Covington named Murray School District Superintendent; Hirase retiresJul 06, 2017 10:23AM ● By Julie Slama
Murray School District Superintendent Steve Hirase, seen here cooking a Mountain Man breakfast for student leaders at Riverview Junior High in 2012, will retire June 30. Current Hillcrest Junior High Principal Jennifer Covington will assume the duties of superintendent.
The candy dish filled with Hot Tamales and M&Ms will soon be replaced by pure chocolate July 1 as Hillcrest Junior High Principal Jennifer Covington assumes the duties of Murray School District superintendent July 1.
Current Superintendent Steve Hirase will retire after seven years in the position and 38 years in education.
“I’m a chocolate lover and everyone knows they can count on me to supply them with it,” Covington said about her Hillcrest staff and faculty. “I love this school. The kids are great and the staff is enthusiastic and committed, but I am looking forward to working with all the teachers and employees to make sure we have the tools in place to provide the best education for Murray students.”
Covington, who was selected from eight applicants and announced May 11 as the 10th superintendent in the district’s history by the Murray Board of Education, is a strong supporter of technology in the schools.
“Technology is to support student learning. With Chromebooks in the classrooms, students can enhance their learning in math, science, English, all areas,” said the former nine-year Murray High business and marketing teacher. “But arts is very important. We need a good balance of everything for our students to be well rounded.”
Covington, an Idaho native, is the first woman superintendent in the history of the District.
“It’s about skills. I’m just the right person for the right job at this time. I’m grateful, but I started as always wanting to be a really good teacher. Then, the principal (Dee Jensen) thought I’d be a good administrator so I became an assistant principal at Hillcrest,” she said.
After five years as an assistant principal, Covington was named principal, a position she has held for eight years.
“I’m really going to miss directly working with the kids and functioning as a team with Hillcrest staff and faculty. The opportunity to become superintendent doesn’t come along all the time, and I’m so excited about the challenge, but it doesn’t mean there won’t be tears my last days at Hillcrest,” she said
Covington is proud of incorporating the plus period into Hillcrest’s schedules.
“The plus period is a good opportunity for teachers to go back and provide help for those students who may not understand the material the first round and at the same time, it gives other students a chance to enhance their learning,” she said.
During her tenure, Covington helped in the construction plans of the new Hillcrest Junior High that opened in 2015.
The construction was under the eyes of current superintendent, Steve Hirase, who has served as superintendent since 2011 and as assistant superintendent 13 years prior. Hirase also oversaw the construction of the school district office complex and Murray High School’s track, football field and tennis courts.
However, he feels strongly about the progress made on the district’s improvement plan.
“It took two years to develop and it has a direct impact on student learning and student achievement. It shows our commitment to student success,” said Hirase, who in 2016 was recognized by U.S. Congresswoman Mia Love for his outstanding and invaluable service to the community.
Hirase said that through his tenure as superintendent, there has been budget challenges.
“With the recession, we’ve had budget challenges up until this year and we still needed to move our district forward,” he said, adding that employees will receive a pay raise for the 2017-18 school year. “With the recession, we used to have money in reserve, but we lost that flexibility. So, some class sizes were higher than in years past since we couldn’t hire additional teachers. Within the district office, I really appreciate my colleagues especially when we’ve had people leave and didn’t replace them, our staff would step up and do the extra work as a priority as a way to save money.”
However, Hirase, who also served as Grant Elementary’s principal as well as South Park Academy at the Utah State Prison, didn’t stay cooped up in an office. He was involved in the schools such as taking his beloved pet snakes into classrooms, volunteering at a dunk tank or having a cream pie thrown at him at a carnival, or making a Mountain Man breakfast for faculty and staff.
“Many of us go into education in hopes that we change the lives of young kids. Often, we don’t know that we make a difference until later in our careers when they come back and say, ‘Dr. Hirase, I don’t know if you remember me, but thank you.’ Many of those students, we worked with, just giving them extra help or listening with them as they go through difficult struggles. We care about them and that gets through,” said the former Utah State University engineering student who changed his major to elementary and special education and taught at Jordan Valley School for four years.
“I made a huge leap to this career and it has been most rewarding,” Hirase said. “It’s a decision I’ve never regretted and I have felt blessed through my career.”