Marblehead's Nan Murphy Selected as Superintendent of Dedham
The Dedham School Committee voted unanimously on Wednesday night, January 18, 2023, to offer the position of Superintendent of Schools to Nan Murphy, current Assistant Superintendent of Schools in Marblehead. As reported earlier this month, Murphy was previously a finalist for Superintendent in Milton, Massachusetts, but was not ultimately selected for the role. In Dedham, Murphy was chosen as a finalist along with four other candidates. Pending successful contract negotiations, Murphy will begin serving as Superintendent in Dedham effective July 1, 2023.
This leaves the position of Assistant Superintendent in Marblehead vacant. While hiring for this position is the responsibility of Marblehead Superintendent John Buckey, Interim Superintendent Bill McAlduff–when he was seeking to fill the position previously–created a search committee to interview candidates and provide guidance. The committee consisted of administrators, teachers, parents, community leaders, and then Superintendent-elect Buckey. Ultimately, Buckey made the decision to hire Murphy in 2020.
Prior to accepting the Assistant Superintendent position in Marblehead, Murphy had been seeking a Superintendent role. In 2020, before she was hired in Marblehead, Murphy was a finalist for Superintendent roles in Bedford, Northbridge, and Gloucester. In 2022, while serving in Marblehead, she was a finalist in Marlborough. This year, she was a finalist in Milton and Dedham before ultimately being offered the Dedham position.
Murphy’s tenure in Marblehead has witnessed some significant controversies. Performance on the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) has declined significantly compared to comparable districts. In her role spearheading Marblehead’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives, Murphy saw her efforts to bring on board a full-time DEI staff member for the district thwarted when the community voted by more than a two-to-one margin against a Proposition 2½ override that would have funded the position.
Murphy also oversaw a revamping of the report card system used in kindergarten through sixth grades in Marblehead. The new report cards being used this year evaluate students using four indicators that represent whether or not they are effectively meeting the established minimum standards, using the letters M, P, B, and N to designate “meeting,” “progressing toward meeting,” “beginning to progress toward meeting,” and “not yet demonstrating progress toward meeting” the basic grade-level requirements. In replacing the previously used 4, 3, 2, and 1 designations, the new system eliminates the “advanced” designation that students could previously earn by demonstrating skills beyond expectations for their grade level in a particular subject. While Murphy and Buckey indicated in an earlier interview with Marblehead Beacon that these changes were implemented at the request of teachers, a number of senior teachers reacted with surprise to this statement, as they were either not involved in the decision-making process or had expressed their reservations about the changes.
In addition, at Marblehead High School, there has been an increasing focus on deleveling classes, which involves placing a larger range of students at varying ability levels in a single classroom. Social Studies and English classes were partially deleveled for this school year, and further deleveling at Marblehead High School is anticipated for Math and Science in the 2023-2024 academic year.
Prior to accepting the Assistant Superintendent position in Marblehead, Murphy served for eight years in the Lowell Public School District, an urban school district traditionally serving a large percentage of students struggling with basic proficiency. She served first as an elementary school principal and later as Director of Accountability and School Improvement, during which time she received praise for her efforts to improve outcomes, including moving her school out of its previous ranking in the bottom twenty percent of Massachusetts districts.
Some of the controversies surrounding Murphy’s initiatives in Marblehead have involved whether they are as good a fit for this type of community – which has long sought to compare itself to some of the highest performing districts in the state – as opposed to a district with a higher percentage of students struggling simply to reach basic proficiency.
Marblehead must now face the challenge of hiring two important school administrators this year, as current Marblehead High School Principal Dan Bauer was recently offered the Superintendent position in Danvers, Massachusetts beginning in the summer of 2023. Marblehead Beacon will have more details as the hiring process for both Assistant Superintendent and High School Principal commences.