• January 27, 2020

Superintendent designee wants to partner with community - Odessa American: ECISD

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Superintendent designee wants to partner with community

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Posted: Sunday, April 28, 2019 9:00 am

Ector County ISD superintendent designee Scott Muri always knew he was going to be a pediatric surgeon, so he started off on the pre-med path in college. He soon discovered a different calling.

“My father is a minister. My mother works in the medical field. That kind of drew me to the service industry, but that’s why I went to college; not an education person, but pediatric surgery,” Muri said in a phone interview April 24.

Muri, who is currently the superintendent at Spring Branch ISD, was named the lone finalist for the ECISD school chief job April 23. By law, the school board must wait 21 days before finalizing a contract with Muri. His start date is July 1.

Contract negotiations with ECISD are ongoing.

Muri has a bachelor’s degree in intermediate education and middle school education from Wake Forest University; a master’s degree in public school administration from Stetson University in Deland, Fla., and a doctorate in educational leadership from Wingate University in Matthews, N.C.

He took a course when he was at Wake Forest called school practicum, Muri said.

“And it put me in a … a middle school classroom, one day a week for three hours. My job was just to kind of support the teacher and learn from the teacher and we had a seminar that kind of debriefed that experience,” he said.

“But that experience in college really helped me reflect upon myself, of what I truly wanted to be and it wasn’t pediatric surgery. It was … working with kids. … I fell in love with the concept of teaching. People had always suggested that to me in high school, ‘You should be a teacher.’ It was always the furthest thing from my mind, but people saw something in me that I was not able to see in myself and then that experience in college really taught me that education is for me,” Muri added.

He taught middle school and high school math and science for eight years and said he never wanted to leave the classroom.

“I loved teaching. Then people started tapping me on the shoulder and talked about administration. … I kind of avoided that conversation for a while and then decided to become an administrator and realized that not only did I enjoy teaching children, but I enjoyed teaching adults as well,” Muri said.

He said he is passionate about teaching and coaching people and helping them learn to be their best, especially students.

“We just left Odessa High School. We were in some classrooms … watching some great teachers in action provide some really neat experiences for kids. That’s what I’m passionate about today as a superintendent. What can I do to facilitate that process for every kid, because every kid deserves that. That’s the journey,” Muri said.

He said he feels he can still impact students as a superintendent.

“That is the priority. My priority as an educator is to ensure that every kid, every day is having a great experience and I control my own calendar so I ensure that I have experiences in classrooms. I want to go out and see kids learning and understand what their experience is like, so even as a superintendent, you’ll find me in school on a regular basis really kind of by myself sometimes, or with the principal, or an assistant principal, or a coach walking through classrooms to see what’s going on and then provide support for the adults that are serving them. But absolutely, I’ve found that no matter what experience or what position you hold in a district, if you truly value kids and learning that you can absolutely make an impact on what happens in schools,” Muri said.

Elliott Witney, associate superintendent of academic design and performance at Spring Branch, has worked with Muri for four years.

“Scott’s great to work for. He is a visionary leader who empowers people to help turn that vision into a reality. He cares about people as people and really works hard to help us grow as leaders,” Witney said.

Witney said Muri believes in building leadership capacity on campuses and in central office.

He also has focused on high academic expectations and performance and narrowing the achievement gaps. Witney said the district is focused on long-term postsecondary success for its children and setting them up for future success.

“I’ve loved working with Scott and it’s been awesome experience. To that end, I’ll miss working side by side with him. At the same time as a Texan, I’m excited that another community will benefit from his leadership,” Witney said.

Asked why he would willingly leave Spring Branch for Odessa, Muri said he has gotten that question a lot recently.

“Even the board asked that through the process. Spring Branch is an incredible place for kids. There’s an amazing board of trustees there, a great community, great teachers, great principals. Kids have amazing experiences,” he said. “We’ve done a lot of work over the last four years to improve outcomes for kids and to improve learning the experiences.”

“Today, April 2019, there’s a high quality team in place, a really great board and a great community that empowers the work to continue. That gives me an opportunity to find another environment that needs some forward momentum and I want to join forces with a community that is interested in doing that.”

“And I recognize that a superintendent doesn’t do that by him or herself. A superintendent has to be a part of a large team that makes that work happen, so one of my repeated questions to this community, really through the board, was about the engagement of this community in the learning process because I was not going to go to a place in which the community was not engaged.”

“And that includes the business community, the faith community, the nonprofit community, the parent community. … That’s important to the success of the district. This board assured me that this is a community that not only is engaged, but wants to be engaged and looks for ways to become even more engaged. This community cares about their children; cares about making forward progress.”

He added that the community recognizes that there is work to do. The district has eight campuses on improvement required status and 265 classrooms that don’t have a teacher.

“So we have some teacher challenges; finding teachers to provide great experiences for kids. Academically, we have some schools that are not performing as they should, so some kids are not having the kind of experiences that they deserve. … There’s an opportunity for growth and development here and I want to be a part of the team that does that,” Muri said.

“Four years ago when I looked at Spring Branch ISD, it was in a situation that attracted a willing community, a community that wanted great things for their kids and teachers and principals that wanted the same, and a board that was looking for that. … We partnered together for four years and so now it’s an opportunity for a new partnership, so that’s kind of the why,” he added.

Because of schools being in their fifth year of improvement required last year and the threat of a state takeover or school closures, the community stepped up and started volunteering and getting involved on campuses.

“We shouldn’t wait until the crisis opportunity to engage and I think what the crisis opportunity in this district has done is it has highlighted the importance of community engagement. It has to be an ongoing thing. It can’t be a one-time shot, so we have to partner with our community in this work. Right now, they are the coalition of the willing. They want to be a part of this work and we absolutely need them,” Muri said.

The first 90 to 100 days of his tenure, Muri said, will be about listening, understanding and learning from the community, understanding what they want, what parents want for the children, what the business community wants from the school district, what teachers want and need and most importantly, what do students want and need.

“… I don’t know this place. I’ve been in education for 31 years and I know education, but I don’t know education in Ector County and so I have a lot to learn and I don’t want to make any assumptions about what this community wants for its children. I want this community to share their hopes and dreams and then from there that we create a strategic plan that helps this community achieve those hopes and dreams that they have for their children,” he said.

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