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Dr. Kathy Murphy: How a Superintendent Aims for Excellence and Equity

Dr. Murphy with student at table

January 3, 2020
District Administrator Magazine

HOOVER - Hoover City Schools Superintendent Kathy Murphy, leader of a high-performing and affluent district in the suburbs of Birmingham, continues her work under a decades-old desegregation of schools order.

Since taking over the district in 2015, Murphy has been leading her team to convince a federal judge to lift the order that her district inherited when it broke away from the larger Jefferson County school system in the 1980s.

The Hoover City Schools superintendent and her team have worked on several fronts, from school boundaries to AP enrollment to discipline.

“We are constantly focused on how to do the work of equity better,” says Murphy, who also served as superintendent of Alabama’s Monroe County Schools. “We’re asking ourselves what are we doing that may be a barrier to the education of children based on race.”

Murphy grew up in the 1970s in the small town of Greenville, Alabama, with fleeting visions of being a gymnast or a runner, or maybe an athletic trainer or sports psychologist.

But even though she grew up in a loving and supportive family, girls back then were not so readily encouraged to participate in sports or purse athletic careers.

Also, gymnastic studios and similar facilities were scarce in rural Alabama. “I was the kid who always took my glove and threw my rubber ball against the house and got into trouble,” she laughs. “And I could do backflips with the best of them.”

Early on, she also came to prefer the outdoors and mechanical devices to, say, more traditionally domestic endeavors.

“If my parents said ‘I need you to put this chain on this chainsaw or prepare this soufflé,’ I put the chain on the chainsaw,” Murphy says. “I still tend to come to work on Mondays with some tractor grease under my fingernails.”

When it came time to choose a career, she followed another path that she had been passionate about since childhood. “I had such a deep regard and respect for my teachers,” she says. “At a young age I realized how important they were to me, and saw that as such a worthy way to spend one’s life.”

Murphy earned her undergraduate degree in physical education from Troy University in Alabama, and her masters and doctorate degrees from Auburn University at Montgomery.

See more from District Administrator magazine.