Assistant Superintendent Nan Murphy was selected as the next superintendent of schools in Dedham at a meeting of that town’s school committee last week, becoming the second prominent Marblehead administrator set to depart the district, along with High School Principal Dan Bauer, who accepted the Danvers superintendent position.
Murphy was one of five finalists for the position in Dedham, ultimately selected over Renee McCall, June Saba-Maguire, Marlene DiLeo, and Armand Pires. She has served as Marblehead’s assistant superintendent of teaching and learning since 2020 and worked in Lowell Public Schools before that.
Murphy was also selected as a finalist for the vacant superintendent positions in Milton and Marlborough but was ultimately passed over for those positions.
In an interview Tuesday afternoon, Murphy said she believed the superintendent position would allow her to be an advocate for what she feels is best for teachers as well as students and families, including by allocating finances. While she acknowledged she has been able to do much of that work in Marblehead, she felt she was prepared for the increased responsibility that came with running a district.
“I’m ready to go to a district and help really push along work that is important for kids and valuable for teachers and being in that top position in terms of being the navigator of all that work, I feel like I’m really ready to support other people in being successful in their roles,” she said.
As part of the application process, Murphy spent a day in the district in Dedham, where she said she developed a belief that it was the right fit for her.
On the visit, she said, she was able to meet the district’s senior leadership, central office staff, visit with teachers, and tour schools, where she met students, parents, and other local leaders. Across each of those meetings, she said, the people she met with resonated a “positive attitude about the schools.”
“The culture in Dedham is very much aligned to what I’m looking for in terms of people paddling in the same direction to do good things for kids,” Murphy said. “When I got the call I was so excited to have been selected to be the newest member of that team.”
Murphy said she is proud of what she’s been able to accomplish in Marblehead, particularly given the difficulty of being a part of a new administrative team, along with Superintendent John Buckey, that was tasked with taking over the town’s schools in the midst of a pandemic. Reflecting on her tenure, Murphy said she was proudest of the ability to get the district in “alignment.”
“The way we have been able to put some systems and structures in place to be able to calibrate materials and instructional strategies and approaches to kids, that makes me the most proud,” she said. “Teachers now have equitable access to all the materials, to the same amount of time for planning, they have access to instructional coaches to help them plan for differentiated instruction.”
Murphy, like Bauer, will not depart the district until the conclusion of the current school year, with her contract in Dedham set to begin on July 1. She emphasized that there is a lot of work still to be done in Marblehead, particularly with regard to the finalization of the school’s budget.
“There’s still lots of time to do some really thoughtful planning and help transition the structure of the office to the next team, in whatever form that takes,” she said. “Right now I’m really focused on ensuring Marblehead gets the best of me before I move on. I’m committed to our budget process and supporting the superintendent and the plan for success and making some measurable gains in that work before I transition out of the district.”
As Murphy looked ahead to the position in Dedham, she said she was excited to be able to assemble a staff ready to meet the needs of students.
“Building the team and building a vision grounded in what’s best for students and being able to develop a team that’s really anchored in student growth and progress and whole child development and just kind of work those pieces into our daily vision of what we want for kids,” she said.
The School Committee heaped praise on Murphy before unanimously selecting her to lead Dedham’s schools.
Vice Chair Victor Hebert formally nominated Murphy, praising her for her ability to address many of the key points identified in the search process, including leadership, a commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, collaborative communication, and operations management.
“Her thoughtfulness with every question … she brought me out, I wanted to engage with her more, which is a powerful thing for someone who’s being interviewed in a front of a crowd they don’t know,” Hebert said. “[She] made me want to ask more questions and find out more about [her].”
Committee member Cailen McCormick said she was “really excited” about the nomination of Murphy, praising her for “her authenticity, her dedication, her creativity, [and] her collaboration.”
“All of this was really very consistent from the feedback from educators, from community members, from the references we called,” she said, adding that it seemed as though the community had come to a consensus around Murphy as the best choice for the district.
Murphy’s ability to surround herself with a strong staff was a key factor cited by Committee member Chris Polito.
“When you look at who you want as super, who you want to lead the district … [you’re] not looking for somebody that can do everything,” he said. “[You’re] looking for somebody that knows everything, that can put people around them that can do the job … that’s why she stands out to me more than everybody.”