shaun murphy

Lakeville South High School Principal Shaun Murphy meets with students at the Cougar statue inside the Lakeville Area School District building.

The 41-year-old Murphy, a native of Northfield, earned a bachelor’s degree in special education and psychology at St. Olaf College and a masters in special education at St. Thomas. Murphy lives in Castle Rock with his wife and three kids. He took time to talk with the Sun Thisweek after completing his first day on the job.

Did you take a moment to let it all sink in when you went into your new office and sat in the principal’s chair for the first time?

Yeah, it’s that moment when you realize it’s time to dive in and get to work.

And a lot of hard work and effort on your part to get there.

I’m entering my 17th year in the district. I have worked in both high schools and go back to when there was just one high school. I worked hard to give back as much as I can to the Lakeville community. To now become a principal – it’s been a life-long dream and a proud moment.

It’s been kind of a whirlwind summer for you. You went through a lot of it thinking you were going to remain dean of students. Braun announced on July 22 that he was retiring. Did you know right then that this was your opportunity?

Yes. I was at a point in my career that I was looking to become a principal and it was a perfect opportunity to go for it. I felt I prepared myself really well for the job. My background has kind of led me to this position, going from a teacher to a special ed lead to a dean over the last nine years has helped me to be prepared for the obstacles a principal can face. I felt confident and ready.

What led you to pursue a career in education?

My undergrad degree was in psychology, and I sat down with my academic advisor at St. Olaf one day and he told me that I could get a double degree in social studies and education. I thought it would be a good idea to get two degrees for the price of one. I started working with students as part of my practicum and I fell in love with it. I felt like it was where I needed to be.

 

From there I got my masters in special education, specializing in learning disabilities. I knew I always wanted to help people, and that’s why my first thought was psychology. As a first-year teacher I started the first-ever autism program at South St. Paul High School. From there I moved to Lakeville as a head coach and teacher.

What did you coach?

I was the head wrestling coach and also coached ninth-grade football. I was a part of our last state football championship in 2003, when we were one high school. I’ll never forget that feeling of having that last pep fest and how exciting that was; how the ground just shook.

I look forward to working with Kim (new North principal Kim Budde), along with a lot of colleagues I worked with over the years at North. I want to build that bridge, using the power of two in everything from staff development to being Lakeville proud.

Do you think that’s been lacking a little bit?

I do. I kind of experienced it as a coach – I have that lens – and as an educator. We have that friendly rivalry, but now that we are both well-established it’s time to work together on a lot of things. I have the luxury of knowing Kim for a long time and we have a good working relationship. So it’s exciting to start new with her. I want both high schools to do well. When people in the community ask me where I work I say Lakeville. I really mean that.

What do you think your greatest challenge is going to be in the position?

The challenge of any new position is making sure you build relationships. The first year is all about reaching out to all the stakeholders – community members, family members, the Chamber of Commerce – to build those relationships and those bridges.

How do you think the principal can make the biggest impact on the school?

I start by asking our staff, “What is your why?” Why did you get into education? For me as the principal it’s all about bringing out the best in our staff, so they bring the best out of our students. So it’s always important to keep that “why” in front of you. So everyone wrote down their why and we are laminating them and hanging them in our offices so we see them every day. And we are hanging up a picture of ourselves from high school. It’s about giving the staff the professional development they need to be the best they can be and impact students every day.

Going back to our school days we all had thoughts about what a principal is and what the position represents. Taking yourself back to those days, what thoughts did you have about principals?

When you thought about the principal you thought about someone who is in an office and wore a nice suit and you didn’t want to approach him very often. So by showing a picture of myself in high school – and the teachers doing the same – it kind of humanizes things. Parents see that, too, and can relate to that. Having that open door all the time is very important to me, that people know I’m there if they want to talk.

But it is a bit of an intimidating job and title for a lot of kids.

It is, and it’s my job to earn their respect and to break down those walls. In the first year it would really be easy to get caught up in all the e-mails and all the planning you want to do for the school. I need to put those things off until later in the evening and be out there building relationships.

How might you go about putting your own stamp on the job?

For the last two years I’ve been working with the district’s SEL committee, which is social and emotional learning. The focus is on the whole child, not just the academics. I’m very passionate about that. When you walk in our door at Lakeville South I want you to know that we look at you as a whole person and that we care about you as a whole person. I want everyone to feel valued and proud of being part of the Cougar family. Our teachers are leading that effort and it is something we will continue to push at Lakeville South.

You mentioned the principal with the nice suit. Have you had to go out and do some shopping?

I got the two-for-one special. The joke was that I had the new suit on (for the job interview) but getting hired was still pending board approval. So I could still return the suit if for some reason the board didn’t approve me. So yes, I had to update my wardrobe, but at the same time I still need to be myself, so I won’t always wear that suit.

 

One thing that is new this year is Cougar Friday. Our staff is going to wear Cougar gear every Friday. You won’t see me with a suit on.

 

 

 

Returning Lakeville South High School students will see a familiar face in a new role this week when Shaun Murphy, the former dean of students, begins his term as principal. Murphy was hired on Aug. 20 following the retirement of John Braun, who held the position for five years.

 

The 41-year-old Murphy, a native of Northfield, earned a bachelor’s degree in special education and psychology at St. Olaf College and a masters in special education at St. Thomas. Murphy lives in Castle Rock with his wife and three kids. He took time to talk with the Sun Thisweek after completing his first day on the job.

 

Did you take a moment to let it all sink in when you went into your new office and sat in the principal’s chair for the first time?

 

Yeah, it’s that moment when you realize it’s time to dive in and get to work.

 

And a lot of hard work and effort on your part to get there.

 

I’m entering my 17th year in the district. I have worked in both high schools and go back to when there was just one high school. I worked hard to give back as much as I can to the Lakeville community. To now become a principal – it’s been a life-long dream and a proud moment.

 

It’s been kind of a whirlwind summer for you. You went through a lot of it thinking you were going to remain dean of students. Braun announced on July 22 that he was retiring. Did you know right then that this was your opportunity?

 

Yes. I was at a point in my career that I was looking to become a principal and it was a perfect opportunity to go for it. I felt I prepared myself really well for the job. My background has kind of led me to this position, going from a teacher to a special ed lead to a dean over the last nine years has helped me to be prepared for the obstacles a principal can face. I felt confident and ready.

 

What led you to pursue a career in education?

 

My undergrad degree was in psychology, and I sat down with my academic advisor at St. Olaf one day and he told me that I could get a double degree in social studies and education. I thought it would be a good idea to get two degrees for the price of one. I started working with students as part of my practicum and I fell in love with it. I felt like it was where I needed to be.

 

From there I got my masters in special education, specializing in learning disabilities. I knew I always wanted to help people, and that’s why my first thought was psychology. As a first-year teacher I started the first-ever autism program at South St. Paul High School. From there I moved to Lakeville as a head coach and teacher.

 

What did you coach?

 

I was the head wrestling coach and also coached ninth-grade football. I was a part of our last state football championship in 2003, when we were one high school. I’ll never forget that feeling of having that last pep fest and how exciting that was; how the ground just shook.

 

I look forward to working with Kim (new North principal Kim Budde), along with a lot of colleagues I worked with over the years at North. I want to build that bridge, using the power of two in everything from staff development to being Lakeville proud.

 

Do you think that’s been lacking a little bit?

 

I do. I kind of experienced it as a coach – I have that lens – and as an educator. We have that friendly rivalry, but now that we are both well-established it’s time to work together on a lot of things. I have the luxury of knowing Kim for a long time and we have a good working relationship. So it’s exciting to start new with her. I want both high schools to do well. When people in the community ask me where I work I say Lakeville. I really mean that.

 

What do you think your greatest challenge is going to be in the position?

 

The challenge of any new position is making sure you build relationships. The first year is all about reaching out to all the stakeholders – community members, family members, the Chamber of Commerce – to build those relationships and those bridges.

 

How do you think the principal can make the biggest impact on the school?

 

I start by asking our staff, “What is your why?” Why did you get into education? For me as the principal it’s all about bringing out the best in our staff, so they bring the best out of our students. So it’s always important to keep that “why” in front of you. So everyone wrote down their why and we are laminating them and hanging them in our offices so we see them every day. And we are hanging up a picture of ourselves from high school. It’s about giving the staff the professional development they need to be the best they can be and impact students every day.

 

Going back to our school days we all had thoughts about what a principal is and what the position represents. Taking yourself back to those days, what thoughts did you have about principals?

 

When you thought about the principal you thought about someone who is in an office and wore a nice suit and you didn’t want to approach him very often. So by showing a picture of myself in high school – and the teachers doing the same – it kind of humanizes things. Parents see that, too, and can relate to that. Having that open door all the time is very important to me, that people know I’m there if they want to talk.

 

But it is a bit of an intimidating job and title for a lot of kids.

 

It is, and it’s my job to earn their respect and to break down those walls. In the first year it would really be easy to get caught up in all the e-mails and all the planning you want to do for the school. I need to put those things off until later in the evening and be out there building relationships.

 

How might you go about putting your own stamp on the job?

 

For the last two years I’ve been working with the district’s SEL committee, which is social and emotional learning. The focus is on the whole child, not just the academics. I’m very passionate about that. When you walk in our door at Lakeville South I want you to know that we look at you as a whole person and that we care about you as a whole person. I want everyone to feel valued and proud of being part of the Cougar family. Our teachers are leading that effort and it is something we will continue to push at Lakeville South.

 

You mentioned the principal with the nice suit. Have you had to go out and do some shopping?

 

I got the two-for-one special. The joke was that I had the new suit on (for the job interview) but getting hired was still pending board approval. So I could still return the suit if for some reason the board didn’t approve me. So yes, I had to update my wardrobe, but at the same time I still need to be myself, so I won’t always wear that suit.

 

One thing that is new this year is Cougar Friday. Our staff is going to wear Cougar gear every Friday. You won’t see me with a suit on.

 

 

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