Dr. Larry Murray

A former 60's hippie with a strong belief in capitalism, Dr. Murray obtained his Ph.D. in American History in 1970 and went on to, in his own words, ‘publish and perish,’ teaching at colleges and universities while publishing in professional journals. Now Dr. Murray is a tireless community activist, focusing primarily on the administration of the public schools in Monroe County. Hands down, Larry has made more public records requests to the school district than anyone else – ever - something he describes as “the equivalent of pulling teeth” or, as some have put it, "herding cats". Pushing for the best schools possible, he pokes and prods, urging the School District, as often as not, to simply follow its own rules and regulations, not do something unique and different. More Articles by Larry Murray . More Articles by Larry Murray prior to November, 2014.

Apr 212017
 
Where Is the Funding Coming From?

Editor: The School Board has voted unanimously to purchase a piece of land on Stock Island for $3.25 million to locate its new transportation center. There was no discussion as to why this piece of land as opposed to any other is so important as to pay above the appraised value. The land also contains a building about which there was no discussion as to its condition and usability. More importantly, the School District plans to do its due diligence regarding the property after the [continue reading…]

 April 21, 2017  Posted by at 12:40 am Dr. Larry Murray, Issue #215, Letter to the Editor 1 Response »
Mar 032017
 
Open Letter To The School Board

by Dr. Larry Murray……. I have repeatedly raised the issue of MCSD having appropriate policies for the processing of Public Records Requests. After several conversations, it occurs to me that I may have been using the wrong term and thus confusing matters. Yes, MCSD does have very general policies regarding Public Records. What it does not have are WRITTEN PROCEDURES for processing Public Records Requests. There is nothing that identifies to whom a request should be sent and who is responsible for both the processing [continue reading…]

Feb 102017
 
Public Records Law: What About Those School District Text Messages?

Superintendent Porter and School Board: I have expressed to you before my concerns about texting in the conduct of School District business. To my knowledge, only Superintendent Porter has a smart phone provided by the District. Board members provide and maintain their own private phones. Similarly, virtually all District employees have their own phones, not one provided by the District. As a result, there is no District maintained mechanism for storing text messages that might be involved with District operations. Consequently, Public Records Requests for [continue reading…]

 February 10, 2017  Posted by at 1:16 am ~ Opinion ~, Editorial, Issue #205 3 Responses »
Jan 272017
 
Charter Schools, Busing and Ethnicity

by Dr. Larry Murray……. Several weeks ago, the Key West Collegiate High School announced that it was expanding for the 2017-2018 school year by adding a middle school. That announcement touched off an intense, sometimes heated debate, on the School Board and elsewhere regarding the role of charter schools in our county.

 January 27, 2017  Posted by at 12:56 am Dr. Larry Murray, Issue #203 No Responses »
Dec 022016
 
Open Letter: White Flight?

by Larry Murray……. Andy: In today’s Keynoter, you are quoted with regard to the proposed Collegiate Middle School: “How can we be sure that this will not result in one more white-flight school?” Very interesting comment that is likely to have the community talking and then some. When you say “ONE MORE white-flight school” (emphasis added), I assume you are referencing Poinciana School, Montessori Charter School and Sigsbee Charter School as existing “white-flight” schools. Correct? Or, are you referencing other schools? You cannot be identifying [continue reading…]

 December 2, 2016  Posted by at 12:46 am Dr. Larry Murray, Issue #195, Letter to the Editor No Responses »
Nov 252016
 
Profitability of Advanced Placement Courses

by Larry Murray……. We are all familiar with the profitability of Advanced Placement courses for students. That is their main purpose. First of all, students receive a higher level of instruction in AP classes than is ordinarily the case. Because of the additional training given to TEACHERS, the quality of instruction is much higher. Equally important is the fact that students who score a 3 or higher on a 5 point scale are usually given college credit for the class. The net is that they [continue reading…]

 November 25, 2016  Posted by at 1:04 am Dr. Larry Murray, Issue #194, Letter to the Editor 4 Responses »
Oct 142016
 
Trauma Star vs. LifeNet Fees

by Larry Murray……. Editor: Recent reports suggest that the Sheriff’s Department Trauma Star medical evacuation program should break even this year and be in the black in 2017. That indeed is good news. Given those reports, I contacted the Sheriff’s Department regarding Trauma Star costs. Finance Director Mike Rice provided me with the following data. A medical evacuation from Lower Keys Medical Center to Ryder Trauma Center in Miami costs $24,471. Costs from Fishermen’s Hospital and Mariners Hospital to Ryder Trauma Center are $21,353 and [continue reading…]

 October 14, 2016  Posted by at 12:50 am Dr. Larry Murray, Issue #188, Letter to the Editor No Responses »
Sep 232016
 
An Open Letter To The School Board

Gentlemen: At your recent Board meeting, you received a report from your Human Resources Department. The undated report was entitled “2015-2016 New Employee End of the Year Survey Results” and included ” Employee 2015-2016 Survey Results Comparison”. (The District continues to have problems properly titling and/or dating documents, particularly reports.) When I first saw this report, I was pleased and complimented HR Director Dr. Ramon Dawkins. It appears that my compliment was premature. That is what I learned when I read the “2015-2016 New Employee [continue reading…]

 September 23, 2016  Posted by at 1:04 am Issue #185, Letter to the Editor No Responses »
Jul 082016
 
An Open Letter to the School Board: Computer Literacy in Monroe County Schools

Chairman Griffiths: I listened with great interest to your comments last week on “Morning Magazine” regarding “Monroe Compute$”. I share your enthusiasm and praise for John Padget and Jacob Dekker for creating the program which enables students to earn industry certificates in computing and computer science programs such as Microsoft Office and Adobe. Of course, the success of this program is directly related to the financial incentives provided by Padget and Dekker, more than $75,000 for the 256 students who have successfully completed their course [continue reading…]

May 132016
 
Open Letter to the School Board: Cash Settlements and School Discipline

Gentlemen: According to news reports, MCSD is considering a lump sum $550,000 payout to the family of a profoundly autistic elementary school student. Purportedly, the child was molested by a substitute teacher who is now in federal prison. Again, according to news reports, the suit in federal court was brought not entirely because of the molestation, but because of the allegations that the child’s mother reported the incident(s) to officials at Sugarloaf School and was ignored. One expects that there is a foundation, a truthfulness, [continue reading…]

May 062016
 
Open Letter: Contretemps Over Drug Testing of Student Athletes

Gentlemen: I think we all know that there has been a major brouhaha over the proposed return of random drug testing for high school athletes. The proposal was brought to you at your recent workshop/meeting with very little, if any, explanation as to why the program was being revised. There was some mumbling to the effect that the principals and athletic directors wanted the random testing. This morning in his interview with Bill Becker on “Morning Magazine”, Superintendent Porter repeated that he and his staff [continue reading…]

 May 6, 2016  Posted by at 12:58 am Dr. Larry Murray, Issue #165 No Responses »
Feb 192016
 
An Open Letter To The School Board

Gentlemen: I gather from recent newspaper reports that you are once again turning your attention to affordable housing for teachers. Those reports also include some scary data about the overwhelming number of first year teachers who say that they are leaving because they cannot afford housing. It would be interesting to examine the veracity of those statements, but for now, let us take them at face value. As you attack the situation, it will be interesting to see what options you believe are viable by [continue reading…]

 February 19, 2016  Posted by at 1:00 am Dr. Larry Murray, Issue #154 2 Responses »
Feb 052016
 
Who Knew What and When Did They Know It?

An Open Letter To The School Board Gentlemen: We are all anxiously looking forward to Superintendent Mark Porter’s report at next Tuesday’s Board meeting regarding the missing $20,000 in the daycare operation at HOB School. This is Superintendent Porter’s third try at determining what went wrong and who was responsible. They say that three times is a charm and we all expect a thorough, detailed and comprehensive exposition, the final word on the subject. I am particularly interested in the first paragraph of the report [continue reading…]

 February 5, 2016  Posted by at 1:22 am Dr. Larry Murray, Issue #152, Letter to the Editor 1 Response »
Jan 222016
 
About School District Transparency: "Right and Proper Trumps Legal Every Time"

Chairman Griffiths: I have had an opportunity to read all of the documents that you sent me regarding the rules, regulations and procedures for conducting School Board regular meetings, particularly with regard to the preparation and execution of agendas. You are correct that School Board policy for agendas, “Electronic Posting of Agenda and Agenda-Related Documents,” is more stringent than the state requires and I applaud the Board for that. Unfortunately, the agenda procedures outlined are, as often as not, honored in the breach. Phrased differently, [continue reading…]

 January 22, 2016  Posted by at 1:07 am Dr. Larry Murray, Issue #150 No Responses »
Jan 082016
 
No National Merit Scholarship Program?  If Not, Why Not?

Editor: Some time before Christmas when the School District comes to a grinding, two week halt, I sent a simple and direct email to Superintendent Porter requesting information about academic activity. The question was: “Can you tell me if the Monroe County School District participates in the National Merit Scholarship Program and, if so, how well have we done?” Because of the academic nature, I copied Theresa Axford, Executive Director of Teaching and Learning. Neither has deigned to respond to my query. I am not [continue reading…]

Dec 252015
 
Open Letter to Monroe County School Board

Gentlemen: I must confess that I am more than a bit confused. 1. You have told the public that Richard Fechter, a forensic auditor and lawyer, will be investigating the missing funds at the HOB daycare center. Yet, according to newspaper reports, you have not signed a contract with Mr. Fechter and, in that regard, have yet to determine the cost and parameters of his investigation. Phrased differently, you have not told Mr. Fechter exactly what you would like done and when you would expect [continue reading…]

 December 25, 2015  Posted by at 12:48 am Dr. Larry Murray, Issue #146 1 Response »
Dec 252015
 
Appliance Replacement at Peary Court

Friends: Supporters of the purchase of Peary Court by the City of Key West have emphasized that ALL rental income will be used to retire the bonds issued in the purchase. That has concerned me from Day 1 because there will be significant maintenance issues over the years, particularly when you consider that the units are already 20 years old. For example, the life of a typical roof is 20 years. My home is 25 years old and I have had to remodel both the [continue reading…]

 December 25, 2015  Posted by at 12:46 am Dr. Larry Murray, Issue #146 4 Responses »
Dec 182015
 
Open Letter to the Monroe County School Board

Gentlemen: With the singular and notable exception of Board Chairman Griffiths, you set a new high (or is it low?) for posturing at [Tuesday’s] Board meeting regarding the HOB daycare financial fiasco. One definition of posturing is “to pretend to have or affect a particular attitude” and I thought that you did that exceptionally well. Apparently, your collective capacity to evade, avoid and obfuscate is without bounds. I thought that Board member Martin in particular demonstrated a capacity to bluster that exceeded your collective posturing. [continue reading…]

 December 18, 2015  Posted by at 12:50 am Dr. Larry Murray, Issue #145 1 Response »
Dec 122015
 
Open Letter To The School Board - Reprimand the School Suprintendent

  Gentlemen: I understand that Board Chairman Andy Griffiths will propose at Tuesday’s meeting that the Board reprimand the Superintendent for his mishandling of the HOB daycare center financial fiasco, particularly his failure to notify the Board for almost a year. I strongly urge you to support Chairman Griffiths proposed reprimand. The evidence clearly calls for such a decision. Further, this is not the first time that the Superintendent has failed to timely inform the Board about an important matter; the NMSI contract comes to [continue reading…]

Dec 112015
 
Open Letter to School Board Member John Dick

John: According to a report in this week’s Keynoter, you are not supportive of hiring Latour “LT” Lafferty to investigate the financial fiasco in the HOB daycare program. If not Lafferty, who would you recommend and support the investigation? The School District clearly is unable to resolve what became of the missing $20,000 and who is responsible. The District has taken two shots at the problem, one by the Finance Department and one by the King & Walker auditing firm. Neither effort was successful and the [continue reading…]

 December 11, 2015  Posted by at 1:12 am Dr. Larry Murray, Issue #144, Letter to the Editor 1 Response »
Dec 042015
 
An Open Letter to Superintendent Porter / Confusion vs. Contradiction

Superintendent Porter: I found your comments last week on Bill Becker’s “Morning Magazine” about finances at the HOB daycare operation to be confusing, if not contradictory. You told Becker that you thought it perfectly appropriate, without explanation, not to inform the School Board, the State Attorney or anyone else for that matter when HOB Principal Mike Henriquez told you a year ago about financial problems, if not irregularities, with the HOB daycare operation. Rather, you took it upon yourself to conduct an internal investigation sotto voce. [continue reading…]

 December 4, 2015  Posted by at 12:48 am Dr. Larry Murray, Issue #143 No Responses »
Nov 302015
 
Superintendent Releases Finance Department's Review of Missing $20,000 in HOB Daycare Program Funds

Commentary by Dr. Larry Murray……. I have read what is purportedly the Finance Department’s review of the HOB Daycare Program. I say “purportedly” because the document is untitled, undated and incomplete. As best I can tell, the document was drafted sometime after February 25, 2015, although the date August, 2015 does appear in the document. There is no indication as to who authored the document or to whom it was submitted. In short, the document is confusing and most unprofessional. As a legal statement, it [continue reading…]

Oct 162015
 
Leading the Way

Dear Editor, The Monroe County School District is plotting and planning the construction of two new facilities, Plantation Key School and Gerald Adams School, and significant upgrades at Switlik School in Marathon. The total cost of these three projects could easily reach $100 million, no small sum. Ideally, these new schools should be operational for 30-50 years or well into the middle of the 21st century. That being the case, should not these schools be the state of the art, not a carbon copy of [continue reading…]

 October 16, 2015  Posted by at 12:44 am Issue #136, Letter to the Editor No Responses »
Oct 022015
 
Are Your Children Safe In School?

by Dr. Larry Murray……. Are your children safe in the Monroe County Schools? The School District, understandably, certainly wants parents to believe that. According to a recent article in the Citizen, Michael Michaud, the District’s Security and Safety Coordinator, said that the main focus of maintenance activity over the summer was to make the schools safer. “The biggest two things we’ve been working on are perimeter fencing and getting all of the school cameras functioning.” Laudatory goals indeed, but how successful was the District in [continue reading…]

 October 2, 2015  Posted by at 12:56 am Dr. Larry Murray, Issue #134 2 Responses »
Sep 182015
 
The Best Paid Teachers in the State

  by Dr. Larry Murray……. There has been a lot of interest lately in government and quasi-government entities and the number of employees paid six figure salaries. FKAA has aroused particular attention for the number of employees paid over $100,000. Amidst all of this, no one has mentioned the School District. I suspect that MCSD has more personnel drawing six figure salaries than any of its competitors. In late August, the School District decided that it was time to reward with raises its 54 top [continue reading…]

 September 18, 2015  Posted by at 12:52 am * Featured Story *, Dr. Larry Murray 3 Responses »
Sep 182015
 
Controlled Burns

Dear Editor, Bob Dylan tells us that “It doesn’t take a weatherman to tell which way the wind is blowing.” Were that true for everyone! The staff at the Key Deer Refuge, particularly the controlled burn unit, has had its problems over the years determining which way the wind is blowing. In September, 2011, Key Deer management planned a 18 acre controlled burn just north and west of the Blue Hole. During the burn, the wind shifted and over 100 acres was scorched. At one [continue reading…]

 September 18, 2015  Posted by at 12:50 am Issue #132, Letter to the Editor No Responses »
Aug 072015
 
WILL CARS BE NEXT? An Open Letter to Monroe County Commissioners

Will Cars Be Next? by Dr. Larry Murray….. There appears to be a growing belief in Monroe County that government has a responsibility to provide “affordable housing” for a select group of people. That group invariably includes police and fire (first responders), teachers and nurses. I am not entirely sure why these occupations are singled out for government assistance in that most of them have starting salaries in excess of $40,000/yr. with rapid increases after that. Be that as it may, if government is expected [continue reading…]

 August 7, 2015  Posted by at 12:32 am Dr. Larry Murray, Editorial, Issue #126 1 Response »
Jul 312015
 
Open Letter to Andy Griffiths and The School Board

Andy: GOOD NEWS: This year, the College Board provided the “numeric scores” in mid-July, not September, for all 17 AP classes offered in the School District. That change in dates should be of great help to the School Board next year in determining whether or not to extend the NMSI contract in August. There will be no need to use “leading indicators” to determine the success or failure of the NMSI program in improving student performance as the College Board’s “numeric scores” will be in [continue reading…]

 July 31, 2015  Posted by at 12:36 am Dr. Larry Murray, Issue #125 2 Responses »
Jul 102015
 
An Open Letter To State Attorney Catherine Vogel

I need your help. Specifically, I need your help in convincing Superintendent of Schools Mark Porter and the Monroe County School District to comply with Florida law and fulfill my public records requests. You have some awareness of this situation because I began copying you recently on my correspondence with the District and its representatives. On May 30, 2015, I filed three public records requests with the District. One was an original request and two were follow-ups to previous requests. The District promptly acknowledged the [continue reading…]

 July 10, 2015  Posted by at 12:30 am Issue #122, Letter to the Editor No Responses »
Jun 262015
 
Show Me the Money, Part II

by Dr. Larry Murray……. Since the publication of my article, “Show Me the Money”, additional information has come my way regarding the School District’s contractual agreement(s) with NMSI for assistance with broadening participation and increasing scores in Advanced Placement classes. Perhaps the most important thing that I have learned is that no one really knows how much money the program will cost. There is general agreement that a whole lot of money is in play, 6 figures and perhaps 7 figures, but there is no [continue reading…]

 June 26, 2015  Posted by at 12:44 am Dr. Larry Murray, Issue #120 No Responses »