Murray given service award

Altoona Area School District Superintendent Dennis Murray said Thursday that he hopes attorneys are able to quickly address the questions regarding administrative pay raises that surfaced in January while he was off work on medical leave.

“I hope,” Murray said outside a meeting of the Logan Township supervisors, who honored Murray for his service. “That’s my desire. That they get this resolved.”

The Altoona Area school board voted Tuesday night to put Murray on paid leave and hired a law firm from the Philadelphia area to continue an investigation into what might have been unauthorized administrative pay raises.

On Thursday night, supervisors honored Murray, a township resident, for 29 years of service as the district’s superintendent and six years as an assistant superintendent. The board of supervisors is chaired by retired Assistant Superintendent Frank Meloy, who read a proclamation that each supervisor signed, then presented Murray with an engraved plaque.

Murray thanked them for honoring him, and they, in turn, thanked him for his service.

The idea of the proclamation came up at a previous township meeting after Murray announced last August that he would retire at the end of the school year. Supervisor Joe Metzgar, who served with Murray on the township planning commission, proposed the proclamation.

Outside the meeting, Murray declined to address the raises in question, based on legal advice.

“It was a surprise because I wasn’t there when the announcement was made,” Murray said. “I just wish there had been better communication because a lot of things could have been avoided.”

The superintendent was on medical leave in January when the school board directed solicitor David P. Andrews to look into at least six administrative raises above contracted amounts for which board President Ryan Beers could find no record of approval.

“I didn’t want to lawyer-up, but when you get into situations, you have to defend yourself,” he said.

Murray also said he appreciated the support from the supervisors and from others.

In 29 years, issues are going to surface, he said, but that doesn’t mean they measure up to large problems.

He said he’s leaving the district with a fund balance of $52 million and excellent academic programs after years of holding down real estate taxes.

“The big picture tells the story,” he said.

Altoona Mirror Staff Writer Kay Stephens is at 946-7456.