Richard R. Tranter

MURRAY — Richard Tranter's footprints are worn into the Murray schools he leads.

They've pounded the playgrounds and fields of McMillan and Longview elementaries, Hillcrest Junior High and Murray High School, where he was a student.

They're scuffed into Viewmont Elementary classrooms, where he was a teacher.

They're imprinted in the high school's halls he roamed as principal and again as superintendent, overseeing its reconstruction and implementing programs to help teachers and students succeed.

Tranter's mark on the community helped net him the 2005 Utah Superintendent of the Year Award on Monday. He was nominated by his peers for the honor, then selected by the Utah Public Education Coalition, which includes education groups from the Utah Education Association to the PTA.

"Richard is a very humble, unassuming, quiet person who just goes about the business of improving public education in his district and state," said Gary Cameron, executive director of the Utah School Superintendents Association. "He's a great superintendent."

Tranter's career in public education began in 1976, when the Brigham Young University graduate netted a job as an elementary school fifth-grade teacher in the Alpine School District.

"I love kids," Tranter recalled as the reason behind his career choice. "I wanted to make a difference in the lives of kids. ... I wanted to give back."

Tranter spent five years teaching LDS Seminary in San Juan School District and at Olympus High in Granite District. He returned to Murray schools in 1981, where he spent three years teaching at Longview Elementary before rising to the assistant principal's chair and, one year later, the principal's office.

Tranter, who has a master's degree in educational administration and an education specialist degree in public school administration, worked nine years as Murray High School's chief. There, as boss of some of his former teachers, Tranter was named the 1995 Utah Principal of the Year.

Tranter worked one year in the district office before becoming Murray superintendent in 1998. The 1999 Utah High School Activities Association Administrator of the Year now oversees 11 schools, 350 teachers and about 6,360 students.

Tranter has helped establish partnerships with more than 60 businesses in the community, which helped build a $170,000 biology lab. A member of the State Concurrent Enrollment and Northwest School Accreditation committees, Tranter also provided leadership in developing a teacher induction and mentoring program and the Academy of Instruction, where teachers can receive training in top instructional practices.

Such projects come amid increased challenges in public schools, including an influx of students speaking languages other than English, and national cries for school reform. Still, says Tranter, public schools shouldn't necessarily become a lightning rod.

"So much is leveled at us from so many different groups who try to define for us what public education is," Tranter said. "Not (that) there isn't some room for us to improve, but ... it's frustrating so many people want to change us with so many good things going on in the classrooms that go unnoticed."

Tranter will represent Utah in the national Superintendent of the Year program, which will honor a top chief in San Antonio next February.

"I'm certainly honored to be recognized for this," he told peers at the Utah School Superintendents Association, praising their camaraderie. "We have a tough job, and it's very comforting to know none of us is doing it alone."

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