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School Board interviews second finalist for superintendent

BY HOLLY HINES | APRIL 22, 2010 7:30 AM

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Stephen Murley said it’s important to come into the Iowa City School District with “your ears open and your mouth shut.”

He said if he is chosen as the next superintendent, he will first listen to see what issues community members and students raise. Then, he’d begin looking for solutions.

On Wednesday, School Board members interviewed Murley, the current superintendent of the Wausau School District in Wisconsin, to fill the position in Iowa City.

Murley, who has been superintendent in Wausau for five years, said he’s been through many challenges similar to those district officials face in Iowa City.

At a time when redistricting has fueled an ongoing and heated debate in Iowa City, Murley said he prefers to bring resources to students in need rather than moving those students to different schools.

Tracking the number of students receiving free or reduced lunches is only one of many ways to tackle demographics concerns, he said. It’s also important to look into issues regarding literacy and ways to help students who speak English as a second language.

At his interview Wednesday night, board members asked him questions regarding topics such as how he’d respond to parent complaints.

Murley said he’d be sure to pinpoint to whom each complaint should be addressed and facilitate a conversation between both parties if necessary. Meanwhile, Dale Lawson, president of the Wausau School Board, said Murley has been instrumental in several district initiatives, such as creating a charter school for at-risk kids.

But some in Wausau have raised concerns regarding Murley.

Lawson said in December 2009 and January 2010, some teachers issued complaints to the board regarding Murley. He noted, however, that the Wausau School Board has complete confidence in Murley’s abilities.

During the interview in Iowa City, board members asked him to explain the issue. He said teachers issued the complaints when he increased their workloads in a response to budget cuts, and he said the issue has largely been resolved.

At the meet-and-greet prior to the interview, several community members said their first impressions of Murley were positive.

The principal of Lemme Elementary, John Bacon, who was recently recommended for the position of City High principal, said he was very impressed to find Murley was familiar with the district.

“This guy has had to prepare quite a bit,” he said.

At the interview, board members also asked Murley to explain his long-term career objectives.
Murley said he is looking for an opportunity that will challenge him and a district he’d be happy to stay in for a long time.

“I think that nexus exists in Iowa City,” he said.

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