Murray stepping away from IRHS for family

Date Published: 
April 28, 2017

After four years, Bennett Murray has announced that he will leave the position of Indian River High School principal.

Starting this autumn, he’ll be assigned as an assistant principal in the district, spending half his time at Georgetown Elementary School and half at the Howard T. Ennis School.

“What I told my staff is: Right now, I need to back away from the night duty. At a high school, there’s numerous night duties,” he said of the games, concerts and more. “I love every one of them.” But, Murray said, “You have to put your family first. I have to take some time to do that as well.”

At any school level, administrators put in a lot of time, but by stepping back to assistant principal, Murray hopes to spend more evenings at home, with his wife and IR freshman daughter. Murray’s older son is away at college.

“I wouldn’t be able to do 9.5 years as an administrator, and [the last] four years as principal if it wasn’t for them,” he said.

“I love this school … and I love working with kids. Whether I’m at elementary, middle or high school, I want to work with those kids,” Murray said. “I also need to make sure I take the time for my family as well. [This is an opportunity to] spend a little bit more time as a dad and a husband.”

He’s finally taking the advice he gives to so many parents: “Your son or daughter is going to grow up before you know it, so please take the time to spend with them.”

Even his tenure as principal can be marked in relation to his kids: In Murray’s first year, his son was a senior. In his final year, Murray’s daughter is a freshman.

“I’m not going away. I’m looking forward to coming to Indian River High School as a parent instead of a principal or administrator,” Murray said “I’m just very fortunate that the district and the board were willing to work with me on that request. I’m looking forward to working with the new administration.”

Murray’s new schools will get the benefit of his experience as an administrator, half of his part-time hours each, thanks to education funding formulas. State funding is based on student population, or unit count. Sometimes, schools are eligible for partial funding toward an administrator.

“I think both schools are big enough that they probably earn a certain percentage,” Murray said. “I’ll be working under both of those principals.”

They are two very different schools, and “I have a lot to learn, but I have two great principals I’ll be working with.”

HTE’s Kristina ‘Kris’ Perfetti-Balentine helped teach him much about special education, and GE’s Neil Stong is a former IR assistant principal. (Neither was available for comment before Coastal Point deadline.)

Both schools bring their own unique challenges. Georgetown has a high population of low-income students and English-language learners, while Ennis serves the special-needs population of Sussex County.

Murray’s learning about the ins and outs of each school.

“What I’m excited about is working with young students, with students with special needs. I’m really going to be running the gamut from pre-K to 20-year olds. I’m excited about that,” Murray said. “I love my kids here. I love my staff. But, right now, I’m excited about the change. … I’m very excited about the new challenge.”

Although his professional career has centered on high school, “I’m hoping to take all the experiences I have here [at IR] to help them with their young people and their staff.”

Murray already works with young children regularly, teaching Sunday-school and vacation Bible school for children ages 5 to 12.

“I love seeing — whether it’s an 18-year-old or an 8-year-old — when their eyes get big, when they catch a concept,” Murray said.

An IR grad himself, Murray studied business at University of Delaware. He became the IR business/accounting teacher in 2001, after working in both the Wilmington banking industry and the Banks family’s (his in-laws’) Frankford hardware business. IR’s business program grew with award-winning Business Professionals of America (BPA) teams, and Murray earned the IRHS Teacher of the Year award for 2007-2008.

Murray became an administrator in January of 2008, when IR became eligible to have two assistant principals.

Slated to fill the vacancy at IR is Mike Williams, currently principal of Georgetown Middle School. He’s already being missed at that school, and his own staff have expressed their disappointment in the Indian River School District Board of Education’s decision to transfer him away.

“The backbone of the school is Mr. Williams,” GMS teacher Angela Wilson told the school board on April 24, with two dozen coworkers standing behind her. Through many changes and much turnover, she said, Williams has been their constant.

“Many have said our morale has never been better. … Our scores have shown consistent growth,” despite a statistically challenging student population. “By moving him from GMS to the high school, you would be sacrificing one school for another.”