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ICCSD appoints interim superintendent

Matt Degner takes over for outgoing Steve Murley on July 1
Matt Degner

IOWA CITY– The Iowa City Community School District (ICCSD) moved one step closer to the end of the Steve Murley era as the district board of directors selected Assistant Superintendent Matt Degner to serve as the interim superintendent beginning July 1. The board took the action by unanimous vote on Tuesday, April 21.
Murley, superintendent since July 2010, announced in October he would not be renewing his contract in June. Murley, who was among the top three contenders for the Chief Administrator position at the Grant Wood Area Education Agency in Cedar Rapids in 2018, will be the next superintendent for the Green Bay School District in Green Bay, Wis. The Green Bay School Board approved Murley on a 4-3 vote on Monday, March 1, according to the Green Bay Press Gazette.
Degner has been with the ICCSD for seven years, and has been an assistant superintendent for four years, after serving as the district’s director of schools (for one year), and the principal of Southeast Junior High (for two years). He previously served in the Williamsburg and Bettendorf school districts as a teacher, coach and assistant principal.
“I am honored and humbled to have the opportunity to serve all students, families, and staff in the Iowa City Community School District,” Degner said in a press release from the ICCSD. “I am passionate about ensuring success for all students and bringing innovative practices to education. We will continue to build on the district's goals toward academic excellence, with a core focus on equity, to drive us to be better for all families that we serve. I am committed to creating and leading a culture of empathy, inclusion, and success for all students and staff. While there are many pieces and components to that, I am confident and excited that the Iowa City Community School District is a place where we can see all of that come together."
Degner led the opening of Liberty High School in North Liberty, as well as the Kirkwood Regional Center on the University of Iowa’s Oakdale Campus. He led the implementation and creation of the district’s new Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Plan, the transition to 1:1 Chromebook usage, and is continuing to refine the district’s Secondary Multi-Tier System of Supports.
According to the press release, Board President Janet Godwin said, “Under Degner's leadership, secondary schools in the district have seen a decrease in behavior referrals and suspensions and an increase in the number of students in Advanced Placement courses.
“The board is extremely pleased with the appointment of Matt to the interim superintendent role. We have confidence in his ability to lead the district and continue to drive forward on our most important priorities. We also have great trust in his unwavering commitment to serving students, families, teachers, and staff in our district. We are excited to begin working with Matt in this new role.”
Responding to an email inquiry, Board Vice-President Shawn Eyestone said, “The board felt strongly that an internal hire would be extremely helpful in continuing to make progress on the many important initiatives we’ve already begun during this search process. Matt Degner has the skills and experience to help us do just that.”
Eyestone added it was very important for the board to have continuity on the administrative team, which he called a very successful, cohesive group.
He noted Murley’s 10-year tenure is much longer than the average tenure of a superintendent and leaves behind a great administrative team he helped assemble.
“As we go through the search process, we will be working hard to ensure the team stays intact by having a voice in the selection process,” he noted.
The community will also be a part of the process, Eyestone said. “The board values that input so we can set up the next permanent superintendent for success.”
The board will conduct a national search for a permanent superintendent with a Request For Proposal (RFP) seeking a search firm going out later this summer. Eyestone said the board hopes to select a firm this fall.
“That will begin the process of finding candidates,” he said. “We are very aware how the situation surrounding the coronavirus may affect our timelines, so there is the possibility of that needing to be altered.”