Indy’s Leading Changemakers: A Q&A With Megan Murphy, Founding Principal Of Circle City Prep
School leader Megan Murphy (St. Louis '08) shares reflections and insights on what it means to provide all students with an equitable and excellent education.
In the fall of 2017, alum Megan Murphy (St. Louis ’08) opened Circle City Prep, a K-8 college prep academy, in the Far Eastside community. Megan speaks to expanding access to high-quality education for Indianapolis kids, committing to setting a bar of excellence, and loving the abundance of big and small moments that enrich her role as the school's founding principal.
Where did you grow up, and why did you join Teach For America?
I grew up on the north side of Indianapolis and graduated from Brebeuf Jesuit in 2004. I attended Trinity University in San Antonio, TX before joining the St. Louis corps in 2008 as a ﬁrst grade teacher. Ultimately, I joined TFA after college because I wanted to do something purposeful in service of others. I viewed TFA as a tremendous opportunity to work incredibly hard with the support of an established organization to directly impact inequity in our country.
What did you do after your corps experience?
After my corps commitment I stayed at my placement school in the Normandy School District for two more years and moved into a ﬁfth grade teaching role, where I was grade-Ievel lead and had an opportunity to lead an all-girls classroom. In 2012, I moved back home to Indianapolis and served on TFA-lndy’s teacher leadership development team. Following three years on staff, I completed a fellowship with Building Excellent Schools, an organization that trains and develops entrepreneurs to design, found and lead high performing urban charter schools across the country.
Why did you decide to found Circle City Prep?
While I grew up in Indianapolis, I did not know much about the Far Eastside community until I was on TFA-lndy staff. As a manager of teacher leadership development, I had the opportunity to work with corps members at a number of schools in the neighborhood and decided pretty quickly that I wanted to do long-term work here.
Grounded in the belief that every Indianapolis student deserves a high-quality school surrounded by adults, organizations, and institutions that believe in them and their potential, I wanted to be part of making that a reality in this community. While this is no small task and I’m often haunted by the feeling of “who am I to be doing this," the reality that families and students needed and deserved better from their schools years and even decades ago pushed me to overcome my personal doubt and lean in.
Circle City is a new, college prep charter school located on the Far Eastside of Indianapolis. We opened our doors in the fall of 2017 to 80 kindergarten and first grade Scholars and will grow one grade—level each year until we are a K-8 program in 2024. Circle City Prep combines rigorous academics, high expectations, character education and mindfulness to ensure 100% of our Scholars enroll and succeed in college prep high school experiences and live a life of opportunity.
What is unique about Circle City Prep?
While I am proud of the model we have at Circle City Prep, there is little that could be deﬁned as innovative or new. And that’s by design. We believe that there are countless high-performing schools across our country serving similar children, so why experiment? Instead, what makes us unique is how we continuously look to raise the bar of excellence in everything we do. We
talk about our commitment to being more than a “better than school" and that our barometer for success is not outperforming the school down the street, but to instead to build an organization that is on par with the highest performing schools in our city. This is easy to put in words but the action of constantly thin slicing your own organization and being reﬂective about what is working and what isn‘t, that's what delineates between “better than schools" and the schools setting the bar of excellence in our country. Our commitment to being a “bar setting” school is what deﬁnes Circle City Prep.
What do you love most about being a principal?
So many things! I love working with an incredibly dedicated team that believes so much in our mission and in our Scholars that they are constantly asking “what‘s next?,“ “how do we get better?," and “what more can be done?" I love being part of creating an institution that raises the bar of what our families expect from their child’s school.
I love shaking every Scholar’s hand and greeting them by name as they walk in the building each morning. I love the moments our Scholars do a level of academic work, previously inaccessible to them, for the ﬁrst time. I love hugging moms who are in tears because their child read to them for the first time the night before. I love our families who kiss their little ones good-bye every morning and trust us to not only take of them but to push them to be better every day. While the work is hard, there is so much to love.