowd at the Shelby County Schools Board Auditorium Tuesday night, Ray drew the unanimous support of the SCS board.
The Rev. Dr. L. LaSimba M. Gray Jr., pastor emeritus of New Sardis Baptist Church, said the ministers reviewed Ray’s candidacy, choosing to endorse him based on his credentials and the continuity that would benefit the system with his selection.
“He has been the chief academic officer for the last six years. He has proven his ability as an academician. Also, he knows what will work and what will not work in Memphis,” said Gray. “When we bring an outside superintendent in, normally we end up going back to the one-yard line instead of moving toward a goal. …”
The ministers, said Gray, have “pledged and proposed to him (Ray) that we organize a covenant between every school and the churches within that community. … In that relationship you will have mentoring, you will have visible men on the campus where the school and the church would interchangeably use their resources for the good of the students.”
The next step, said Gray, is for Ray to hear a formal presentation on how to bring such a partnership into being.
“If he sees fit to make it happen, the implementation would be that each school would be adopted by the churches,” Gray said. “The model is already at Highland Oaks Elementary School. It just hasn’t been adopted system wide. I see a win-win situation in that.”
Ray, said Gray, exudes compassion for the children.
“He keeps saying that children are No. 1 in his administration…and after the children, the teachers. A lot of times, people see teachers as part of an organized labor movement. He sees them as a tool in the process of educating children. He sees them as an integral part in impacting children and their learning.”
Ray is committed and not likely to leave the post for “a few more dollars,” said Gray. “He said he is here to see 2025 become the year that the school system is completely turned around.”