The Carroll County School Board announced that James “Jim” Ray has accepted the position and will begin January 1, 2020.
Current Superintendent Billy Joe Ferguson’s elected term will end on December 31, 2019. Ferguson has spent his entire 47-year career with the Carroll County School District, serving as principal of Vaiden High School for 21 years and another 20 years as superintendent of education. Ferguson said he was grateful to the staff, faculty, and teachers that he’s worked with, and he’s okay with the board’s decision not to appoint him superintendent after his elected term ends this year.
“I told them if they can find someone better for the job to hire him, and they did so I guess that means I have to go,” Ferguson said to the standing-room only crowd at last Thursday’s meeting of the Carroll County School Board. “But I’ve enjoyed working here. I’ve enjoyed working with the teachers and the students. I’ve been to 300 meetings, and this was the best one I’ve ever attended. I feel like James Brown I feel good!”
Ray is the current principal of East Webster High School in Cumberland. A native of Mantee, he’s been in education for 32 years. He’s worked in Mississippi for 30 years in Ackerman, Philadelphia, Neshoba Central, Louisville, Guntown, West Point and Noxapater in various positions, from a football coach to an assistant principal. He also worked two years in Ripley, Tenn., at Ripley High School.
According to a 2017 article in the Webster Progress-Times, after serving as principal at East Webster Elementary School, he was named principal at East Webster High School when then-principal Bill Brand took the superintendent position at the North Tippah School District.
“I’ve been to a few schools,” Ray said. “I’ve seen a variety of students from K through 12.”
He said he’s eager to take the knowledge he’s built over the years as an educator and implement that knowledge at the Carroll County School District.
“I’m looking forward to getting in there and getting my hands dirty. The first year will be an evaluation year. I want to evaluate and see what’s working and what’s not, see what needs fixing. We’re going to fix the things that need to be fixed and improve on the things that need to be improved.”
He said once he gets settled in, he’ll set goals and put plans into place.
“We’ll do that starting January 1,” he said. “We’re going to work on improving test scores and accountability.”
As the first appointed superintendent of Carroll County Schools, Ray said people are accustomed to Ferguson’s leadership in his many years with the district. Ray said he gets it because he’s currently going through the same thing at Webster County, who has its first appointed superintendent, Michael Jones.
“There will be a little growing pains, and we’ll have to do a little growing together. We’re going through the same thing here in Webster. We have our first appointed superintendent since they did away with elected superintendents. So, I know it’ll be different for some, but we’ll work our way through it and it’ll all be fine.
Ray continued, “I’m just excited about having the opportunity to come there. I’m familiar with Carroll County and the history of Carroll County, even though I’m not from there. I think that it’s a great opportunity for me and it’ll be good for Carroll County.”
He said the direction he wants to go, is up. “We want to improve test scores, our accountability score, and give educational opportunities to the students of Carroll County. That’s the biggest thing is seeing to the needs of students.”