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John A. Murphy, the former superintendent of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools in North Carolina and one of the country's best-known school leaders, may be stepping out of the school system. But he is not stepping out of education.

Mr. Murphy's contract with Charlotte-Mecklenburg ends Jan. 31. The next day, he will begin a new job as a vice president of the Arvida Company, a real-estate developer based in Boca Raton, Fla.

He will be heading up a new educational division called the Educational Knowledge Center. Mr. Murphy, 60, said last week that the position is a rare opportunity.

The company plans to work with existing schools in the planned communities it builds--seeing that the educational needs of new homeowners and their children are addressed up front.

"I don't know of anyone doing this within a community," Mr. Murphy said. "I'm very impressed that a private developer has a willingness to address the issue" of the needs of schools and their surrounding communities.

One goal is the creation of private early-childhood centers in Arvida-built communities. Eventually, Mr. Murphy added, those centers will take on additional counseling roles for families and children.

"The major concern of the company is the quality of lifestyle--the quality of schooling children will receive in the communities we build. Our challenge will be reaching out to public schools and working as a team."

During his first month, Mr. Murphy plans to work on building relationships with local communities built by Arvida, most of which are in Florida, Georgia, Texas, California, and North Carolina.

He hopes to build on the concept of the African proverb that it takes a whole village to raise a child.

Mr. Murphy, who is also a former superintendent of the Prince George's County, Md., district, and recently a candidate for the top schools job in Kansas City, Mo., is not sure whether his days as a superintendent are over. But he said his new job will enable him to reach a larger education population.

"This allows a greater impact on a number of schools--a group of school systems--rather than just one system." However, he added, "I've learned never to say never."

--Adrienne D. Coles

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