When asked about the best part of his job, Ed Murray, program director for OnTop, jokingly replies, “summers off.”
Murray will be retiring from his position as a special educator at OnTop, an alternative program for children who face behavioral or social obstacles. Murray has been in his position for 37 years.
He followed up about the best part of his job more seriously with, “seeing the changes in kids as they grow up.”
“Working with students, sometimes as 9th graders, and pushing them through until they graduate,” Murray said. “That’s a real accomplishment for a lot of these guys.”
Tom Emery is also a special educator at OnTop, and has been working with Murray for 23 years.
“Ed puts students at ease. He uses his humor to make tougher situations less stressful.” Emery said. “He brings a lot of energy and enthusiasm, and makes everyone smile a little bit.”
Although he is constantly joking around, those who work with him say that his dedication to the program is shown through his hard work.
“When [OnTop] moved to [BHS], it created a lot of challenges for the staff and for the students.” Emery said. “He takes all that like ‘This is no big deal.’ But when he’s trying to improve the situation, he’s full of good ideas.”
Herb Perez, now assistant principal at BHS, was in his first year of teaching at BHS when he met Murray.
“One of the things that struck me about him is that he is was professional as he was humorous,” Perez said. “I really got to know quickly what a special person he is.”
Murray came to OnTop from a residential program, and found working at a day program to be less strenuous. Since then, he has witnessed the trends in education over the years.
“You go through ebbs and flows of education,” Murray said. “We circle back to some of the same ideas. We used to do more vocational education with kids. We worked harder at placing them in jobs. It seems like now, your tech-ed classes are a little bit harder for our kids to get into.”
Murray emphasizes the impact of students working with their hands.
”We would do trail work up at Camels Hump and build bridges,” he said. “The were motivated. They could actually see something.”
Murray and groups of kids spent ten summers working at parks in the region, and eventually built two bridges on the Camel’s Hump hiking trail.
Murray lives an active life. He enjoys outdoor activities such as snowmobiling and fishing.
“If it’s nice out, I’m out.” he said.
One winter, while working on his snowblower, Murray got his hand stuck and was forced to amputate his pinky. But as Emery recalls, that didn’t stop him from joking around.
“He built this little pinky sized coffin,” Emery said. “So he boiled his own finger and took all the stuff off it, so it’s just got a bunch of bones. Every year at Halloween, he brings it in and shows his students his little finger.”
Assistant Principal Perez notes that this combination of humor and dedication is special.
“One of the best guys I’ve ever met in this work, and I’ve been at this for 24 years,” Perez said.
Although he will no longer be working in a full time position, Murray will continue to work in the district part time as a substitute.
“It’s been amazing to watch him work, and working alongside him has been even better. I’m going to miss him a lot,” Perez said.