News

School superintendent sailing along

By ELIZABETH CIEPIELA

Staff writer

Federal Way Public Schools superintendent Tom Murphy received praise and a contract extension from the School Board, his employer, during his mid-year evaluation.

“As far as the board is concerned, he’s doing an excellent job for the district,” board president Ed Barney said. “He’s trying to meet all the NCLB (federally regulated No Child Left Behind) guidelines.”

Board members base their review of the superintendent on two major benchmarks: Overall district performance, which makes up 60 percent of the evaluation, and professional competence (40 percent).

District performance encompasses student performance, as measured by WASL (Washington Assessment of Student Learning) and ITBS (Iowa Test of Basic Skills) standardized test results. The measurement also includes staff excellence and fiscal responsibility.

During the Feb. 25 review, which came in the middle of the 2003-04 school year, the board formally decided to hold the Murphy’s annual review in September — after WASL results are released in October. Murphy is ultimately responsible for implementing plans that will raise student standardized test results.

Professional competence examines how well Murphy meets the district’s vision, takes accountability, implements plans to support district goals, establishes effective community relations, and rates leadership skills.

Like Barney, Federal Way Education Association president Michael Comstock said Murphy excels in networking, community relations and interpersonal communication skills.

“I find Tom Murphy highly respected by both his colleagues, his immediate administrators below him and by a vast majority of teachers in the school district,” Comstock said. “He has an openness about him, he’s available. He deals with problems and takes care of them. He has a loyalty among the people who work with him.”

Comstock, head of the local teachers union, added Murphy is a fair, open-minded and personable leader.

In addition to his district performance and personal competence-related responsibilities, Murphy has weathered challenges in the past year, including last spring’s $6.4 million budget shortfall, the opening of Todd Beamer High School at the current school year’s beginning, and the board’s recent re-examination of whether to build a $17 million middle school approved by voters in a 1999 resolution.

Barney said Murphy has met those additional challenges well.

The superintendent is hired on a three-year rolling contract. The contract contains a clause that allows the board, at the mid-year performance review, to extend it by one year. Satisfied with Murphy’s work, the board did just that and Murphy’s contract is now effective until June 30, 2007.

Board member Charlie Hoff said Murphy has “a very difficult job and he works at it very well.”

Hoff added that some of Murphy’s visions match his own, including the need for vocational skills training in high school. A vocational program is being created at Thomas Jefferson High School, where a construction apprenticeship program is scheduled to begin in time for the start of the 2004-05 school year.

Barney said Murphy does an excellent job of immediately informing teachers, staff and parents about district events. But, Barney added, the superintendent needs to develop a plan to inform board members of current events with the same quick turnaround time.

Murphy is working on such a plan, Barney said, and will present it to the board during an executive (closed to the public) session.

The board reviews the superintendent’s performance twice a year — a mid-year evaluation in February or March and an annual evaluation in the autumn, during which Murphy will be eligible for a salary increase. He now makes $147,025 annually.

Staff writer Elizabeth Ciepiela: 925-5565, eciepiela@fedwaymirror.com

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