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Who's Who: Galen Murphy, Fairmont Principal

Every weekday we feature a chat with someone who lives or works in El Cerrito.

Name: Galen Murphy

Age: “I’ve been around a little while”

Occupation: Principal of

How long have you been the principal here? This is my second year. In El Cerrito I was five years at Castro.

So you’ve been in the school district for a long time? Yes. It would be six and a half years in El Cerrito.

What got you started working in the school district? Well, I got started when I was 22. Not in this school district, but in education. I received my credential out of Hayward State — now Cal State East Bay. I was a Vista volunteer in Washington state on an Indian reservation for a year, and then I was hired as a teacher. I was there for eight years, then I returned to California, because this is where I grew up.

Did you grow up in the Bay Area? Yes. Berkeley, Concord and Alameda. Alameda is where I now live.

What does a day look like for you as a principal? Today was probably a good example. It was raining and we gathered all of the children in the multi-purpose room, where we serve breakfast. I waited until all the kids were picked up and the students went to their room. Usually a few parents come to me with a concern or a question, and so I talked to a few parents. I found a child’s water bottle and returned it to the child. We have a lot of special needs kids here. We have to make sure they all get off the bus and to their rooms. We have a number of aides that work with our special needs children. We have to make sure everyone has their aide. … We have a large school here, 540 children – 100 with Individual Education Programs, or IEPs. We have a lot of help here, over 60 people on campus at any given time. Making sure if somebody’s absent, that somebody is covering for that person, is very complicated. So, everybody got to their rooms.

And that’s just the beginning of the day? That’s just the beginning of the day. I just now got to go to the bathroom [about 9:10 a.m.].

How long is a typical day for you here? I usually try to get here at a quarter to 8. Then – like today – we might have meetings until 4 or 5. Some days we have meetings off campus. It’s not too bad. A couple of nights a month we have late-night parent or PTA things, so then I’ll be here until 8. Sometimes on the weekends I take some papers home so I can concentrate better.

Are there any problems facing the school district you wish to see fixed? The budget. We have to worry about possible layoffs because we do not know what the budget will be until June or maybe in the fall. … We’re really at the mercy of the state budget. We don’t know how much money we’ll have next year. I don’t think we’ll be too affected here because we have an older staff; they’re not the new hires. It’s uncertain. We’re not sure about class size. … There are a lot of things up in the air.

What do you do for fun? I have a lot of fun here. I get presents like this from kids: a Valentine. When I was walking down the hall, one of our special needs kids grabbed my hand and kissed it (laughs). We have fun.

Outside of school my favorite thing to do on vacations is to go up to Washington state and visit my grandson, who’s 3. That’s what my husband and I are doing this Friday. That’s kind of my occupation at the moment, being grandma. And I’m getting another grandbaby in June. I like to walk on the beach and to sit and read, relax, watch TV or watch movies when I’m not at work.

But it’s fun. It’s a fun job here because I get to be with all the children, all the parents and the teachers. We have great teachers here. It’s so diverse. We have 35 percent Latino, 35 percent African American, about 25 percent Asian and about 11 percent white. If you go look we have a number of kids from Tibet lately coming in, children from Africa, Chile, Salvador, Mexico; we have a number of children from Japan. That makes it very exciting. 

christine mason February 19, 2011 at 07:26 PM
Galen Murphy is the reason why my daughter attends Fairmont! We miss Castro terribly, but Galen makes herself available for us at all times and it's the closest thing to our Castro community we can get!

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