Discover the future of after-school programs with Principal Monica Murray of John Marshall High School, as she shares the innovative approaches taken to prepare students for the world beyond academia. Take a peek behind the curtain of education's evolution where vocational training meets entrepreneurial spirit, empowering students to step directly into the workforce or launch their own ventures post-graduation. This episode is a treasure trove of insights, from interactive skill workshops to specialized support for student-athletes, showcasing how education can be a launchpad for creativity and success.
Monica Murray is a dedicated education professional with a passion for fostering student and staff success through the mastery of learning, the cultivation of meaningful relationships, and the delivery of timely feedback to optimize student engagement. With a career marked by a commitment to educational excellence, Monica has consistently demonstrated her ability to create environments that promote growth and achievement.
In her current role as a Principal, Monica continues to exemplify leadership and vision. Building on her previous experience as an Assistant Principal at Armstrong High School, she has been instrumental in establishing clear goals for curriculum and instruction. Monica's emphasis on backward design for lesson plans, strategic allocation of resources, and regular teacher evaluations has contributed significantly to the overall improvement of student learning outcomes and growth.
Monica's journey in education began as a teacher in the Richmond Public School (RPS) system, where she taught at Thomas C. Boushall Middle, Onslow Minis Middle School, George Wythe High School, and John Marshall High School. Her outstanding contributions to the field were recognized when she was named an RPS Teacher of the Year Finalist and an R.E.B. Award for Teaching Excellence Finalist.
Monica holds a Bachelor of Science Degree from Virginia Union University, a testament to her dedication to academic excellence. She furthered her education at Virginia Commonwealth University, earning both a Master's Degree and a Certificate of Educational Leadership. Monica's educational background, coupled with her practical experience, reflects her ongoing commitment to the advancement of education and the empowerment of students and educators alike.
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because what we realize is that a very small portion of our student population actually go to college and stay. The majority of them, after COVID, are looking to go right into the workforce because there are so many opportunities for them during COVID to work. So, okay, we need to listen and offer those type of opportunities. So we didn't want the kids to just go into fast food working and a lot of them go into a hospitality. But what other opportunities are out there and available? And that's what we began to build our after-school programming already.J. Lee:
Hello Principal Murray! How are you today? Amazing, I love to hear it. Amazing. This is my heart aflutter. So thank you for being here with us for school. After hours We'll talk about all things for these high school time programming and education. Today we're visiting John Marshalls to talk about the transformation that you've done with the school, not just with them academically during the day Congratulations on your credit, thank you and but transforming it into a model of focusing on entrepreneurship but also bringing in resources for kids to pursue the skills that may not have them go into college, but they can make a decent living. So give people a little bit of background about you. But if you want to know, they're like. Principal Murray, who'd have that? So go ahead and introduce yourself and give them a little bit about you, Principal Murray.Principal Murray:
Well, thank you for having me. I'm Monica Murray. I am the proud principal of John Marshall High School here in Richmond, virginia, but we exceed expectations with excellence every single day. I've been in education now for 27 years. I've been a teacher, a teacher coach. I've also been an administrator as an AP assistant principal and now this is year five of my principalship here at John Marshall High School. Throughout my 10 year I have kind of done a little bit of everything. After school programming was important and was one of the things that drew me to being an educator, because I remember my experience in high school and it didn't end when the bell rang. We remained after school and it was those moments that we really enjoyed or found love for one of our classmates, and I would say it's the extension of the education process. So here at John Marshall we're a title one school and I say often that we use title one funds to enhance our learning. But 21st century brings the fun in the afternoon, so we knew we had to find funds to make sure that our after school program was robust and 21st century allows us to do that Awesome.J. Lee:
So some of the things that have happened in John Marshall, like you will have blown my room. That's one of the things. You also got your school accreditation but you also transformed the model of what you wanted to act as school programs to look like after COVID. So kind of woke us through that process of what it looked like before to what it is now Right. So when?Principal Murray:
I first started working at John Marshall. I was a part of our after school program and it was very easy to get kids to stay after school. All you had to say was we were feeding them or we had some type of activity and kids stayed after school. But then when COVID hit and also our district changed our time of day, so our day ends at four o'clock. So after COVID and that day ending, it was ghost town. When we first got back, trying to get kids involved and acclimated again to what school looked like, what the morning, the beginning of school looks like, all the way through the end was difficult, and so we knew that we had to do some things differently. And so the easiest population for us to touch were the athletes. We knew that the athletes were committed because of their athletic program, and once we could get them we knew we could build other programming around and that they would then motivate other kids to begin to stay back. So we began to look at what were the needs of the athletes. One of the most important things for student athletes is to remain eligible so they can play, and that eligibility is easy during the season. But in the off season, what do we do to make sure that they are eligible. And so our after-school programming offers opportunity for our tutoring programs and getting them engaged and introduced to that living-way profession. Because what we realize is that a very small portion of our student population actually go to college and stay. The majority of them, after COVID, are looking to go right into the workforce Because there are so many opportunities for them during COVID to work. So, okay, we need to listen and offer those type of opportunities. So we didn't want the kids to just go into fast food working and a lot of them go into a hospitality. But what other opportunities are out there and available? And that's what we began to build our after-school programming around.J. Lee:
So in that sense, you know you have some entrepreneurship that's going on, mm-hmm, tell us a little bit about that. Yes, yes.Principal Murray:
So each year we do an entrepreneur fair where we bring in entrepreneurs in the area. The kids get to meet them, make connections with them, learn about their business, and it opens our students up to different opportunities. So we just had our entrepreneur fair and we had entrepreneurs here who own their own cooking and catering business, mental health services, truck drivers the gamut from those that offer childcare had created their own art Right, and so we had folks who had earring stands and hat stands and t-shirt stands and a snow cone machine and the kids got to experience that right. And so when we figured out what areas the kids were interested in, we started teaching those skills. One of the ones that we're working on right now is we're preparing for senior installation is the balloon craft and the opportunity that kids have now to create these experiences or decorate places using balloons. It's a big thing, mm-hmm, and every event that we have in the school we're asking for a balloon arch or towers Mm-hmm. The kids are learning how to do that and create that and they can then create a business of their own right. We also have photography, videography and social media, which is huge Mm-hmm, and kids are monetizing their skills on that social media platform Mm-hmm. We have introduced and really fallen in love with a kid who just graduated but before he graduated. Because of his skill behind the camera and his ability to push that on social media, he now has his own photography business, thriving photography business, and he's in college right here, and so now we're able to hire him to do some of the work for us so he gets to give back to his album All right and that's the important thing trying to connect students back to where they started, and I know in previous conversations, not just with other colleagues but even with my person, that's behind the camera, like we talked about students going to have these robust experiences in middle school.J. Lee:
They're getting the activities, all the things, but somewhere in high school like it's lost in translation and they don't have the same type of fun, they don't have the same type of experience. And to see how you capture that here for them, to build them for careers, literally outside of the building, I think is amazing and that's one of the things that we were talking about in our conversations, like who's capitalizing on social media, capitalizing on creating content, and that's one of the things that you were able to do with John Marshall. Go ahead and tell about it.Principal Murray:
So when I first got here, I knew that we had to be the owner of our story. I didn't want anyone else to tell our story but us, and so I knew that social media would be a platform that we could do that instantly. So we found staff members, especially young staff members, who we could hone in on and give that responsibility to. So immediately we hired two social media court makers that do all of our content and promotion. They begin, or the kids really begin, to gravitate around them like I want to be in the videos, so okay. So if you want to be in the videos, we will show you how to also make the videos, and so they became a part of the process, because we can show ourselves as adults all day long, but we really want to highlight the work that the kids are doing, and so once we established the team, the next instructions were to our staff members. We asked as many staff members who felt comfortable to create a social media page. Once we had all our staff members create the page, then the instruction was we will tag you on everything that we do. The axis you repost it. So not only we're posting on our page, but now all of our staff is reposting the information. So we're flooding down the internet and we're all saying the same thing. So then it was just videos of kids and activities. Now how do we get to show the academics that we're doing? And so each one of those teachers who have pages get to celebrate students and the work that they're doing in the classrooms. Once they post, then we turn around as they admin team and repost. So that creates our content. So we get to tell our story, what's happening in the building every single day, and celebrate this great work that we're doing.J. Lee:
And it is amazing. So tell us the story or the process of now you going into getting accreditation yeah, not too many people talk about that and how does that play a role in after-school time program?Principal Murray:
Yes, yeah. So you know everybody's seeking that. I cannot say that we did this on our own. Our district supported us tremendously. They sat down with all of us and said what is your needs? When I told them where it supports, where we looked at our data, we found out where our deficiencies were, where our learning gaps were, put a plan together, went to the district and said this is what we need. And the districts provided that we got everybody on board. So we were all speaking the language as a staff. The goal is accreditation. When we came, covid hit, kind of put a stop, slow down to that work. But we knew we needed a year after COVID to really acclimatize ourselves back to normalcy. And then the year later it was putting in that grind to make sure that everybody understands the importance, how we're gonna get there and it is okay to ask for what you need. So introducing that to all of our students as well, because success gets more success. The more successful we are, the more excited the kids are, the more excited the parents. So again, pushing that story through social media. So last year, if you go back and you look at our tags, it was accreditation, loading, accreditation, loading, accreditation, loading on everything that we were doing, because we wanted the community behind us, as well as the students, to know that we have set a goal. When the kids came back the first day, we told them the story. Here is the goal that we're setting. This is what we did last year, this is our goal for this year, and every time we had meetings with students, we kept that goal in front of them Because we wanted them to buy in and have some ownership of the fact that. The goal was that we were the first comprehensive high school enrichment to be accredited again.J. Lee:
So to accomplish that was just, truly, truly amazing and thinking about that now, not just that process, but being here. What comes to mind and what feelings do you have?Principal Murray:
Proud, grateful, but understanding that to keep it, the work is twice as hard. So now we're looking at what processes we have in place that worked we're gonna keep those and what process do we need to improve on so that we keep it. Because now really is the hard work, because you set the floor at the benchmark.J. Lee:
Now we're trying to now push ourselves to go beyond that Right, and how does after school help you with that goal?Principal Murray:
After school. It affords us the opportunity to give the extra to get the one problem that we didn't get to get in class. So to have the conversation or to motivate really them to come back the next day. Because if I'm doing what I need to do in class, I have after school to look forward to. And we try to make after school look completely different than the 90 minute block of instruction. So infusing the instruction into the fun is really the way we do it. Here's the fun and before you know it, we're reminding you that in biology class y'all talked about sales today. Or in math class you had functions that you had to express. Oh, in English y'all were reading. So in theater we're going through and then we're acting out some of what you were reading. So they're getting it, but they're just getting it subliminally in the end of life, yeah.J. Lee:
Amazing, amazing good stuff. So we're gonna go ahead and switch over to our professional slides. Okay so, principal Murray, my question for you is for those that are in leadership and they are striving for this accreditation, but also to engage their students what encouragement would you give them and what advice would you give them for this process?Principal Murray:
So encouragement is to always know that you're doing what you're doing for children, keeping that in the forefront, that we do this work because we desire student success and to grow children. I would also say keep it simple and keep the main thing, the main thing, right. So building relationships with staff and making staff feel empowered to make decisions and build a staff capacity helps staff understand the importance of the work that we're doing. So you got to feed the staff so they don't eat the children. Making sure staff feel heard, value and supported right. Once they feel heard, value and supported, then they're going to give everything that they can to their students. Students need to know what their goal is. So keeping the goal in front of the students and then the community needs to understand that they are part of success. Feed the staff so they don't eat the children. Keep the goal in front of the students and make sure community is involved.J. Lee:
Well, if anybody wanted to get in touch with you, Principal Murray, you know, go ahead and give me your information so they can reach out to you.Principal Murray:
Absolutely. So I can be reach here at the school, but through phone, that's 780-6052-804780-6052. But the easiest way to get in contact with me is through email and that's mglasmglass at RVASchoolsnet.J. Lee:
Well, thank you so much for your time. Principal Murray, you're welcome. Well, everyone, that brings us to the end of our show. If you like what you heard and you enjoyed our conversation, make sure that you're following us on YouTube, but also hit that like button so we know what you are enjoying. You can also find us on other podcast platforms like Apple Podcasts, spotify and Google Podcasts. If you want to listen to our audio version as well, to get more behind the scenes stuff, make sure that you're following us on our social media accounts Instagram and Facebook, at School After Hours. Well, that's all I have for today. In the words of Mr Arthur Ashe, start where you are, use what you have, do what you can. Until next time, y'all, bye, bye.