By Meagan Clements
“It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s Superwoman!” read Erin Kominsky, principal of Oak Middle School in Los Alamitos.
During a board meeting held on Feb. 7, Kominsky spoke about this year’s Hero of the Heart recipient, Janet Murphy.
“She’s faster than a speeding bullet and more powerful than a locomotive,” Kominsky said. “She can handle any problem and come up with multiple solutions.
Los Alamitos Unified School District Supt. Dr. Andrew Pulver agreed, commending Murphy’s dedication to serving others, including her children Violet and Tristan. Violet is a 7th grader at Oak Middle School and Tristan is a sophomore at Los Alamitos High School.
“The hallmark of this district are the people and obviously the parents are a part of that,” Pulver said. “Janet epitomizes [what it means to be] a humble servant.”
Murphy is more than the PTA president of Oak Middle School. She has a dog named Broomstick and a collection of board games she believes is the largest of any family in her Rossmoor neighborhood.
“I challenge them to have as many as we have,” Murphy laughed.
As for her role in the PTA, Murphy is quick-witted and confident in uniting a team of volunteers despite the devasting Coronavirus pandemic. She is organized, engages others and is determined to make a difference in the lives of students, faculty and staff.
“A hero is someone who goes out of their way to try and improve the world,” Murphy said.
Regardless of the accolades, Murphy has received, she is humble in accepting her award. The mother of two says she owes it all to the support of her Los Alamitos family.
“If I had my say, this would be heroes [plural] of the heart,” Murphy said, emphasizing that there is more than one deserving face for the award.
When asked what sets her apart from other parent volunteers, Murphy says it isn’t much, admitting her path was carved out long before she was appointed PTA president.
“If I answered that, I would sound arrogant,” Murphy said humbly. “I am just following the direction and the example of what other parents have [set] before me.”
Murphy strives to provide parents and teachers with a recipe for successfully meeting the needs of children and teens. PTA bylaws — the legal document for how business is governed within each school site — guide Murphy in problem-solving during the pandemic to meet students’ academic, social and emotional needs.
“If we use them as a tool, we can solve any challenge,” Murphy said.
Operating as a PTA during a pandemic is no easy feat. Despite challenges presented, Murphy remains optimistic, pushing the boundaries of what’s possible with her strength and charisma.
“There’s a whole PTA board of parent and community volunteers,” Murphy said acknowledging those who help her stay strong given the situation at hand.
Nevertheless, Murphy is proud to be a part of such a supportive team. The community at Los Alamitos Unified School District motivates her as she works smarter each day, bringing the best to those in need.
“We work with the schools, the teachers and the community to bring people together and give the kids [and] the families the best experience they can in school,” Murphy said.
Additionally, the PTA has partnered with the Orange County Department of Health to shed light on such topics as vaping and drugs.
“We were super excited to find out that they offer workshops for children on different issues they are being challenged with, vaping and drugs [to name just a few],” Murphy said.
Murphy acknowledges a multitude of other ways the PTA supports parents and teachers, for example by requesting funds for mental health workshops that support adults in raising well-rounded teens.
“The PTA can advocate and act as an influential body,” Murphy said. “[We can say], ‘we wish you would put more money toward parent education’ or ‘we request that you put more funding toward mental health.’”
Guiding students toward understanding and awareness of the human body is another way the PTA is doing its part to help. A virtual puberty program called The Talk invites parents and their children to participate.
“It’s [about] trying to think outside the box and do everything that we can to make this year the best it can be for the students and their families,” Murphy said.
Murphy is thankful for her parents, David and Alison, Rossmoor residents since 1969.
“I need to give my parents credit because when my kids were in elementary school, they made all of my volunteering possible,” Murphy said. “They would watch the kids while I went and did the carnival clean-up for two hours.”
Volunteering has been a part of Murphy’s life for as long as she can remember. Prior to having children, she fulfilled her passion assisting at animal rescues and shelters.
“Ever since I was a kid, volunteering has been my hobby,” Murphy said.
With the rising numbers in Coronavirus cases, Murphy is grateful to spend more time with her family and friends in the comfort of her home. She looks forward to less running around, enjoying a little extra peace and quiet.
“A slower lifestyle might be nice,” Murphy said.
Like the train Kominsky painted in her Hero of the Heart tribute, Janet Murphy is chugging along in the heart of the PTA, inspiring parents and teachers to hop aboard, smiling every step of the way on the fast track to success.