SHELBY CO., Tenn. (WMC) - Shelby County Schools Superintendent Dr. Joris Ray is asking the community to be change champions. In SCS’s first-ever State of the District, Ray said the district needs resources-- both monetary and good word of mouth.
“Change champions are the people who serve as fierce advocates on behalf of our children,” Ray said. Ray said being a change champion comes in many forms. First there are resources. Ray said the district's biggest hurdle is the budget.
“Research tells us Memphis spending 26% less in education than the national average,” Ray said.
“That was eye-opening so he really shared a lot of data and laid down a challenge for all of us to participate,” Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris said.
Ray said being a change champion is more than money. It's good word of mouth.
“Often times we hear negative things about our school district and we have so many positive things in this school district,” Ray said.
One of those positive stories is that of Hickory Ridge fifth grade teacher David Jaimson who got national attention for high fiving and giving handshakes to every student every day. Ray said a focus of SCS is retaining quality teachers and mentors
“If you ask a student what they want to be when they grow up they say they want to be an athlete or the next Lebron James,” Jamison said. “It makes my heart smile when they say I want to be the next dope educator.” Ray said the district's number one focus is literacy.
“Twenty-seven percent of third-grade students read on grade level,” Ray said. With half a billion dollars in deferred maintenance, Ray said some kids are sitting in classrooms falling apart, and sometimes their home lives are not much better. They’re both signs that a collective effort will improve a student’s performance inside and outside the classroom.
“We have some of the poorest zip codes in the nation right here in Memphis and Shelby County,” Ray said. “It takes resources to provide world-class education. I’m still honored to serve as superintendent where I once was a student.”