‘She knows this district:’ Marlborough School Committee taps Mary Murphy for superintendent job

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Mary Murphy has worked in the Marlborough Public Schools for nearly 20 years. (Photo/submitted)

MARLBOROUGH – Marlborough’s school superintendent search has come to a close, pending contract negotiations, with the selection of Mary Murphy by the School Committee on Monday night. 

Nearly two decades into her career in Marlborough Public Schools, Murphy is set to lead the district after most recently serving as Assistant Superintendent of Teaching and Learning to outgoing Superintendent Michael Bergeron.

“If we have the confidence in her to be our assistant superintendent, why don’t we have the confidence in her to be our superintendent?” School Committee member Denise Ryan said of Murphy during deliberations this week. 

“She knows this district inside and out,” Ryan continued. “She is Marlborough.”

‘She has done everything we have asked of her’

Murphy was one of four candidates selected as finalists following a search process.

That process got underway after Bergeron announced in January that he planned to leave MPS at the end of the current school year. 

Murphy was the only internal candidate to reach the finalist stage, ultimately drawing praise from School Committee members. 

“[She] brings a lot of that experience of what we’ve been doing here in the district to the table which from a historical standpoint is obviously really healthy,” Katherine Hennessy said. 

“She has done everything we have asked of her,” Michelle Bodin-Hettinger added, noting Murphy’s flexibility through her years in Marlborough schools. 

Ryan highlighted “buy-in” to Murphy and her leadership, saying that she received substantial support from current district staff who spoke with the School Committee about their superintendent preferences. 

School Committee talks achievement goals

While at least two other candidates in Marlborough’s finalist pool were also finalists in other districts as of last month, Murphy told the School Committee this week that she was not seeking any other positions outside of Marlborough. 

Ultimately, though, the prospect of an internal promotion to the superintendent role sparked some discussion on Monday as Mayor Arthur Vigeant, who also chairs the School Committee, argued not for Mary Murphy, but for another finalist – Nan Murphy. 

Nan, who is currently an assistant superintendent in Marblehead, could bring an outside perspective to Marlborough’s superintendent job, Vigeant said. 

“We’ve had some achievement issues that have been long standing now,” Vigeant said. “Every time we think we’re going to get somewhere … it’s just not quite right to get those numbers and those kids to where they need to be.” 

“Nothing is going to change if you have the same people in the same place making decisions,” he later added. 

School Committee members acknowledged challenges facing Marlborough, including concerns in key state accountability areas like performance on annual MCAS tests. 

Members also emphasized recent strides toward solutions, however, crediting current district leadership under Bergeron and his team for that. 

“This roadmap that we have and these goals that we’re working toward are solid goals,” Bodin-Hettinger said. “And the progress that we’ve made toward meeting these goals, it’s working. Mary was a critical part in designing that.”

Hennessy said a transition into a superintendent role may be difficult, at times, for Murphy. 

But she expressed confidence in Murphy, referencing her interactions with committee members during her interview.

“Moving into the role of being the leader especially after you’ve been a part of the team is sometimes hard because you have to make some of those tough and tactical decisions that are not necessarily always light,” Hennessy said. 

“She said she was ready,” she added. 

The School Committee voted 6-1 in favor of moving forward with Mary Murphy on Monday. Vigeant cast the lone vote for Nan Murphy. 

Other finalists, Michael Baldassarre and Timothy Sippel, did not receive votes.

A full recording of deliberations is available online at https://www.wmct-tv.com/single-post/superintendent-search-deliberation

A separate recording of Murphy’s interview with the School Committee can also be found at https://www.wmct-tv.com/single-post/superintendent-search-mary-murphy.

Nan Murphy’s interview can be found at https://vimeo.com/703988564.

Michael Baldassarre’s interview can be found at https://vimeo.com/703992377

Timothy Sippel’s interview can be found at https://vimeo.com/705607174.

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