Murphy moves from superintendent to new role

Murphy moves from superintendent to new role
Lori Feeney

Murphy’s new position as director of operations will allow him to focus on projects such as completing the construction of the new multi-school campus, student safety plans and other capital improvements.


Mark Murphy, Tusky Valley’s outgoing superintendent, said he has always wanted to be a light. Now the man who would be a light is passing the torch on to a new superintendent, Dr. Derek Varansky, the school system’s former director of curriculum, instruction and federal programs.

Murphy has seen a lot during his 17 years in the superintendent’s seat. He also has done a lot. He has helped the district through several floods and a world pandemic. He spearheaded the drive for a new multi-school campus, fought for the passage of school levies and was named the 2020 Superintendent of the Year by the Buckeye Association of School Administrators. He’s also seen more than a thousand students cross the stage to receive their diplomas.

Murphy said it is a transition rather than retirement as he will take over the role of director of operations for Tusky Valley Local School for the next three years.

“It’s a very strategic transition in terms of succession,” Murphy said. “It’s something that’s been in the back of my mind for quite a while. And this summer I felt this quiet nudging telling me it was time.”

Murphy was born in Jacksonville, North Carolina. “My dad was a marine out of Camp LeJune,” he said. “He served in Vietnam, and when he came back, he and my mom relocated back to New Philadelphia, where they were from. I grew up out on Crooked Run Road, so although I was born in North Carolina, Tuscarawas County has been my home all my life.”

A graduate of Ashland University and the University of Akron, Murphy taught fifth grade in Wadsworth from 1991-94. He also served as the elementary school principal at York Elementary School in New Philadelphia from 1994-97 and at Green Local Schools in Summit County.

Hired in 2005, Murphy is the longest serving superintendent in the school district’s history. To put that in perspective, Murphy said, “Our daughter Emma was a year old when we came here, and our son Aaron wasn’t even a thought yet.”

Emma will turn 18 on Aug. 20, and Murphy and his wife Tammy will soon move her to the main campus of Kent State University. Aaron will be a sophomore this year.

As for his new role, Murphy said it will encompass a number of important responsibilities. “This is the difference between what I did before and what I will do now: I can concentrate time, effort and energy towards our construction project, district safety, our emergency management plans and capital improvement projects.”

Perhaps the most important part of his role will be investing time mentoring Varansky as he becomes the new superintendent. “This is not an 8-5 job,” he said. “You live the superintendency, and your main mission is being for children, for the school district, for the community. This is not a job. This is a calling, and you either have it or you don’t.”

Murphy and the school board firmly believe Varansky has it. He said school boards in similar situations will typically hire an outside person to train a new superintendent. “We did not feel the need to do that,” he said.

Dick Gooding, vice president of the school board, said the fact that Murphy can be on hand to mentor Varansky through the transition will make the district even stronger. “In most school districts, when the superintendent retires, there is no transition and no opportunity to continue the same educational level.”

Looking back, Murphy credits his parents for his work ethic and philosophy on life. “My mom and dad raised my brother and me to finish well. They said, ‘Whatever you do, you give it your very best. You do it with excellence, and there are no shortcuts,’” he said.

Looking forward, Murphy said, “This is a win-win for our school district and for our community. When I look at Dr. Varansky’s strengths and skill sets and when I consider my strengths, together we can accomplish this.”

Part II of this story will appear in the Aug. 13 edition of The Bargain Hunter.

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