Manning the landing station and disconnecting students from the ziplines at the senior retreat to Allaso Ranch,new Upper School Head Terry Murray started his task of meeting all the faces of the Upper School and learning all aspects of the Hockaday community – a goal he has worked toward since moving to Dallas last June.
From St. Louis to Dallas
Coming from his former job as Dean of Students at the Mary Institute and St. Louis Country Day School in St. Louis (MICDS), Murray has not only had to adjust to a different environment but also to a different role.
“As Dean of Students at my last school, I was so connected to the kids and that was always my priority as an administrator,” Murray said. “It’s weird seeing other people have that role. For me, I have to get used to the role a little bit more, of having to oversee and not always having responsibility over individual things.”
The current Upper School Head at MICDS, Scott Small, worked with Murray as a member of the History Department and as form deans, Murray being the previous form dean for the class of 2017.
“Mr. Murray and I always had the most fun talking about kids – how to support them, how to empower them, how to give them room to grow and make mistakes and figure out things out on their own,” Small said.
One of the ways Murray worked to empower the students of MICDS was through revamping their school honor code and policy by emphasizing the importance of teacher advocacy for the students and the importance of learning experiences. According to Small, Murray had a way of keeping the the topic light through a life size cardboard cutout of himself.
“He put it up in the corner of his office, which actually meant it was facing the window. When you would walk on campus, it looked like he was staring at you from his office and it scared more than a few people,” Small said. “That always made us laugh and he ultimately kept it in that corner to keep people honest.”
At Hockaday, Murray hopes to continue the tradition of the honor code and empower students and teachers to be their best selves through collaboration.
“One of the things that I would like to do is to build teams of people working together, and continue to encourage collaboration amongst students and faculty,” Murray said.
“I’d love to have more opportunities for adults and students to connect in genuine ways.”
Throughout the summer, Murray worked with Interim Eugene McDermott Headmistress Liza Lee in order for them to gather a better understanding of the Hockaday community. They analyzed
the student handbook and took a closer look at the school curriculum.
“He exceeded my expectations because he is so thoughtful. He has such good experience; I really found his knowledge of Upper School and Upper School life extraordinary,” Lee said. “He has a
very clear vision of how to include students in the decision- making process.”
Murray also worked during the summer with Assistant Head of Upper School Elizabeth Jones. Inspired by Jones’ knowledge of and familiarity with the student body, Murray set a personal goal to memorize all the names and faces of the Upper School.
“She is an incredible listener and so connected to her students,” Murray said about Jones. “I love the fact that every time I see her, she is always engaged with the students in some way. [She] knows them, each one of them very personally.” Murray and Jones work together on all aspects of the Upper School student life: parent programming, academic curriculum and student council agendas.
“[Murray] brings a fresh perspective to everything that we have done and everything we plan to do,” Jones said. “He is really student-centered, which is what Hockaday is all about. That’s why I think he is such a good fit for the Upper School.”
Planning for the Road Ahead
As a self-named eternal “optimist,” Murray has created a positive outlook toward the rest of the year through his visits with students and faculty during the first few weeks of school.
“I think every year is different and it all depends on the people and how they embrace those opportunities,” Murray said.
Working over the summer and through the first few weeks of school, Lee and Murray observed the student and faculty communities in order to establish goals for the upcoming school year.
“I loved exploring where he might take the Upper School in the future. For both of us, this year is a year of getting to know the school especially well,” Lee said. “I loved hearing what he discovered.”
However, with all the changes in the upcoming year, it is important for Jones to stay true to Hockaday’s mission.
“My hope for the year is that we continue to do all of the great things that we have been doing at Hockaday,” Jones said. “I think also in a year of change, with new leadership, it’s important to maintain some consistency.”
Acknowledging his unfamiliarity with the Upper School, Murray looks forward to becoming a leader rather than an observer and helping the Upper School grow ratherthan change.
“I want to see what we can do better,” Murray said. “I want to grow.”