Dr. Joris Ray

Dr. Joris M. Ray
Dr. Joris M. Ray has served Memphis-Shelby County Schools (MSCS) during one of the most challenging times in the history of education. The COVID-19 pandemic sparked immense difficulties that threatened the institution of conventional learning. Dr. Ray’s innovative leadership has catapulted MSCS into the national spotlight as a district breaking barriers inside the classroom and the community. Under Dr. Ray’s direction, MSCS was one of the first districts to shutter schools in Tennessee, ensuring the safety of educators and students – essentially saving lives across Shelby County. In a historic vote by the Shelby County Board of Education, as a recommendation by Dr. Ray, the District distributed more than 95,000 laptops in a record eight weeks. By closing the digital divide, Dr. Ray reinforced the District’s unwavering commitment to providing high-quality education regardless of zip code.
As part of his legacy to reimagine and reclaim the identity of the District, Dr. Ray introduced a renaming proposal that reflected the MSCS geographic location and the families served. In January 2022, the Shelby County Board of Education approved Dr. Ray's recommendation to change Shelby County Schools to Memphis-Shelby County Schools. A courageous leader dedicated to implementing Academic Equity in Action, Dr. Ray continues to place a laser-like focus on removing all barriers that hinder student success.

Early Career 

The youngest of seven children, Dr. Ray is a product of Shelby County Schools (Whitehaven High School). Although his parents did not complete a formal education, Dr. Ray has beaten the odds – earning a Doctorate in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies from The University of Memphis. He is a 2019 graduate of the Harvard Institute for Superintendents as well as the 2017 Atlantic Research Partners’ National Superintendents Academy. Dr. Ray has diligently served the District for more than 23 years in the roles of Chief of Academic Operations and School Support, Assistant Superintendent of Academic Operations and School Support, Director of Alternative Schools, coordinator (principal), assistant principal and teacher. He has played a critical role in building a culture of success in the multi-faceted landscape of the District’s operations.

Servant Leadership

Dr. Ray's motto for all children is “Dream, Stand, Believe, and Achieve with Courage.” He has been instrumental in improving the lives and academic futures of thousands of Shelby County Schools students, no matter which neighborhood they call home. Dr. Ray’s public education investment is indicative of his forward-thinking attitude and strong sense of responsibility to ensure the development of productive citizens for the future of Memphis and Shelby County.

His leadership has encompassed several specialized areas that work in concert to aid in the streamlining of strong operational practices and academic equity to provide critical support to schools and central office administration. Under his direction, the Parent Welcome Center, created to improve customer service, has become a central location for families in need of bilingual assistance and information on District services and programs. In addition, he has continued to be instrumental in the success of the Alternative Education Program, which offers a non-traditional path to success designed to meet the educational, behavioral, and social needs of students. He pioneered work in this area which transformed the approach of the Alternative Schools Program creating a long-lasting impact.


Immediately following his entry into the role of Superintendent in January of 2019, Dr. Ray placed a laser-like focus on inequities that hinder the success of students. Some examples include:

  • African American Male Empowerment: In July 2019, Dr. Ray launched the African American Male Empowerment to help bridge the achievement gap and eliminate explicit and implicit bias in schools. 
  • The 3rd Grade Commitment plan ensures students have the necessary reading skills to be successful before they reach the third grade while equipping community stakeholders with resources to better support the children of Memphis and Shelby County. 
  • The Universal Screener Assessment, a game-changing process implemented in Fall 2019, now ensures all students have an opportunity to be properly identified for the Creative Learning in a Unique Environment (CLUE) program. 
  • Access for All: Following a historic vote during a special called meeting on Monday, the Shelby County Schools (SCS) Board of Education approved Dr. Ray's 1:1 digital device planthat puts more 95,000+ new devices in the hands of every student at SCS. Internet access (mobile hotspots) will be provided to approximately 25 percent of families who expressed a need based on the District's recent access survey. Superintendent Ray shared an updated presentation with the Board, including a sustainability model that follows recommendations from the Digital Access Advisory Committee, consisting of internal and external stakeholders.