Education Commissioner Terry Holliday had visited six classes at Murray Elementary School when he commented to teachers and administrators that he was getting the feel for a full day’s work.
“I guess this is what it’s like every day for teachers,” he said.
It was only 9:40 a.m.
The commissioner still had another six or so hours and two schools to visit before completing his day-long visit to the Murray Independent school district Wednesday.
Holliday visited the district after personnel there cast the winning bid for the “Extra Holliday” item in a silent auction sponsored by the Kentucky School Public Relations Association (KYSPRA). The win entitled the school district to Holliday’s presence for an entire day, with an agenda of district officials’ choosing.
Murray school officials took full advantage of their win, giving Holliday an in-depth look at their schools, classrooms and students.
At the elementary school, Holliday helped out with bus and car duty, breakfast and the morning news, and he participated in Spanish, reading, music and mathematics classes. He also visited Murray Middle School, one of the preschool classes and Murray High School, then concluded his day attending a district leadership team meeting.
Holliday said he was most impressed by the students.
“The student engagement in each classroom has been top-notch,” he said. “They’ve been so well-mannered, too, and they are proof Murray Independent is doing some great things.”
Holliday also complimented the subject integration in each class, praising teachers as he left each room.
He got to showcase his knack for impromptu public speaking throughout the day. At the elementary school, Holliday completed on-air interviews and read the part of Prospero from William Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” along with 3rd graders in Holly Bloodworth’s class.
“His expression was really good,” praised student Amberly Steen.
At the middle school, technology teacher Whitney York had students write scripts for the commissioner to read as a celebrity endorser. He recorded all three scripts on his first take, making sales pitches for a Transport Ticket, a product that uses a thumb scan to help people purchase tickets for sporting events; a ProCom headset that helps football coaches send plays to their quarterbacks electronically; and the Thinkomatic, an app that takes scanned homework and offers ways to make it better.
“There’s a lot of critical thinking going on here,” he told students.
Holliday had a few opportunities to roll up his sleeves. At the high school, he led the band in practicing “O Magnum Mysterium.” Holliday, a former band director who still judges band competitions occasionally, noted how difficult the piece was, telling students that it spoke well of their abilities. He even offered some timing suggestions for the clarinet and trumpet sections.
Back at the middle school, Kentucky Education Association 2011 Middle School Art Teacher of the Year Gena Maley had Holliday lend a hand to students who were making mugs and pitchers out of clay. Holliday tucked his tie into his shirt and assisted the students in using water to smooth out the clay.
When it was time for lunch, Holliday had to earn his food by working in the cafeteria. He donned gloves and a plastic cap before scooping out mashed potatoes for the students. He earned praise from many of them for his generous portions.
Once allowed to eat, the commissioner sat with several middle schoolers. He asked students about their extracurricular activities and career plans and even gave them words of encouragement regarding school dances.
“I’m going to ask the school to send me a report after the next dance,” he joked.
Sixth-grader Nick Hopkins sat next to the commissioner at lunch and chuckled when Holliday talked of line dances and the electric slide.
“He was really nice,” Hopkins said of Holliday. We talked about the student council, and he gave us some good advice. I’m really glad I got the opportunity to meet him.”