Cherokee High School Principal Debra Murdock was named the 2014 Georgia High School Principal of the Year — the first in the county to earn the honor.
Officials from the Georgia Association of Secondary School Principals took the stage during the school district’s annual Women in Sports Day event at the school to make the surprise announcement.
“I truly had no idea,” Murdock said after the presentation. “I had no idea, no idea this morning. I’m very proud of our kids and staff, and the school district has all great principals, I think it’s a win for everyone.”
Murdock said when she saw Superintendent of Schools Dr. Frank Petruzielo, and then saw her parents and family, she knew something was about to happen.
Petruzielo said Murdock, who has been an educator for more than two decades, was known throughout the district for her “leadership, skills and the love she has.”
“We’re so proud of her,” Petruzielo said. “We couldn’t be happier with the selection.”
Murdock said she had an “out of body experience” when the GASSP President-Elect Alan Long went through a timeline of events Murdock would attend as the statewide High School Principal of the Year.
“There’s three different pieces: first we’ll go to Savannah and do a presentation at the conference, then there’s a trip to Washington where all the winners will convene, and then a trip to San Diego where the national winner will be unveiled,” Murdock explained. “It’s so exciting, I’m so proud. I’m so proud of Cherokee County schools.”
Long said Cherokee High School can be “very proud.”
“This is one of those moments not a lot of people get in their careers … to get to say you’re No. 1,” Long said.
Murdock herself is a product of the Cherokee County school system and graduated from Cherokee High School in 1988, where she is now the principal.
“I feel very proud of the education system and the experience I’ve had here,” Murdock said. “I graduated from college in 1992 and I started that year — I was a teacher at E.T. Booth Middle School. My experience is Cherokee County Schools.”
The award is given to one principal in each state who provided high-quality learning opportunities to students and made contributions to the profession.
Murdock said the entire school should be proud, because the vision for Cherokee High has “been cultivated and grown” by everyone at the school.
“I’m most proud to have come back and led Cherokee High School and some of the most exceptional students I’ve ever known,” she said.
Murdock thanked Petruzielo, and said he’s supported and believed in her since the beginning of her journey as an educator.
After the presentation, students and staff gave Murdock a standing ovation, and she said students had been congratulating her in the hallways all day Friday.
“A lot of them gave me high-fives as they walked by,” she said. “It’s been a great day here.”
Murdock became principal at Cherokee High School in 2010, and was previously principal at Teasley Middle School and an assistant principal at both Cherokee High and Chapman Intermediate School.
She lives in Canton with her husband, Lance, and their two sons, Jesey and Jarrett, who are Cherokee County School District students.