FORESTVILLE — The world has changed a lot since 1999, especially the world of technology. Every year since then, and really starting several years before that, technology has grown and evolved at a rapid pace, and people all over have had to keep up with the never-ending stream of development.
The limitless technological growth that came with the late 1990s and moved into the 2000s has basically spanned the career of Forestville Central School District’s Director of Technology and Communications Mike Murphy, who is set to retire following the conclusion of this school year. Murphy became a full-time employee at Forestville in 1999 after working at the school for an additional three years prior as part a BOCES employee, and has been at the forefront of modernizing Forestville since he began at the school. With Murphy at the helm, the district was in good hands as the technological boom kicked off.
“That’s the reason I was hired here,” said Murphy. “When I first started… They knew that technology was really going to start to blossom and there wasn’t really anybody on staff who knew a lot about computers.”
Murphy’s time at Forestville began even before he was officially hired at the school. Both of his kids, Greg and Eric, attended the district, as Murphy was already a resident.
In 1995, Murphy was brought on as part of Forestville’s technology committee, composed of a couple teachers, administrators, and parents.
“I had my nose into technology and I asked if I could be on the committee, and they said sure,” said Murphy. “So, then, as we’re talking about different things the school should be doing, like getting a multimedia computer or getting on the internet, because they weren’t even on the internet yet, that’s when they decided they needed to get a person in here and that’s when I applied.”
Immediately after Murphy was hired, Forestville began its rapid technological progression. They were the first Western New York School to put their grades online. While the idea that sparked Murphy originally came from Forestville science teacher Jon LeBaron, Murphy took the idea and ran with it. While other teachers at the time were bashful about putting grades online, but Murphy had a lot of trust from the school administrators right away and was able to get a lot accomplished because of that.
“We didn’t ask the teachers if they’d mind, we just did it,” said Murphy. “And they were cool, there were no problems. They didn’t mind and it became a great tool for the parents. … I’m not afraid to try new things.”
Originally from Greenwood in Steuben County, Murphy always had an interest in technology. When he was in high school, he said he was eager to help with the school’s A/V department, which is originally how he knew he wanted to end up in the school system.
From there, Murphy went to the State University of New York at Fredonia for recording engineering, which is how he wound up in the county. It’s there he met his wife, Bonnie, and all of those factors culminated in him staying in the area. He then found himself working as a line supervisor for a company in Silver Creek that made industrial beds, but even there, he tried to get into the technological side of the company. But while doing that, his goal was always to go back to school.
“I just always thought working in a school would be the greatest thing ever,” he said. “That was my thing, I really wanted to work at a school. When I was a kid in school, I was doing all the tech stuff. … I was the guy who would go get the movie projector, I was the A/V guy. When I was in high school, I did a lot of that.”
At the forefront of Murphy’s mind while reflecting on his career are the milestones the school achieved during his tenure. The first milestone, in 1997, was having teachers get their own computers, with email, a gradebook, and Microsoft Office, which Murphy said he was thrilled to accomplish. From there, Murphy said it blossomed into getting projectors in the classrooms, getting a multimedia element in the room, serving as another milestone for the school.
“Instead of rolling in the movie projector or playing a VCR tape, everything was on demand,” said Murphy. “We had a service where they called up videos on demand as well as still playing DVDs, so there’s all that plus the ability to make PowerPoints. In 2000 we started with that, and I called it the model classroom because it was the classroom of the future… To this day, those systems are still up there running because I made sure everything was industrial quality and really high grade.”
Living in the technological boom of the 2000s and checking off those milestones is what Murphy said made the job so exciting. He loved the challenge of figuring out new things and trying to keep Forestville at the forefront of it all.
“Every day was practically something new,” said Murphy. “There were always new things coming down the road. I was always out there watching and trying to see what’s up and coming and it was so much fun to get up in the morning because you knew there would be some new exciting things to experience. I truly woke up and I couldn’t wait to get to work.”
As for his most memorable moments of his career, there are a couple that stand out to him. For one, it’s the morning announcement presentations that Forestville has. While they began before Murphy was hired, he helped continue and grow the program, consistently getting several students across the district to participate in the school’s morning show. The announcements were denied from Murphy for the last couple years thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic and only recently did they return at Forestville, which Murphy said is going to make the last few months of his Forestville tenure that much more memorable.
“For the last two years, I had nothing to excite me to want to come to work,” said Murphy. “Knowing that I get to jump in and start with the morning announcements, I’m here extra early now. It’s just the greatest way to start the day.”
Murphy also mentioned the school musicals and serving as class adviser as things that stood out to him but neither of those or the announcements show are the things that most stood out to him. That would be Forestville’s auditorium, which is something he had to battle and battle for throughout his career.
“This whole idea started in 2005,” he said. “It was a very long process of getting the public buying in on it… It was a tough battle for two years to get the community to see the benefits we’d have from this… It’s been an amazing facility to finally have.”
From 1977 to 2004, Murphy, with the help of his sons, did weekend DJ gigs under the name “Mike’s Road Show,” originally known as “Mike’s Disco.” As a teenager, he was able to get a bank loan in order to buy his own equipment to jumpstart what would become a decade long endeavor. And while they were doing it, Murphy knew there was no one better.
“Me and my two boys, we were the best DJs in the county, hands down. I’m never afraid to say that,” said Murphy.
People also may recognize Murphy from the old bar in Fredonia, Goby Dicks Lounge, which used to have Saturday Night Fever type events. They happened to need a DJ, and for one year, that DJ was Murphy.
“I was their DJ for a whole year,” he said. “If anybody my age ever heard Goby Dicks, they’d immediately know. And if they remember that, they would have heard me. I loved that era. It was so fun back then.”
While Murphy has given a lot to Forestville, he’s incredibly thankful for what it’s given back to him. He noted that the administrators always gave him the support to pursue what he wanted without micromanaging him, the teachers never gave him any troubles when it came to learning new things, and, most importantly, he was always able to generate a strong amount of student involvement in things like the announcements.
“And I’ve always tried to fit students in with the TV show or helping out over the summer or working with the crew,” Murphy said. “Any chance I had to snag kids, I did. I always wished someone at my school would let me do that, and they ended up doing that, and I wanted to do the same thing. I wanted to pique their interest and open them up to careers.”
In fact, he’s had the opportunity to impact so many lives at Forestville, he’s now on his second generation of people he’s worked with.
“I’m seeing kids of kids graduate this year,” said Murphy. “There’s a kid graduating this year and that kid’s mom was in the Class of 2001. It blows my mind that I’ve seen two generations come through this school now. It’s very weird.”
Murphy, who never took a sick day in his 23 years of working full time at the school, now has to find a way to fill time. While he won’t leave the school life behind him completely, he is going to spend his winters seeing different parts of the country.
“We have a nice RV and we’re going cross country,” said Murphy. “It’s what’s called full time RVing so we’re going to do that. There are so many people doing it now and it’s crazy. We’re watching a lot of YouTube videos on it.”
Murphy’s impact on the school, however, will be nearly impossible to replace. The trust he was given throughout his career and the dedication he gave back because of that are rarities. And even though he may be leaving, his lasting impact on the school can never truly be replaced.