Letters to the Editor

Tom Murphy is our John Wooden | Federal Way letters

As reported in the June 30 Federal Way Mirror, Thomas Murphy retired after spending 42 years in education including 22 years as the assistant superintendent and superintendent of the Federal Way Public Schools. In my three careers that have also spanned 42 years, I have worked for a lot of people, but none of them were even close to Superintendent Murphy.

Tom Murphy took the place of Superintendent Tom Vander Ark, who resigned in 1999 to work for the Bill Gates Foundation. From day one, he was committed to the goal “all means all,” and to accomplish that goal, he had to find a way – and he did – to “accomplish more with less” as each year, thanks to our Legislature, he was faced with budget revenue shortfalls.

To use an analogy: Recently we lost the greatest college basketball coach of all time, John Wooden, who set records that no one will ever eclipse. If there ever was a “perfect individual,” he was it, and when people who knew him best spoke of his attributes, it was more about the man than the coach.

If there is one person in our community who is our “John Wooden,” my vote would go to Tom Murphy. Let me give you one perfect example. Despite his very busy schedule, he agreed to come and speak to a group of seniors from an organization I belong to. Everyone who attended that meeting was impressed not only by his message, but the fact that he took time out to come and talk to them. Another thing that school district staff enjoyed was his weekly e-mails on various subjects relating to education. They were both informative, insightful and thought-provoking. Many times, he would ask thought-provoking questions that had no “right answer.” My only regrets are the funding revenue shortfall issue did not get resolved during his tenure — and in my opinion, it would have if the State Supreme Court had ruled properly on our lawsuit — and that Murphy can’t run for mayor of Federal Way because, in my opinion, he is the “perfect candidate.” He is a pillar in our community as he has also served in other positions besides the school superintendent.

In closing, I would like to quote what someone said about John Wooden because it applies to Tom Murphy as well: “His enduring legacy as a role model is one we should all strive to emulate.” In other words, our new superintendent has some mighty big shoes to fill. Thank you, Mr. Murphy, for all you have done for our school district and enjoy your retirement!

Gary Robertson, Federal Way

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