Gray and Purnell named NASS Superintendents of the Year

Dr. Gray mantra of “Building Stronger Schools Together” has taken the Jackson Public School District to new heights. He is widely praised for leadership and guidance that have revived the district and given it a new focus. He’s known for an innovative and effective strategic direction process: “Wearing WIGs (Wildly Important Goals), having FITs (Focused Instructional Teams), and saying ABCs (Attendance, Behavior, Coursework),” which applies a research-based focus to school improvement and student achievement.

Despite a high level of poverty in the district, his innovative approach to instruction is credited for increasing the number of high-performing and successful schools in the District with 5 designated in the top 10 percent in the State.

“I have understood the value of good relationships and the impact of having high quality, loyal professionals on your team,” Gray said in discussing collaboration with teachers, administrators, parents and members of the community. “The superintendent can’t always be the smartest person in the room. Good people that are committed and loyal are essential.”

Under his leadership, the district’s state and national accreditation status has been restored to “accredited” and “in good standing”. His approach to instruction is credited for increasing the number of high performing and successful schools in the district, with five designated in the top 10 percent in the state. The district is enjoying its first-ever 1:1 digital initiative, providing high school students with a laptop computer and/or access to personal computing devices. He was pivotal in establishing a citywide collaborative effort to improve educational opportunities.

Gray also understands the importance of district operations. Under his direction, there have been numerous improvements, including district email migration to the “cloud”, the Food Service department received federal recognition for all 38 elementary schools, money saving green maintenance and energy management programs, as well as the hiring of 450 new certified teachers.

In addition, the district converted to online student registration for the first and Jackson’s operational and instructional management developed the district’s first-ever Balanced Score Card to showcase these achievements.

His love for students has been readily apparent. Students in Jackson Public Schools now have opportunities for their voices to be heard, with a Student Board of Trustees, a Student Gallup Poll and an exit survey of high school seniors for their feedback. The inaugural student board helped craft the district’s first ever “Cell Phone” Policy which allows digital technology on high school campuses with responsible use.

“Today’s superintendent is a motivator, innovator, and visionary responsible for district progress, community engagement, positive board relations, as well as district employee morale and scholar academic performance and achievement,” he said. “Oftentimes we are also a counselor, doctor, pastor, legislative aide, and statesmen. We have to be truly multifaceted.”