Principal Chris Robbins and Hoover City Schools Superintendent Kathy Murphy talk with eighth-grader Cameron Whatley (center) during Berry Middle School's first day.
Walking through the halls at Berry Middle School, Kathy Murphy showed off the people skills that led to her hiring in June as superintendent of Hoover City Schools.
She greeted Principal Chris Robbins and seemed amaze as he talked of the diversity at Berry Middle: students from 38 countries.
“Our students speak 18 different languages,” Robbins said.
“Wow,” Murphy responded.
She then engaged in a conversation with Cameron Whatley, an eighth grader in his third year at Berry Middle School. He previously attended Glen Iris Elementary and Jones Valley in Birmingham.
Murphy left a good impression on Cameron.
“It was pretty fun to meet the superintendent. She makes good conversation,” said Cameron, who is fascinated with computers is interested in becoming an electrical engineer.
Today, Thursday, Aug. 13, was busy for Murphy, who visited 10 schools to greet principals and staff, parents and students as the Hoover City School District kicked off the first day of the 2015-16 school year.
The superintendent visited: Greystone Elementary, Spain Park High, Berry Middle, Hoover High, Trace Crossings Elementary, Bumpus Middle, Brock's Gap Intermediate, South Shades Crest Elementary, Bluff Park Elementary, and Deer Valley Elementary. She also visited school personnel at Hoover Hall, the Operations and Transportation departments.
Murphy said she was excited at the enthusiasm exhibited by school personnel, students and their parents at the schools she visited. Berry Middle’s diversity, Murphy said, is typical at Hoover City Schools, where 59 percent of its student body last year was white, with African-Americans, Latinos, Asian-Americans and others comprising the rest.
“There is still that mindset that we look at ourselves and assume everyone looks like us,” Murphy said. “Quite to the contrary, this school system is extremely diverse. Here at Berry Middle School, Dr. Robbins is sharing that just with you. This is probably one of our most diverse schools in terms of the number of languages and countries represented, but we are proud of the diversity in Hoover City Schools.”
Murphy said that shows how many people from across the state are moving to Hoover to take advantage of its top-notch education system.
“Our obligation and pleasure is to embrace all of these students, meet them where they are and to take them to the next level,” Murphy said.
On her first stop this morning at Greystone Elementary, Murphy said she felt joy “seeing those babies getting out of the cars” with excitement on their faces.
“I didn’t see any tears, a lot of enthusiasm," she said. "I then went to Spain Park High, they are doing well and now here at Berry Middle. I saw enthusiasm not just with our students, but with our teachers and principals.”
Murphy said she planned to visit as many schools as possible before heading into the Hoover district office to handle paperwork and other duties. Murphy said she is a hands-on administrator who doesn’t just sit in the office.
“You can very easily as a superintendent get in your office and bury yourself behind all of the emails, phone calls that need to be returned and the stacks of paperwork that need to be signed,” Murphy said. “If I could find out a way to hand off all of that paperwork to someone else I wouldn’t be anywhere else but in the schools. Today and tomorrow I am very intentionally being out of my office. It will mean a lot of catching up over the weekend, but it’ll be worth it.”
Murphy, who spent years as a teacher and principal in Alabama schools before becoming a superintendent, said she sometimes misses being in the classroom.
“When you are a principal, you’re day in and day out with teachers and students,” she said. “This is where it’s most important. I want to learn from our principals and support them. I want to have a reciprocal mentoring opportunity with each other.”
Robbins said kicking off a new school year is always exciting, but it is at another level after the superintendent’s Aug. 10 motivational speech to 1,900 Hoover City School employees.
“It’s especially exciting this year because we have a new superintendent with new vision and new goals for our district,” Robbins said. “The teachers are rejuvenated by the plan that she has laid out. It was great to be together as a district family. It was quite a challenging message. She really raised the bar and I’m confident we’re up to the challenge.”