MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Shelby County Schools Superintendent Dr. Joris Ray announced a new initiative, focused on empowering African-American male students.
Several influential Mid-South leaders, including Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris, Sheriff Floyd Bonner and Memphis Police Director Mike Rallings, led a march of hundreds of young male students into the the National Civil Rights Museum Monday morning where Ray announced his initiative.
"Now is a time. We can't wait. We can't afford to wait," Ray said.
Ray said while he will fight for the success of all SCS students, his new initiative, “African-American Male Empowerment,” is designed to interrupt destructive patterns in education that hinder young black boys and lead to low attendance rates, low graduation rates, low test scores and poverty.
Ray said it aligns with five of his "Seven Next Steps Toward Destination 2025," which focuses on equity, social emotional learning, culture building alignment of resources and servant leadership. Ray said when he heard about a young student killed over a video game, he realized something had to change.
"I wanted to blame someone. Then, I started to reflect on what am I doing about it," said Ray. "What am I doing about it?"
Ray’s initiative involves increasing access to rigorous coursework, reducing suspensions, recruiting more black men to teach kindergarten through fifth grade and providing more tutoring and mentoring.
The initiative also creates an equity office to keep everything on track. The office will be led by Dr. Michael Lowe, a former principal and teacher.
He said his experience in the classroom will help him in his new role.
“You have to have a passion and that was my passion trying to help our district get better and better,” said Lowe.
Lowe said other school districts around the country have similar initiatives. Students like Michai Mosby, an 11th-grader at Southwind High School, say they're excited about the possibilities the initiative could provide.
“I can be more than just what this world would think I would become. I can go on and be the next president of the United States if I want to,” said Mosby. “It just gives me a lot of choices. It shows me I can be more than what people think I can be.”