The Memphis-Shelby County Schools Board is seeking an external probe into “allegations of misconduct by MSCS Superintendent Dr Joris Ray.” And Ray responded after news of the review, stating the board has his complete cooperation. Dr Ray’s wife, the Tiffany, claims in court records obtained by ABC24 that he had extramarital affairs with three women, all of whose names appear to be those of MSCS workers, current or former. Court records also indicate Dr Ray acknowledged indulging in extramarital relationships.
It was decided to conduct a review during a late-night emergency meeting on Wednesday with legal counsel Herman Morris. Currently, the board is on the lookout for a neutral third party to carry out the investigation.
The board decided that Ray would stay on as superintendent while the review was going on, and that board member would then decide what should happen next.
‘We are focused on making sure that our community understands that we take these allegations very seriously and we are going to review and have our legal counsel ask all the questions, and look through all the documents to make sure that this is fair for all parties involved,’ said MSCS Board Chair Michelle McKissack.
The Board Said It “urges the Community Not to Jump to Judgment and to Allow Due Process to Play Out.”
Because of the public outcry, MSCS Board Vice-Chair Bishop Althea Greene said, “we want to reassure people that if the inquiry will find whether policies, ethics, the code or anything else was violated,” that is the review’s aim.
Those with Memphis LIFT – an organization typically critical of Dr Ray’s work – also backed conducting the review.
A spokesperson for Memphis LIFT praised the board of directors, saying, “I’m pleased that the board is listening to the people who elected them in and we have to accept whatever they find.”
What the Allegations Are
Board member meetings with Morris began Wednesday afternoon, McKissack said, once board members learned of claims presented against the superintendent in court pleadings of divorce records. It has been alleged that the superintendent had an extramarital affair with a long-serving district employee nearly two decades ago, who then signed a non-disclosure agreement about the connection, according to his wife Tiffany Ray, who is also employed by the district.
There are no dates listed in the filings for the beginning or end of any of the purported relationships.
The woman who Tiffany Ray says signed the NDA was hired in October 1997, about the same time as Joris Ray, documents show. It is unknown if either was in a supervisory position to the other.
He and his wife Tiffany Ray have worked for the district since 1997 when Joris was initially recruited. They married a year after that, in June 1999.
Divorce papers indicate the handwritten NDA letter was dated Jan. 9, 2004, and is the only particular date listed alongside specific names and charges.
Superintendent of Shelby County Schools Joris Ray talks at a state-of-the-district address Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2022, at the Hilton in Memphis.
If the school system has ever been aware of the NDA, it is not clear when or how. Employees are required by district policy to disclose any relationships that exist between their manager and a person who is either a direct or indirect report. It is unknown how or if this policy differed at the time.
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Additionally, documents show that the defendant is accused of having an affair with a former school district employee, although the pleadings do not identify when the relationship began. The Commercial Appeal could not locate any past employment at the school system for the third woman listed in the pleadings for an alleged affair.
Supt. Ray Also Published a Statement
Recently, some have watched as a personal family situation has played out publicly. Divorce is a difficult process. I’ve retained the services of a law firm with which I’ve been working on a personal matter. My focus is on the kids, teachers, employees, and families of Memphis-Shelby County Schools. I know that our School Board is similarly focused on ensuring the efficiency of our District and the well-being of our children and staff, and they have my complete cooperation in those endeavours.
I am well aware, in my capacity as Memphis-Shelby County Schools’ superintendent, that the School Board, community members, and the media closely monitor my public acts. As a matter of principle, I aim to represent the District, instructors, staff, students, and parents with integrity and professionalism.
I am aware that on rare occasions, the personal and professional aspects of a public figure’s life overlap. In this case, allegations raised in my private divorce process have been made public and are being debated outside the bounds of the legal system. As such, I’d like to communicate to this Board, the education community, and the public that I am convinced that my private acts have not broken any rules of behaviour nor breached any regulations.
I understand that the Board of Education must investigate complaints of policy infractions, and I look forward to a thorough examination of my adherence to the rules of Memphis-Shelby County Schools. I pledge to assist the investigators in any manner that I can. To the extent that my personal life has become an unnecessary diversion from the important academic work I still have to do, I sincerely regret it. I shall refrain from the further public remark on the topic.