Leadership Team

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Beth Newton

Principal

Beth Newton has worked in AISD for most of her 27 years in education.She is
entering her second full year as the Principal of Murchison Middle School. Prior to that she served as the Principal of Hill Elementary School for ten years, and Principal of Pease Elementary School for four years. She began her leadership career as Assistant Principal at Menchaca Elementary School, serving their community for four years. Before working in leadership positions, Mrs. Newton was a teacher, in Austin ISD, Highland Park ISD and Houston ISD.

It has been the greatest joy of Mrs. Newton’s life to watch the transformative
changes that can happen on a campus when shared leadership is actively in place. She believes strongly in building leadership capacity, establishing a growth mindset and helping students develop socially and emotionally.

Mrs. Newton works with the staff to create strong academic and elective programming on campus, so that all students have the opportunity to graduate college, career and life ready. By serving  at the only MYP International Baccalaureate campus in AISD, Beth Newton aims to lead her staff in the development of inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect.

Beth Newton believes that the establishment of a positive climate and culture is vitally important in creating a safe learning environment. She has done this through strong collaboration with the school community and leadership with staff in developing strong relationships with students.

Mrs. Newton is a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin, with both undergraduate and graduate degrees in Educational Leadership. She enjoys
spending time with her family and children, exercising on Town Lake and reading extensively when she has the opportunity. She also enjoys spending time with her dog, Blue!

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Dominic Infante

6th Grade Assistant Principal

Dominic Infante is the 6th grade Assistant Principal at Murchison Middle School. This is his first year at Murchison. Prior to joining the team at MMS, he spent the previous 6 years working in the Special Education Department in AISD as a specialist and instructional coordinator. Before working at the district level, he taught special education for 5 years at Lively Middle School. Dominic graduated from the University of Texas in 2003, before later receiving a Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership from Texas State University.

Dominic is a firm believer in the power of education in the lives of all students. As an educational leader, he strives to ensure a meaningful, impactful education for all students that prepares them for the life of their choosing, helps them realize unmapped dreams and potential, and gives all students the tools to change their world.

A resident of Austin since 1999, in his time outside of work Dominic enjoys spending time with his family, including his two young children ages 6 and 18 months. He also enjoys staying active and being outdoors, swimming at Barton Springs whenever possible. Other hobbies include music, reading, and trying to keep his home garden alive and growing. Please reach out to him with any questions, comments, or concerns.

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Chara Harris

7th Grade Assistant Principal

Chara Harris is the 7th grade Assistant Principal for Murchison MS in Austin ISD.  She completed her B.A. in Mathematics and her M.A. in Mathematics Education through the UTeach program at the University of Texas at Austin.  

After spending 12 years as a middle school math teacher and campus instructional coach, Chara moved on to the positions of  district Curriculum Technology Specialist in the Math department and that of Technology Design Coach.  

She is passionate about campus instructional leadership and earned her principal certification through Region 13 Principal Certification Network.

In her free time, she enjoys reading, watching football, and listening to music.  Chara is from a military (Air Force) family and has resided in Austin since first grade.  She attended all AISD schools; Winn Elementary, Webb 4th & 5th grade center, Pearce Middle School, and LBJ High School.

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Alonzo Blankenship

8th Grade Assistant Principal

Hello my name is Alonzo Blankenship and I am elated to serve as the 8th grade assistant principal at Murchison Middle School for the 2020-2021 school year! My objective as an educator is to inspire a culture of learning and belonging where leaders, including students, willingly embrace the love and wisdom needed to overcome fear and social isolation in our community.

I believe that all people have unique gifts and talents that are needed for a learning community to not only survive, but thrive. However, do adult facilitators of learning believe all students are assets and create space to hear their story? Do students recognize and leverage their own inherent gifts and talents? Do campus leaders listen reflectively and engage collaboratively with those they serve to intentionally remove the barriers that hinder imagination, diversity of expression, and empathy? Does the campus community model what it means to come together and form deep connections across social differences?

I am a graduate of the UT Austin Principalship Program, where my action research focused on deeper learning in the classroom through the integration of culturally responsive instruction. 

As a former band director and teacher leader and Garcia and Webb Middle Schools, I have engaged in manifold opportunities to grow as a leader. Moreover, as a Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) Specialist for the past four years, I have emphasized how learning is a process through which students and adults have the potential to cultivate essential skills for life effectiveness. I believe that learners need both support and high expectations in culturally responsive settings to grow.

Feel free to contact me to talk more! My hobbies include but are not limited to reading, enjoying music, spending time with family, and serving alongside the faith community. I am grateful for all of you and for the Lord who has blessed me tremendously.

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Deanna Mahan

Lead Counselor

My name is DeAnna Mahan, and I am the Lead Counselor at Murchison Middle School. I received a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education with endorsements in special education and guidance studies from the University of North Texas. I worked as an elementary school teacher for 15 years before I earned my Master’s degree in School Counseling from Southwest Texas State University.

The majority of my counseling experience has been in the central Texas area, where I have served as an elementary, middle, and high school counselor. During my 19 years as a school counselor, I have adopted a student-centered and solution-focused philosophy. I believe in a comprehensive counseling program that addresses the academic, career, and personal/social development of all students.

I have lived and worked in the Murchison Middle School community for eleven years. I enjoy early mornings at the gym, walking my Goldendoodle, Priscilla, and spending as much time as possible with our blended family of five daughters, three sons-in-law, and six grandchildren.

My most embarrassing moment involved a rodeo and a horse with a mind of her own, and my most challenging moment was finding the courage to scuba dive to a depth of 35 feet. The best way to contact me is via email at deanna.mahan@austinisd.org.

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Sarah Maldanado

Wellness Counselor

My name is Sarah Maldonado and this is my first year at Murchison Middle School as the Wellness Counselor. I have a Masters Degree in Counseling and I am a Licensed Professional Counselor. I have lived in Texas for most of my life, but also have lived in Oklahoma, Chile, and Ireland. I am getting married in August and have a Springer Spaniel named Lola who makes me smile every day.

Some of my favorite hobbies include going for hikes around Austin, reading books, playing board games, spending time with my family, traveling, and exploring new places. One of my favorite experiences was going paragliding off a mountain in Columbia!

The best way to reach me is via email at sarah.maldonado@austinisd.org. I’m looking forward to getting to know each of you!

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Kate Plifka

6th Grade Counselor

I grew up in Dallas, TX and attended St. Edward’s University where I earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology. Immediately following graduation, I started a new adventure in New York City where I earned a Master’s Degree in School Counseling from New York University.

I worked for two years in New York City as a high school counselor for the Alternate Learning Center, an alternative school for students (9th-12th grade) serving a 6-90 day suspension. Although the experience in New York was amazing, I knew Texas had my heart. In 2014, I moved back home where I worked as a high school counselor at Del Valle High School for three years.

My passions and hobbies include: being outside in any capacity (hiking the greenbelt, swimming, and taking walks around Austin with my beloved Australian Shepherd Finn). I also love to travel and explore new places, exercise, board games (I love a good game night) and just spending time with my husband, family and friends.

I truly feel blessed that I get to do what I do! I am inspired everyday by my students and strive to help each individual student achieve their unique personal goals. I am here for support and a safe place for students to become the best versions of themselves:)

The best way to contact me is via email at katherine.plifka@austinisd.org

Looking forward to a great year!

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Kady Maxwell

7th grade Counselor

My name is Kady Maxwell and I am the seventh grade counselor at Murchison Middle School. I graduated with my Bachelor of Science in Education and English as a Second Language from Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, Texas. From there, I moved to Austin to pursue my Masters of Arts in Counseling from St. Edward’s University. Prior to my three years as a school counselor at Murchison, I taught 5th and 7th grade English Language Arts and ESL.

In my free time, I enjoy hanging out with my husband and our two dogs. I love practicing yoga, taking my dogs on hikes around the greenbelt, biking around town, delving into a great book, and traveling as much as I can.

Middle school students are my passion and everyday is a joy working with them! The best way to reach me is by email at kady.maxwell@austinisd.org. I’m looking forward to a wonderful school year!

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Emily Blouin

8th grade Counselor

Hi! I am Emily Blouin, 8th grade counselor at Murchison Middle School.  A little about me… born and raised in Vermont, I’ve made my way south in search of warmer weather. Austin is the perfect fit! When I’m not working with children I love being outside in my hammock, taking my pup to Barton Springs, coffee, cooking vegan dishes and reading.

I hold a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and a Master’s Degree in Counseling & Human Development, both from George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. I have counseled in Fairfax County, VA and Fort Myers, FL prior to living in Austin.

The best way to reach me is via email: emily.blouin@austinisd.org

I look forward to another great year at MMS! 🙂

Leadership Charter