The Delaware State Senate overwhelmingly confirmed Mark T. Murphy as Delaware’s new Secretary of Education Wednesday
Governor Jack Markell’s (D) tapped Murphy last month to replace Lillian Lowery, who resigned to become Maryland’s Secretary of Education.
“Making our public schools even stronger will be critical to our long-term economic success. Mark Murphy will hit the ground running to keep our school improvements underway. He brings a teacher’s heart, principal’s perspective and years of data-driven experience that are all necessary to keep making progress,” Gov. Markell. “I would like to thank the members of the Delaware Senate, particularly the Executive Committee, for their show of confidence. I would also like to thank Secretary Lowery for her hard work and dedication to Delaware’s children.”
During an hour-long confirmation hearing in front of the Senate Executive Committee, Murphy answered questions from Senator Anthony J. DeLuca (D-Varlano), president pro tempore, Senator Liane Sorenson (R-Hockessin), senate minority whip, and Senator Harris B. McDowell III (D-North Wilmington).
Murphy served as the executive director of the nonprofit Vision Network, an organization that works with leadership in 26 Delaware schools for two years. Prior to that, he worked at a New York education nonprofit, as a principal and a teacher.
In his position at Vision Network, Murphy has already been involved in statewide conversations on education reform. He’s also talked to teachers and administrators about programs implemented this year as a part of Race to the Top education reform.
Delaware was awarded the first Race to the Top grant in the nation and will use $119 million in federal funds over the next four years to jump start education reform. The goal of the competitive, voluntary grants is to make students “Career and College Ready” by closing student achievement gaps by 50 percent and getting proficiency test scores close to 100 percent by 2015. Programs run the gamut from administering core curriculum standards to revising teacher evaluations.
Questions from the committee focused on RTTT implementation and evaluation, something that would be very important in the beginning of Murphy’s tenure.
“We’ve seen some real successes and teachers and principals have seen those successes,” Murphy said of the RTTT programs. “We have seen considerable challenges. We are on a really strong path to excellence. This is where we see the small stuff, where we start to see how the implementation meets the staff. We need to make sure we get that right.”
He said implementing common core standards in schools across the state or revising teacher and administrator evaluations need to be coupled with communication and best practice sharing among schools.
After the hearing, Murphy said he was pleased with how things had gone and that he hadn’t been surprised by any of the questions.
“The exciting thing for me,” Murphy said, “was that all of their questions were really good. These are topics that have been discussed in the state and in the country for the last several years.”
McDowell, a member of the Senate Executive Committee, spoke in support of Murphy before the vote.
“I believe he brings the experience, the ability and the intellect to continue to improve public education for all of our kids,” McDowell said. “I believe he will take on the tough challenges and be proactive.”
Murphy was confirmed as the next State Secretary of Education with a 20-1 vote. Joseph W. Booth (R-Georgetown) was the lone “no” vote. Booth was present at the confirmation hearing and expressed concern about how current programs would continue once Race to the Top funding was discontinued in a couple of years.
Murphy said he has not discussed a start date for his new position, but current Secretary of Education Lillian Lowery agreed to stay in Delaware until a new secretary was in place.