By Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal
JACKSON – Martha “Jackie” Murphy, whose tenure on the state Board of Education is ending this month, says she believes Mississippi’s public schools are poised to make great strides soon.
Murphy, a former remedial reading teacher, said that in recent years the Board’s focus has been on ensuring all students learn to read before exiting the third grade.
She praised the Legislature’s action this past session to establish “a third grade reading gate” where resources are directed on requiring most children to read on grade level by the end of the third grade.
“We feel it is going to help get the dropout rate down and the test scores up,” she said. “Those have been priorities.”
Murphy, who was appointed to the board in 2008 by then-Speaker Billy McCoy, D-Rienzi, was honored Friday morning by the full board during her final meeting “for her contributions to the Mississippi Board of Education and the advancement of education in Mississippi.”
“My years on the board have been exciting,” Murphy said. “The state Department of Education has done great things, and I look forward to more.”
Board Chairman Wayne Gann of Corinth, said, “Mrs. Murphy doesn’t create a lot of fanfare or seek out publicity, but she is as solid as a rock and is always for what is best for boys and girls. She wants what is best for kids. She has been an excellent board member.”
Murphy came to the board as a career educator. She taught from 1983 until 2005 at Marietta Elementary School and before then taught for two years at Wheeler.
McCoy appointed her in 2008 to fill a post left vacant by Becky Harris, also a retired Prentiss County educator, who had to step down to resume her professional career.
“I have known her all her life,” McCoy said of Murphy. “She is a tremendous lady, tremendous citizen and educator. She knows education from the bottom brick to the top of the roof. She has been a tremendous board member. So many people have told me that. We are so proud of her.”
Current Speaker Philip Gunn, R-Clinton, is expected to appoint someone to replace Murphy in the coming months. That person will face Senate confirmation in 2014 for a nine-year term.
The board is made up of five appointments by the governor, two by the lieutenant governor and two by the speaker.