District 65’s Communications Director Pat Markham says School Supt. Hardy Murphy isn’t available today to comment on his resignation, but she relayed comments he’d made in a conversation with her about his departure.

Markham, in an email to Evanston Now’s Charles Bartling, said Murphy sees three key accomplishments of his tenure:

  • “Seeing the African-American and Latino students in District 65 climb one rung of the achievement ladder, exceeding the average achievement for that of all students across the state of Illinois.”
  • Changing “the culture of service delivery for students. Once upon a time students were pulled out of their classrooms for support services.  With our instructional improvement initiative, we began more than a decade ago to bring services to the student, in the classroom, limiting the number of transitions and helping ensure that these students did not miss the instruction that their peers were experiencing.”
  • Including student growth in professional appraisals. “The district has been recognized for how we developed a professional appraisal system that included student learning and growth as measures of professional success and for the supports that teachers receive through continued professional development throughout the year.” 

Markham said Murphy and the board agreed that it was the right time for him to leave.

“The Board is at the beginning stages for developing a new strategic plan,” he said, adding that they could best accomplish developing the plan with the leadership in place that will implement the plan.

Murphy, Markham said, at a staff meeting Monday morning said he’s confident that the districts leadership team, teachers and staff will make the opening of schools later this month go smoothly.

Murphy, who is about age 65, said that by leaving now, at this stage of his career, he can take advantage of a window of opportunity to continue making a professional contribution to education while at the same time giving him and his family more time to enjoy the simple pleasures life has to offer.

Related stories

D65 school superintendent resigns

Board president sends letter to D65 families

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. Dr. Murphy, just leave

    Dr. Murphy,

    I beg you, just leave.  I attended  many, many of those meetings dedicated to "improve the educational experiences of…." and you never cared for any kids, minority or not, or the parents and teachers who tried to work with you. Your "departure" (under what you have to admit, are less than clear circumstances: two weeks before school starts to pursue "consulting"?)  is the best thing that has happened to Evanston and its families in a long, long time. Please, don't make us respond to your insulting remarks one more time. Just leave.

  2. Dr. Murphy, thank you

    Dr Murphy, thank you for your contributions to the betterment of the district 65 school life. You were class under fire, and your programs and appointments have forever changed the culture of how the schools operate.

    Your hiring galvanized both sides of the racial divide in the city, and the schools have been the beneficiary of much new scrutiny.

    The board meetings are going to be quite tame from now on as the people who made a living on criticizing how much you were paid for the job you did, will now have to turn their attention to the real issues. It will be interesting to see what the going rate will be for a new superintendent.

    Enjoy your retirement, you deserve it.

    1. Divider in chief — 13 years of intentional division

      I attended several school board meetings in recent years. I watched many, many more from home. 

      In watching Dr. Murphy operate, I was reminded of stories from my elderly father's youth in a remote rural community. As teenagers, they would prank each other by scooping up a fresh cowpie, putting it in a paper bag, placing the bag on someone's front steps, lighting the bag on fire and ringing the doorbell.  The victim would open the door and promptly stomp out the flaming bag with messy results while the prankers would watch from behind a bush. (I do not condone this practice for many reasons but it was apparently widespread in rural areas decades ago.  Why the victim didn't pour water on the flaming bag is beyond me.)

      I stopped counting how many times Dr. Murphy did the same thing to our community. He would raise an issue (or take an issue raised by someone else), interject what he knew would be divisive elements/aspects then step back and watch various factions jump on that flaming paper bag while he went about his business.  Results: loads of time, money and good will wasted with no improvement in the educational opportunities for our children. 

      Thirteen years of this nonsense. And all for the bargain price of $279K plus pension. We must do better.

      Here's how:

      Focus on raising rigor and challenge for all students. 

      Stop the window dressing and gimmicks (such as the Afro Centric Curriculum program). Instead, eliminate the achievement gap with programs that have brought real results in other communities. 

      Celebrate the achievement of all students. For those who are excelling, make more opportunities available.  (Why are Northwestern University programs co-sponsored by D65 limited to those with certain skin colors?  That is wrong.) For the programs already in place for those that need support to achieve, do a complete data-based review to determine what programs are providing a high rate of return and what programs should be sunset. In my experience, differentiation in D65 is a theory only and happens only occasionally. 

      Reduce the mindless obsession with testing. Do those tests required by law and that's it.  Teach more and test less. All students will benefit from more rigor in the classroom. 

      Examine the role of homework. Piling on the homework brings little return for those who are already achieving and harms those who do not have an older family member or tutor available if they don't understand the content. In my opinion, excessive homework is an element in the achievement gap as those without support at home have greater challenges in completing that work. 

      And one last thing, make foreign language available to all students beginning in kindergarten. That should have been done 10 years ago by a district that is truly a lighthouse district.

      Bring on the challenge of hiring someone who focuses on how to improve achievement for all students.  The new superintemdent can do this with tested programs and it can be done with an informed and united community. I am looking forward to it. 

    2. Class under fire

      What a perfect way to describe Dr. Murphy.  And, oddly (or sadly), most of the fire came from the completely uninformed, nonparticipatory members of our community.  It's easy to criticize, but hard to find solutions.  I'll be anxious to see how well this board does with finding a replacement that the whole of Evanston will support. 

  3. Food for thought re Murphy departure

    Questions worth asking, whether one is a Murphy fan or simply wants to see our city government operate effectively, efficiently, and ethically:

    1. Terms of resignation? $$, pension amounts paid in future, and do those terms change if he quit vs. being fired?

    2. Timing? Is this ethical after a HIGHLY paid 11-12 year tenure  to leave on short notice, leaving  the  school board hanging for what looks to be a full year as opposed to announcing pending retirement a while back to allow the search to begin?

    3. Prudent to at least ask the question: any improprieties involved ? Executive school board sessions involved? FOIA possibilities for us tax paying citizens who have an absolute right to know what the heck just happened here?

    4. Consulting in future? We want to know if there might be any possible payback from companies he’s steered contracts to on our dime during his tenure at  D65? Are there any laws (like the white House put in place, for example)  preventing him from  cashing in with 65-connected contacts for a period
    of years? Will he make public the full list of entities he plans to consult with and do so for at least several years into the future?

    5. "Unavailable for comment"? I'm embarrassed at that hubris, not even to give Evanston's citizenry and the press an opportunity to even ask questions? 

    6. Window of opportunity to "contribute to the field of education"? He never cared about our kids, I followed his hiring/rehiring/raises enough to know that the timing and visibility masterminded/manipulated all of it with confederates on the Board. He has a chance to make a bunch of $$ here, and leaves our children in the lurch. If it is a window due to his age, how is that suddenly an immediately pressing newfound issue?

    Note: I encourage readers and media to push as hard as possible to determine what has really happened here with an emphasis on good government practices. A well organized, large, peaceful but unyielding demonstration at D65 with a set of reasonable demands would be a good place to start. I know many rational, reasonable tax paying citizens who will want answers to these questions. 

  4. Put the parents back into the equation

    A big problem with school systems most everywhere and Evanston is a good example, is that the school is thought of ‘the’ source of education.  I.e. like liberals don’t give to charity [which don’t include their favorite ‘arts’ or places they can get their name on and/or name in the press], or people save for retirement but instead count of Social Security or other government programs, etc., the public and even parents count on the schools for ‘all education.’
    But schools are only one part.  Good schools or really the good teachers ‘impart knowledge’ but more importantly get children excited about learning in general or at least their subject.  But schools/teachers also have to teach how to study [not just to/for tests], how to research for themselves things not covered in school or that they are interested in, get them prepared for the best college they can go to [academically prepared for], can afford [and how to get scholarships for], how to find what careers they want to pursue, etc..
    BUT even if all these things are done well, there is at least one more important factor—parents.  Parents need to support their children by providing, as much as possible given finances, books, exposure to the arts, places different from their environment [e.g. other cultures in Chicagoland, areas of U.S./world], museums, etc..  But at a minimum a home environment conducive to study [TV turned off, seeing parents read and even study new fields themselves, books or access to libraries, etc.] and more importantly encouragement to learn and question—and as much as possible parents who can ‘teach’ their children such as a foreign [or even ancient] language they know, teach/excite about what the parent does [academic field such as math, history, what they do at work such as programmer] but at a minimum make it clear they can ask questions and the parents will give them an answer or better how to find the answer for themselves such as from books or just really thinking about it [the physicist Richard Feynman in his biography shows how his father was not highly educated showed him how to come up with answers—and questions—even if they could not ‘name’ [such as a bird] what they were seeing].
    Maybe the schools need to take on how to teach parents to get involved and ‘teach’ their children. This is the missing part to the three part ‘education’ 1. Schools dispense some knowledge and joy of learning, 2. Parents re-enforce and build on that my help during non-school hours, 3. Children return to school and ask questions even if [and hopefully] the teacher has to expand their own knowledge, and teachers who ‘answer’, find out, or point to sources, instead of saying “we don’t have time for that”, or “you will learn that in school in five years”, or “you are trying to learn stuff beyond what you ‘should’ be learning.”
    I suspect most of the students who stand out academically and in their careers have parents who get involved with their children’s education as described above—not just going to PTA or meeting with the teacher OR teacher(s) who in effect ‘adopt’ students—unfortunately even in the best situation they can only do this for a few.  Affluent families have the time and likely resources to accomplish these things—they may not do so but they have the potential.  Families who have to struggle with money, work schedules or lack of jobs and crime have a much more difficult time—what are the schools, churches and other groups doing to show them how to help their children ?  In most circumstances parents are left out of the equation.

Leave a comment
The goal of our comment policy is to make the comments section a vibrant yet civil space. Treat each other with respect — even the people you disagree with. Whenever possible, provide links to credible documentary evidence to back up your factual claims.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *