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Here’s who Joris Ray is leaning on to lead Memphis schools — and how much they are paid

The governing body for Shelby County Schools made it official Tuesday, approving a four-year contract for Superintendent Joris Ray. His leadership team, however, remains in flux.

Since Ray became interim superintendent in mid-January, five top leaders have resigned, have been fired, or are expected to leave the district soon. He was named the district permanent leader in April, replacing former Superintendent Dorsey Hopson.

Of the 10 cabinet members who remain from the previous administration, six cabinet members received raises since the beginning of the calendar year — increases ranging from about 4% to 31%, according to district data. The other four did not receive raises.

Ray’s cabinet, with its 16 members, is larger than the leadership team under Hopson — though fewer report directly to Ray. Three members of the superintendent’s leadership team are new hires, including a high-profile hire from County Mayor Lee Harris’s cabinet as chief of staff, starting in August, and a former principal, starting next week in Ray’s former post.

The five cabinet positions that are vacant or will be soon are: Chief of Schools, Chief Financial Officer, Chief of Business Operations, Chief of Information Technology, and Chief of Human Resources. (Chief of Human Resources Trinette Small’s resignation is effective Sunday and John Barker, the district’s chief of staff, will take over Lin Johnson’s duties as deputy superintendent when Johnson leaves the district next month.)

Below is a list of Ray’s cabinet members, their salaries, how much their salaries have changed since January if they previously worked for the district, their duties, and their backstory. Some have taken on new or expanded roles under Ray.


Angela Whitelaw, deputy superintendent of schools and academic support

PHOTO: Laura Faith Kebede/Chalkbeat
Angela Whitelaw

Salary: $193,800
Salary percentage change since January: 19%
Duties: Oversees schools and academic support, which includes supervising family and community engagement, research, and Ray’s former position in academic operations.
Her story: Whitelaw served as interim Chief of Schools after Sharon Griffin left in 2018 to run the state-run district. Hopson promoted Whitelaw in 2014 to one of three assistant superintendents, and she had previously served as the principal at Westhaven Elementary School. She has also coached principals. Ray promoted Whitelaw earlier this year to deputy superintendent.

Lin Johnson, deputy superintendent of finance and operations

PHOTO: Caroline Bauman
Lin Johnson

Salary: $193,800
Salary percentage change since January: None
Duties: Oversees business operations, human resources, information technology, and finance. The chiefs of those departments no longer directly report to the superintendent.
His story: Hopson hired Johnson in 2015 as the district’s chief of finance. Previously, Johnson was Director of Special Initiatives for the Tennessee Department of Education and Director of Finance and Operations for the District of Columbia Public Charter School Board. Johnson is set to leave the district next month to pursue a doctorate at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Antonio Burt, chief academic officer

PHOTO: Caroline Bauman
Antonio Burt

Salary: $178,500
Salary percentage change since January: 6%
Duties: Creates goals for schools, trains and recruits teachers and principals, and oversees strategy to meet state academic requirements.
His story: Burt was an early principal in Shelby County Schools’ Innovation Zone program for low-performing schools. Pinellas County Schools, just outside Tampa, Florida, then hired Burt to lead a new “transformation zone,” which, similar to the iZone model, provides extra resources to struggling schools. Soon after Sharon Griffin was promoted to Chief of Schools in early 2017, Burt returned to Memphis to lead the iZone. Hopson promoted Burt to Chief Academic Officer in September.


Jennifer Ervin, chief general counsel

PHOTO: Shelby County Schools
Jennifer Ervin

Salary: $173,400
Salary percentage change since January: None
Duties: Oversees legal compliance, represents the district in lawsuits, and gives legal advice to the cabinet.
Her story: Ervin joined the district in July 2016 as deputy general counsel. Previously, she worked in the Atlanta office for the law firm of Baker Donelson, the same firm representing Shelby County Schools in the district’s funding lawsuit with the state.

John Barker, chief of staff

PHOTO: Laura Faith Kebede/Chalkbeat
John Barker

Salary: $170,000
Salary percentage change since January: N/A. Ray hired Barker in February.
Duties: Oversees superintendent initiatives, supervises other chiefs and their departments, connects school-level staff to central office decision-making, cultivates relationships with local governing bodies, and handles day-to-day emergencies.
His story: Barker was the former chief of staff for Memphis City Schools under former superintendent Kriner Cash. He then went on to do consulting work, including for school districts. When deputy superintendent Lin Johnson leaves next month, Barker will take over his duties.

Patrice Williamson-Thomas, chief of staff, effective Aug. 5

PHOTO: The Commercial Appeal
Patrice Williamson-Thomas

Salary: Unavailable
Salary percentage change since January: N/A. Thomas starts in August.
Duties: Same as above
Her story: Thomas is the county’s chief administrative officer, overseeing the day-to-day operations of county government under new County Mayor Lee Harris. Previously, Thomas was appointed by four other mayors to serve in various roles with the City of Memphis. She was the city’s youngest and first African-American comptroller, deputy director of public works, and deputy chief operating officer, according to a district announcement Wednesday. Her last day with the county is July 25 and she will start her new role on Aug. 5.

Gerald Darling, chief of safety, security, and student support

Gerald Darling, center

Salary: $169,793.28
Salary percentage change since January: None
Duties: Leads security teams and prevention programs around truancy, gang involvement, violence, as well as sports, medical, and emergency services for schools.
His story: Darling was chief of police for Miami-Dade Schools from 2004 to 2008, when former Memphis City Schools Superintendent Kriner Cash hired him to lead the district’s security division, a new cabinet post at the time.

Brad Leon, chief of strategy and performance management

PHOTO: Laura Faith Kebede/Chalkbeat
Brad Leon

Salary: $163,863
Salary percentage change since January: None
Duties: Oversees charter schools, school accountability and testing, and planning and research.
His story: Leon started out with Teach For America as a middle school teacher at a New Orleans charter school, where he was voted Teacher of the Year in 2002. He went on to become a regional vice president at Teach For America and the first regional executive director of TFA in Memphis from 2006 to 2010. He joined Hopson’s cabinet in 2013 to lead the district’s innovation department. He no longer directly reports to the superintendent.

Leon Pattman, chief of internal audit

PHOTO: Shelby County Schools
Leon Pattman

Salary: $163,200
Salary percentage change since January: 9%
Duties: Evaluates processes, monitors operations, and leads risk management strategies.
His story: Pattman came to Shelby County Schools in 2015 from the City of Memphis, where he was the chief audit executive. He has held roles in finance, compliance, auditing and information management with the U.S. Treasury and U.S. Air Force.

Lori Phillips, chief of student, family, and community affairs

PHOTO: Laura Faith Kebede/Chalkbeat
Lori Phillips

Salary: $163,200
Salary percentage change since January: 31%
Duties: Oversees parent engagement and the district’s army of volunteers, church and business adopters, and community partners.
Her story: Phillips was the founding principal of Memphis’ first community school, which aims to meet students’ social and family needs, as well as their academic ones. Spreading the model to other schools was part of her promotion in February 2018. Ray recently made Phillips a member of the cabinet.

Trinette Small, chief of human resources

PHOTO: Laura Faith Kebede/Chalkbeat
Trinette Small

Salary: $163,200
Salary percentage change since January: 4%
Duties: Handles recruiting and retaining employees, as well as salaries and benefits.
Her story: Small is set to leave the district next week for a private-sector job. She held this job since the creation of Shelby County Schools following the merger of city and county schools in 2013 and has worked for the Memphis district for 15 years.

Natalia Powers, chief of communications

PHOTO: Shelby County Schools
Natalia Powers

Salary: $163,000
Salary percentage change since January: 10%
Duties: Oversees internal and external communications, media relations, digital and print publications, social media, television and radio broadcasting services.
Her story: Hopson hired Powers in 2016, after she climbed the ranks in Palm Beach, Florida, working there as translator and interpreter, teacher of English language learners, program coordinator, and head of communications and community engagement.

Shawn Page, chief of academic operations and school support

Salary: Unavailable
Salary percentage change since January: N/A. Page will start next week.
Duties: Creates the district’s calendar, oversees student registration and transfers, trains principals on non-academic school operations, and spearheads the summer checklist for opening schools in August.
His story: Page is the district director of exceptional children and health services and was formerly the principal at White Station Middle School.

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