David Murrell brought a photo of his grandfather on Wednesday morningApril 13, as he told the Blount County School Board about his family’s roots in the schools and his qualifications to be the next principal.
Murrell’s grandfather graduated from high school when he was 29, as his education was interrupted while serving in the military during World War II. Ralph Shuler graduated from classes at Townsend after working night shifts for the Aluminum Company of America.
Murrell had his own challenges before graduating from Heritage High School in 1993. He told the board he struggled to learn to read, struggled academically in middle school, childhood experiences unfavorable and struggling to find its niche.
“But I had people standing in the gap, just like they did for my grandfather, to say whatever it takes to make sure he gets through,” Murrell said.
“I see that with my own sons, teachers standing on the sidelines,” he said, referring to current HHS students Jet and Kizer Murrell.
“What does it look like for another 10,250 children? he continued, citing Blount County schools’ programs ranging from intervention to a virtual school option.
“Our teachers do the right thing, our principals do, our staff,” said Murrell, who started working for the district as a teacher at Porter Elementary in 1998 and has served as assistant director of operations since 2011.
“I love Blount County Schools from top of head to bottom of toe,” he told the school board during the Central Office interview, adding that BCS is the only place where he would like to be superintendent.
During the nearly hour-long interview, Murrell detailed his experience as a teacher, as vice-principal at Mary Blount Elementary School, supervisor of elementary education and federal programs, and in his current role, which includes human resources and student services.
Murrell outlined five things schools need to focus on, starting with relationships. “It’s a difficult time to teach; it really is a tough time to be a student,” he noted.
Then, he said, there is physical and emotional safety.
Third, he cited common curriculum and assessments, particularly in English language arts and mathematics education. “It ensures fairness when you provide these high quality materials to students; that levels the playing field,” Murrell said.
Added to this is data-driven decision making and time spent on tasks.
As principal, Murrell said not only would he be visible in schools, but he would also expect other district staff to do so. Additionally, he said he would create an advisory council in each school with staff, student and family representatives.
He noted that the director’s key roles are to work with the board, budget and personnel, and as deputy director he was responsible for human resources for approximately 1,650 employees. “We are the third largest employer in Blount County,” he noted, and salary and benefits account for more than 80% of BCS’s budget.
He noted the employee recognition programs that BCS has implemented in recent years, saying, “High performing districts recognize excellence.”
Murrell also highlighted his work with the BCS Collaborative Conferencing Committee to make salaries competitive and new programs to “grow your own” teachers from high school up to build staff for high-demand areas such as education. special and secondary mathematics and sciences.
At the end of the interview, he told the council, “It is the honor of my career to be able to tell you about the schools in Blount County.”
Murell was the third finalist interviewed, following Jefferson County Schools Superintendent Shane Johnston and BCS Deputy Principal Jake Jones. The final interview for today, April 14, will be with Keri Prigmore, Director of School Attendance for the City of Alcoa.
The board plans to meet on Monday April 25 to choose a successor to director Rob Britt, who is retiring in June.