Ray calls literacy biggest challenge as SCS students head back to school

8,000 students registered in SCS so far

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Summer break is over.

Students at Shelby County Schools rolled out of bed and headed back to class Monday.

They found folks like Denise Williams-Greene ready to greet them like rock stars.

"I want them to know that they are a jewel. They can be whatever they want to be," said Williams-Greene, president of the Melrose High School alumni association and longtime school volunteer. "We want them to know that they are somebody. We don't want anyone to make them feel like they are less than anybody else."

SCS superintendent Dr. Joris Ray hopped on a bus to join in on the celebration. He and other SCS leaders also visited several schools and classrooms throughout the district.

"It's very important for the superintendent to be visible. You expect what you inspect," said Ray.

This is Ray's first full school year as superintendent and he's already got a big to-do list, including implementing a new reading policy called Third Grade Commitment.

"If your child isn't reading by third grade, it's very difficult for them to succeed," said Ray.

TN Ready test scores show three out of four SCS third graders can’t read at grade level.

SCS policy could hold back more 2nd graders

Under the new policy, second graders could be held back if they’re not on a third-grade reading level by the end of the school year.

"That's why it's so important for our parents to read, read, read...every night," said Ray. "So, that's the biggest challenge that we're facing here in Shelby County Schools."

It’s also the biggest opportunity to make a positive difference in young lives.

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