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May 25, 2004 > Irvington principal, PTSA win Holy Names University awards

Irvington principal, PTSA win Holy Names University awards

by Gary Leatherman

Irvington High School Principal Pete Murchison and the IHS Parent Teacher Student Association were presented with the 2004 Holy Names University Award for Outstanding Principals and Parent Organizations at a ceremony at the school Wednesday (May 19). The award is presented annually to one public school and one private school in Alameda and Contra Costa County. It includes a $5,000 grant for the principal and a second $5,000 grant for the PTSA.
Holy Names President Rosemarie Nassif said the award was created by a donor who recognizes the importance of strong high school principals in preparing all students to reach their full potential by pursuing higher education. Holy Names is dedicated to serving those students and has been recognized as the third most diverse campus in the West, she said.

Nassif said the award is presented to principals who display leadership by building a sense of community and connectedness among students, faculty and the broader community. She said principals who receive the award foster a positive community environment within their school, motivate staff and students to think critically and act ethically, encourage community service, nurture an inclusive culture and encourage family partnerships with the school.

The award application must be supported by letters from a representative of the nominating parent organization, a representative of student government, a faculty member and a community member. Teacher Cheryl Cook-Kallio noted in her letter that she has never seen a principal who works harder than Pete to improve the school and encourage community involvement. She said she first realized the depth of his commitment when she saw him sweeping the faculty room.

Other letters noted the long list of innovations Murchison has brought to IHS to improve student achievement and to make the school a center of community activity. Under his leadership, IHS was the first school in Fremont to require community service, developed a no "D" grading policy, created support programs for African American and Latino students, developed the QUEST program that requires students to create an independent senior study project with a mentor and present the results to a panel of teachers and community members. "Pete is tireless in his quest for excellence," Cook-Kallio said.

Former IHS parent Gloria Ritchie, who directs State Sen. John Dutra's Fremont office, said, "Every non-profit agency in the city has benefited from Irvington High School volunteers. His leadership ahs improved the school, the students and the community."

Nassif said the letters she received nominating Murchison were among the most impressive she has read on behalf of a principal. "If he were 20 percent as good as you say, he still would be outstanding," she said.

In accepting the award, Murchison said, "I don't get humbled very often. I get the credit, but the strength (of IHS) is in the community. It isn't about any one person; it's all the people dedicated to making Irvington a better school."

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