Education

Iowa City Schools Superintendent Stephen Murley says he will leave district

Read Murley's full memo

Stephen Murley

Iowa City Community School District
Stephen Murley Iowa City Community School District

Iowa City Community Schools Superintendent Stephen Murley announced plans Tuesday to leave the school district at the end of his contract in June 2021.

Murley, 53, has led the 14,000-student district since 2010.

“I genuinely feel that the district is set up for success for years to come,” Murley said in a memo obtained by The Gazette. “I also feel confident that this is a good time to consider a transition both professionally and personally.”

Murley, in an email, said he was not immediately available for an interview Tuesday.

Iowa City School Board Vice President Paul Roesler said the board knew Murley would be announcing his departure and appreciates the large window of time it has to find and hire the district’s next superintendent.

“That will allow us to do an extensive search for a new superintendent, granted he may leave before that if he finds a new job,” Roesler said. “But at least we know we need to start that process.”

A search likely won’t start, he added, until after the Nov. 5 school board elections. Four seats on the seven-member board will be on the ballot.

The Iowa City School Board last discussed Murley’s contract during a closed, exempt session on Sept. 24, according to board documents.

The board approved a three-year contract for Murley in August 2018. The contract came with an annual base salary of $226,000 and Murley’s total compensation package was valued at more than $330,000.

Read Murley's full memo:

10-1-19 Memo to All Staff by Gazetteonline on Scribd

The superintendent contract, Murley’s last with the district, did not include a pay raise.

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In his memo, Murley highlighted accomplishments of his tenure with the district — including the one-to-one laptop program for secondary students, work to improve equity and inclusion with implicit bias training, and the 10-year facilities plan.

The $414 million facilities plan is three years ahead of schedule and included the construction of five elementary schools and Liberty High School. The plan was buoyed by a $191.5 million general obligation bond, the largest in state history, approved by voters in 2017.

As schools opened, the district also has implemented new elementary school boundaries meant to balance the socioeconomic makeup of the schools’ students.

Murley also has faced stern criticism during his near-decade at the head of the Iowa City Community School District.

While the district has opened new buildings, it also closed and made plans to demolish Hoover Elementary on E. Court Street without a public vote, despite a petition — a decision a judge in 2017 called illegal and the district must rectify on Nov. 5 with a ballot issue.

Murley consulted for a private educational company, work that raised eyebrows in 2015 when the company was found to be connected to a massive bribery scandal in Chicago schools.

In recent years, the district also has been cited by the state for its special education practices and come under scrutiny for its use of seclusion rooms.

Murley did not include details of any future professional plans in his memo. He previously has been named as a finalist for multiple positions — most recently in 2018 for chief administrator of the Grant Wood Area Education Agency, which provides services to Iowa City Schools as well as dozens of other districts in the region.

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Murley wrote he and his family chose in part to move to Iowa City — from Wausau, Wis. — for his children’s education. His youngest son is set to graduate from high school in May.

Comments: (319) 398-8330; molly.duffy@thegazette.com

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