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Superintendent Stephen Murley will leave his job with the Iowa City school district in 2021


Superintendent Stephen Murley — ICCSD photo

Iowa City Community School District Superintendent Stephen Murley will not seek to extend his current contract with the school district when it expires on June 30, 2021. Murley announced his decision in an email to ICCSD parents, students and staff on Tuesday afternoon.

“As I look back on the past ten years, I am very proud to have been a part of a team that has done so much for our children,” Murley, who has been superintendent since 2010, said in the email. “I genuinely feel that the district is set up for success for years to come.”

Murley has overseen major changes in the school district in recent years, and the district’s student population has increased from approximately 11,900 to almost 14,000 during his tenure.

In 2017, voters approved the largest school bond in Iowa City history. The planned construction projects paid for by the $191.5 million bond are three years ahead of schedule, Murley said in August. He also oversaw a large-scale redrawing of elementary school boundaries as the district sought to address socioeconomic disparities in the student bodies of those schools. And Murley was superintendent when Liberty High School opened in 2017.

ICCSD has also struggled with a number of issues during Murley’s time in office, including upgrading facilities to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act and addressing the achievement gap between students of color and their white counterparts. The district’s use of temporary seclusion rooms — 6-by-6-foot wooden structures with padded walls — as a means of isolating disruptive students was also widely criticized, and in May 2017, the Iowa Department of Education ruled the way ICCSD was using the plywood structures violated state and federal law.

In November 2017, Murley announced ICCSD would remove its temporary seclusion rooms.

Many ICCSD parents and teachers hold strong opinions about Murley. While he is popular with some, during the 2017 school board election, Ruthina Malone, one of the successful board candidates, gave voice to the frustrations of others.

“Anybody that’s lived in our district for more than six months has heard people say Murley’s not doing a good job,” Malone told Little Village, during the campaign. “There’s a lot of troubling things that have happened under his watch as a superintendent, but that doesn’t seem to be reflected when you look at the raises he’s received.”

Murley’s first three-year contract in 2010 provided a base salary of $184,000. By the 2017-18 school year, his base salary had reached $226,000. Murley did not receive a raise in his most recent three-year contract, which was approved by the board in August 2018.

Earlier in 2018, Murley was seeking a job outside the district. He applied to be the chief administrator of the Grant Wood Area Education Association, which provides services to school districts in seven eastern Iowa counties. In February 2018, the association announced Murley was one of three finalists for the job, but a different candidate was selected for the position later that month.

Before taking the top job with the ICCSD, Murley worked for the Wausau School District in Wisconsin. In his email Tuesday, Murley said “our family moved here to provide an outstanding educational opportunity for our boys.” His youngest son will graduate from high school in May, he said.

Murley’s announcement comes three months after Brad Buck resigned as superintendent of the Cedar Rapids Community School District to become school superintendent in Waukee, Iowa.

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