ALBANY, Ga. -- Less than a month after taking over as the new superintendent of the Dougherty County School System, Dr. Joshua Murfree told Albany Rotary Club members Thursday that in order to move the school system to "the next level, strong, positive attitudes about education are needed from the community."
Making his first public appearance since taking over as superintendent, Murfree stressed that teamwork is needed to strengthen the county's schools.
"Education is at the forefront and it should not be politicized, and we shouldn't try to politicize it" Murfree said to the gathering at Doublegate Country Club. "We need to combine home, school and community to achieve results. Studies have shown if parents are involved in their children's education, 83 percent of the children will graduate from high school," he said.
"As superintendent there will be no excuses. And as I said before, this is not just about school, this is also about home and community. All must be involved to have a successful school system."
Murfree also addressed his contentious hiring process and sometimes rocky relationship with the local media.
"I regard the past few weeks as a learning process," Murfree said. "I don't think I got a raw deal (from the media), I think it was part of the process. I now invite the media to join us and help the system grow and become part of the community.
"I have an open door policy. I will talk to anyone at anytime. Line up and I will talk to them. It's all about engagement."
Murfree said he is in the process of setting up a "blue ribbon" advisory panel of teachers, parents and community leaders to make up a "think tank" to help him guide the system.
Still, Murfree did not stray too far away from his central theme of parental involvement.
"I tell you what I have seen in my career as an educator," Murfree said. "Most parents are involved with their kids from K to eighth grades.
They'll be at the meetings, they'll call teachers. But after the kids get into high school the only time they get involved is coming to athletic events.
"We have to change this mind set."
Murfree likened his new position to that of a physician.
"I want to make rounds at the school like a doctor seeing his patients," Murfree said. "We have to make sure our teachers are allowed to teach, and also allow them to be creative in how they teach.
"That's my job."