Murley named finalist for Omaha job; Iowa City school board members concerned


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In the Iowa City School District, community members agree there is still work to be done.

This could become more challenging, following an announcement on Dec. 7 that Superintendent Steve Murley is a finalist for the superintendent job in the Omaha Public School District.

“I hope he chooses to stay here,” board member Sarah Swisher said. “This is a really critical time of the year; there’s an election coming up [to vote on a new revenue purpose statement], there’s work being done in schools … he has work to complete here.”

The finalists were announced on the heels of the School Board’s renewing Murley’s contract with the district until 2015 at its meeting last week. His current contract is set to expire in June 2013.

Murley’s newly approved salary is $192,000.

A new clause in the contract under the “Contract Termination” section stated the contract could be terminated without “penalty or prejudice against either the board or the superintendent.” 

This clause was not found in his previous contract with the district.

Community members and board members alike believe that if Murley is given the Omaha job, he would leave the district at a critical time — in the midst of approving a revenue purpose statement, a statement that would give the district a new way to spend its funds.

“With the [revenue purpose statement] about to go to vote, I think he should have withdrawn from the Omaha job,” community member Julie Van Dyke said. “He has responsibilities that this has interfered with.”

Shirley Tyree, an Omaha Public School Board member, said board members recruited the three candidates, and then each of the candidates applied for the position. She hopes the Omaha district will find a candidate who can “lead the community, work with the School District, work with legislators” and be similar to John Mackiel, a past Omaha district superintendent.

After Mackiel left in May, Nancy Sebring, then the Des Moines superintendent, was set to take over the Omaha position in July. But Sebring abruptly resigned from the Des Moines School District and later from her upcoming job in Omaha after sexually explicit emails sent from her work email had been uncovered, according to the Des Moines Register.

Murley is the only candidate from Iowa. The two other candidates — Carey Wright and Mark Evans, are from Washington, D.C., and Kansas, respectively.

Murley was unavailable for comment as of Sunday evening.

The Omaha district has been operating with an interim superintendent since August, and officials hope to hire a new superintendent as soon as possible.

The three candidates applying for the superintendent job will hold interviews with the Omaha School Board members; Murley’s interview will occur Tuesday.

In the end, the district hopes to move forward with what is important for Iowa City schools.

Iowa City School Board President Marla Swesey said in a statement she still wants to ensure that the Iowa City school students are having their education put first amid the uncertainty of Murley’s future with the district.

“The district board and administration, including Superintendent Murley, remain committed to ongoing district initiatives and ensuring that every child in the Iowa City School District is provided an excellent education,” she said.

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