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FWPS Superintendent Tom Murphy announces his retirement

Tom Murphy, superintendent of Federal Way schools, announced his retirement Oct. 13. - Andy Hobbs/The Mirror
Tom Murphy, superintendent of Federal Way schools, announced his retirement Oct. 13.
— image credit: Andy Hobbs/The Mirror

It's the end of an era at Federal Way Public Schools — the end of the Murphy era.

Superintendent Tom Murphy, after more than a decade at the top position in the school district, announced his retirement Oct. 13. Murphy said that after 42 years in the education field, he felt this was the best time to step down.

"During my 22 years in Federal Way, I have enjoyed the support of some wonderful members of our school board, people whose only agenda was improving the lives of all of our children," said Murphy, 64. "I couldn't be more proud of what we have accomplished together."

Murphy gave general thanks to many, but saved his one mention of thanks to his wife, Rosemary Murphy, and teared up while speaking of her.

"I would be remiss if I did not thank the one person who has made all the difference for more than 40 years," Murphy said. "My wife, Rosemary, my partner and best friend."

Several others spoke at the announcement Tuesday at Federal Way High School, including interim city manager Brian Wilson.

"I can't say enough about Tom," Wilson said. "He brings people together. He has a vision and he brings out the best in people...I'm excited about the next chapter in your life."

Murphy said he did not know for sure what would come next for him.

"It's like standing on a corner waiting for a bus with the right headline on it," Murphy said. "We'll wait to see what that bus looks like."

Murphy will finish the school year before retiring.

He also added that there will be no "lame duck" waiting period, and that the district will continue on as focused as ever.

Federal Way is the eighth largest district in the state, with 23 elementary schools, seven middle schools and five high schools. There are almost 22,000 students in the district.

Murphy began in the district in 1988, and was appointed superintendent in 1999.

The search for a new superintendent will include four "listening sessions" at each of the high schools, an advisory committee and a search firm. The board will announce the new superintendent in May, and that person would take over in July.

Under Superintendent Murphy, the school district has improved the achievement gap. Standard and Poor's named Federal Way, Thomas Jefferson and Todd Beamer high schools among 51 schools in the nation that had narrowed the achievement gap. Federal Way was the first in the state to open Internet-based instruction to students in 1996. Federal Way High School opened the first Cambridge Program on the West Coast.

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