Letter: Welcome Back

Dear Murray High and Community Middle Families:

It’s hard to believe the new school year is right around the corner.  I hope everyone has had a fun, safe, and relaxing summer.  Things have certainly been busy around here!  Our front entrance and commons area are nearly complete and look amazing.  I’m so excited for students to see and use their new spaces.  NBC29 stopped by to take a look around.  We are also excited to welcome several new faces to the faculty and will be introducing them in a follow-up message very soon.

This is the 30th anniversary year for Murray High School and, fittingly enough, the School Board received our new 5-year charter last week.  In a nutshell, we’ll build on Murray’s two signature features — mastery learning and student choice — as well as continue developing a robust Art and Design curriculum.  Your child may have already taken advantage of the Design Lab | Makerspace and Music Studio that were installed last year, or enrolled in one of the new Audio Production or Design courses we piloted in the Spring.  We’ve added even more tools of creative production and a few new art and design courses for this year and can’t wait to see what our students create!

As a district-backed charter school, we will also emphasize our role as a learning innovation laboratory. The goal is to provide a model for how to provide equitable access to resources, fair and meaningful assessments, and flexible scheduling that supports student-centered learning, as well as to empower students to choose paths aligned with their learning passions.

And speaking of mastery learning, did you hear that Murray just became one of the first public schools in the nation to be selected for membership in a national education reform group?  The organization, the Mastery Transcript Consortium, is advocating for changes to the high school experience, with a value on contemporary skills-based instructional models over rote learning. The idea is that the high school transcript would emphasize the acquisition of skills instead of the more conventional letter or number grades by subject. 

This will certainly be an exciting year for the middle school. Our new model is designed to address the whole child, which means that that we dedicate time for delving into social as well as academically rigorous learning experiences.  While exciting, our approach shouldn’t be considered “experimental.”  We are assembling a model that weaves together what we know to be the best and most developmentally appropriate approaches to the middle school years.  For more background, please read this editorial on reimagining middle school, recently written by UVA Curry School of Education Dean Bob Pianta.

We’re fortunate to have some amazing partners supporting our school.  A UVA Curry team is collaborating with us on curriculum redesign efforts. We are also partnering with MIT’s Teaching Systems Lab, with support from the National Science Foundation, to develop meaningful, authentic assessments of student work. 

What an incredible journey we are embarking on together.  This year marks my 17th in public education, and I can easily say I’ve never been more excited for a school year than I am for this one.  I’m so honored and proud to be part of such an amazing school community.

Sincerely,

Chad & Mike