“Eagerness” and “excitement” are the words Sean Murray used to describe his feelings about becoming the new principal of West Hempstead Middle School. Murray, who was appointed on Aug. 24, had previously served as an administrator in the Long Beach School District for seven years.
“I look forward to supporting the engaging, student-centered classrooms,” he said of WHMS, “and continuing the school’s culture of excellence.”
Murray, 42, grew up in Malverne, and graduated from Malverne High School in 1994. He studied English and literature at Binghamton University, receiving a bachelor’s degree in 1998.
Murray started working for a market research company shortly after college, but the only days he enjoyed his job, he recalled recently, were when he held client training for the proprietary software that the company sold. “I thought to myself that if the only part of my day that I like is teaching people, maybe I should teach other people all day long,” he said.
So he went back to school and earned a master’s degree in elementary education from Hofstra University in 2000, as well as a certificate of ad-vanced study in educational policy and leadership. He began his second career in 2001, as a kindergarten and first-grade teacher at P.S. 90 Horace Mann in Queens. He went on to teach third grade in the Franklin Square School District in the 2001-02 school year, and then spent five years teaching fifth grade in the Elmont School District.
He served as assistant principal of Norman J. Levy-Lakeside Elementary School, in the Merrick School District, for four years, and his tenure in Long Beach began in 2011, when he became principal of East Elementary School. Four years later, he moved to the district offices as director of elementary curriculum, instruction and assessment, a newly established position that he held for three years.
His experience as an elementary teacher, Murray said, helped him to understand how students learn. When he became an assistant principal, he said, he learned how to be a leader. As a principal, he added, he learned that he was responsible for all of the students and their learning experience, and as a director, he learned to develop the best practices for all staff members. “That role helped me to understand all of the things that go into developing a cohesive, important instructional program for a school system,” Murray said.
When he was a curriculum director, he said, he missed being a principal. “Having those connections to students and to families is just so much more rewarding than just having a relationship with a curriculum,” he said. “As important as that knowledge is, it doesn’t give you the same satisfaction. I’m excited to just bring all of that knowledge and experience to West Hempstead.”
Murray, who is married and has three children, said that working near the village in which he grew up adds to the excitement of his new job. When building a relationship with his faculty, staff and students, he said, it will be important to make himself visible in the hallways and the classrooms. “Getting to know everyone, not just in their capacity as students and teachers, but also who they are as people, means a lot to me,” he said, adding that visiting students in the lunchroom and during extracurricular activities will help to develop these relationships as well.
Murray acknowledged that while he is looking forward to starting the school year, he is a little nervous about being one of the new faces. “That’s always something that makes you a little apprehensive,” he said, “but the excitement and the eagerness are definitely outweighing that.”