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.

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 »
Jun 122015
Show Me The Money

by Dr. Larry Murray……. The late Illinois Republican senator, Everett McKinley Dirksen, used to say something like: “A million here, a million there, and pretty soon you’re talking about real money.” Such is the case with the Monroe County School District. Not so long ago, the housing bubble burst, property taxes plunged and School District revenues took a dive. While layoffs were avoided, contractually agreed upon raises were not honored as the District struggled to pay its bills. The teachers’ union complained and went to [continue reading…]

 June 12, 2015  Posted by at 12:42 am Dr. Larry Murray, Issue #118 2 Responses »
Jun 052015
What Am I Missing?

An Open Letter to the School Board 1. A first grade teacher in Key Largo is found by a parent, not an administrator, to be under the influence in the classroom with an open container of alcohol in her desk. Makes you wonder how long this behavior has been going on? Because of years of loyal service, she is allowed to quietly resign, effective with the close of the school year, and presumably nothing in her personnel file to alert a future employer. 2. A [continue reading…]

 June 5, 2015  Posted by at 12:24 am Dr. Larry Murray, Issue #117 1 Response »
Mar 132015
Candy Coated School Accounting

by Dr. Larry Murray… The next time a student comes by and asks you to buy something or otherwise financially support a school activity, ask how much money is in his school’s internal account.  He will probably have no idea.  In fact, he will probably not know what an internal account is. However, as a taxpayer, you should. Each school maintains an internal account in which it houses all the money from all those fundraisers from car washes to candy sales. The rules and regulations [continue reading…]

 March 13, 2015  Posted by at 3:06 am Dr. Larry Murray, Issue #105 2 Responses »
Feb 192015
“It Ain’t Never Going To Happen”  / The Auditor General’s Annual Report and the School District’s Response

by Dr. Larry Murray… The annual Auditor General’s audit of the School District is now available for review on the District’s website. Specifically, it is attached to the agenda for the School Board’s workshop held on February 10, 2015. I urge everyone to read it. It is not particularly long, but it is very informative. For the last month or more, Board Chairman John Dick and Superintendent Mark Porter have been bragging about the “clean” audit. Until very recently, the community had little choice but to believe them [continue reading…]

 February 19, 2015  Posted by at 11:29 pm Dr. Larry Murray, Issue #102 No Responses »
Feb 062015
Long Live The King

Editor: The king is dead. Long live the king. Stuart Kessler, Chairman of the Audit and Finance Committee, has been removed and his seat is empty pending the announcement of a replacement by Andy Griffiths. Similarly, the terms of Roger McVeigh, Melissa Grady and Bill Andersen expired with the recent election and their seats are also vacant. Replacement in all three cases is problematic at best as the Board’s Bylaws & Policies state that “No member shall serve more than six (6) years, without a [continue reading…]

 February 6, 2015  Posted by at 12:40 am Dr. Larry Murray, Letter to the Editor No Responses »
Jan 232015
Why the $50,000 Payoff?

Editor: School Board Chairman John Dick is telling anyone who will listen that the recent audit of the HOB construction project absolves Coastal Construction Co., Inc. of any wrongdoing, that in effect it is a clean audit that will please everyone. Of course, since the results of the audit have not been made public, there is no way to determine the accuracy or inaccuracy of Dick’s statements regarding the innocence of the contractor. You will pardon me if I am a little suspicious. As part [continue reading…]

 January 23, 2015  Posted by at 12:55 am Dr. Larry Murray, Issue #98 No Responses »
Jan 092015
An Open Letter To John Dick

John: We need your help. More than ever, we need your help. When you were elected to the School Board, you made it your mission to restrain, ideally reduce, the size of the District administration. Generally speaking, you were successful and the voters rewarded you with reelection twice. A noteworthy exception to restraining administrative growth came early in the Porter administration when the Board acceded to the creation of a new, six-figure position—Executive Director of Operations and Planning. Superintendent Porter said that he needed someone [continue reading…]

 January 9, 2015  Posted by at 12:20 am Dr. Larry Murray, Issue #96, Letter to the Editor 1 Response »