With 31 years of experience in education, Dr. Greg Murry is in the beginning of his seventh year as superintendent of the Conway Public School District. Murry previously spent six years in the Pulaski County Special School District as a choral director and 25 years as an administrator in Ashdown, Springdale and now Conway. Last week, he answered questions in an interview with the Log Cabin Democrat on life in Conway, heading the area’s largest school district, and challenges in the new school year.
Log Cabin Democrat: What are your primary goals heading into the new school year, and how will they guide your decisions?
Greg Murry: Our goals are to successfully implement a new teacher evaluation model, to do the final work in implementing the Common Core State Standards, and to begin the creation of a leadership development program for those in our district who are interested in moving into an administrative position in our district. Every decision that we make is focused on the improvement of the education of our students. We believe that all three of these will do exactly that.
LCD: What are some of the greatest challenges facing the district in the 2013-14 year? And what are the greatest resources to overcome these challenges?
GM: A challenge that every school district has is how we as a district continue to support our great teaching staff with the resources and professional development they need to do their job well. We have a wonderful group of teachers and support staff who work very hard for the success of all students. But we must all continue to improve and meet the significant challenges that are before us. If any person in any profession is not growing in their skill set, they are dying. Another of our challenges is to reasonably manage the student growth that is occurring. We have enough classroom space for now but we must begin planning for our next elementary school and set a course for what we will do for other future construction.
LCD: “Superintendent” is one of those words everyone knows but most people don’t really understand beyond the idea that you run the place. What are the primary responsibilities of a superintendent? What’s a day in the life of Dr. Murry like?
GM: Leadership, managing, and advocacy are my primary responsibilities. There are a lot of balls in the air to juggle and a lot of projects or initiatives to work through on an ongoing basis. There really isn’t a “typical” day that I can describe because the challenges are new every day. My primary responsibility is that I’m responsible for everything including coordinating and directing the work of 1,150 employees. We are blessed to have a great leadership team that works together with me in such a great way to move our mission forward. We are equally blessed to have a School Board who has a strong commitment to providing a quality education for our students.
LCD: Because we’ve got to ask — what do you think about the hot-button issue of arming faculty and staff for the safety of the children? Is this something that has been considered or weighed?
GM: We have not discussed the idea of arming our faculty and staff. There are clearly some positive and negative opinions about doing so but we will not do so at this time.
LCD: Let’s get personal. Tell us about yourself.
GM: My wife, Karen, and I have been married for 34 years. She is absolutely the most wonderful person in the world and my best friend. We have two children. Whitney is a 1st grade teacher in Springdale and is married to Justin who works for Wal-Mart Corporate in Bentonville. Tyler is a computer programmer for JB Hunt in Springdale and is married to Loren who works for Sam’s Corporate in Bentonville. Last September, Whitney had our first grandchild, Cooper. Even at just 10 months, it is clear that he is a genius. I enjoy reading — especially about the presidents. I’m a member of Kiwanis and attend First Assembly of God in North Little Rock — the church in which I was raised.
LCD: What do you love about education?
GM: Without question, the kids. I love the look in their eyes as they get excited about learning. I love their sincerity. I love the challenge of helping them learn. I love the opportunity that educators have of making a difference in the life of a child.
LCD: How did you come to choose Conway Public Schools?
GM: Conway is a great place to be and I am very blessed to be here. The situations that brought me here were the position being open (of course), my father’s failing health and my need to be closer to Mom and Dad, and the providence of God. They all worked together for good for us to move to Conway.
LCD: Conway is a pretty sizeable school district. How many students, at how many schools, fall within the boundaries?
GM: We are expecting somewhere around 9800 students as school begins. We have 16 campuses: one Pre-K center, nine elementary schools, four middle schools, one junior high, and one high school.
LCD: What about the district are you most proud of as superintendent of Conway schools?
GM: I absolutely believe that the teachers, administrators and staff in this district are the finest. They come to work everyday with the purpose of making our district the very best it can be for our students. Their knowledge, commitment, dedication and energy are unmatched. They truly do whatever it takes.
(Megan is a staff writer and can be reached by phone at 501-505-1277 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Twitter @LCDOnline, @meganpreynolds.)