By Terry Dean
Becoming a school administrator wasn't in Peter Groom's plans when he became a teacher at Fenwick High School, fresh out of college in 1995. He began as a substitute that year at the Oak Park private school, located at Washington and Scoville. His brother was also teaching there at the time.
Groom, who has lately been serving as co-principal, was recently named sole, full-time principal, effective immediately. The Aurora native was previously dean of students and has continued to teach social studies. Fenwick announced Groom's appointment on Monday.
For the last six months he served in the co-leadership role with Richard Borsch, a longtime school administrator. The school went to this structure after failing to find a permanent replacement for former principal James Quaid, who left Fenwick in 2009 to become associate superintendent of schools for the Archdiocese of Chicago.
Groom said he expects to continue teaching one class next year in addition to his administrative duties. If the load becomes too much, he says he'll reconsider teaching but wants to stay in contact with kids.
"If I do stop teaching, it will take me too far away from students," Groom said in an interview with Wednesday Journal on Monday. "Not that a principal can't maintain close contact with students, but I think you can get lost in your office and in administrative work."
Concerning Groom's appointment, Rev. DePorres Durham, the school's president, said in a press statement Monday: "Mr. Groom is highly respected among the Fenwick faculty and staff, and has been dedicated to this student body and community for more than 15 years. As we embark upon a new five-year strategic plan for our school, we are confident that Mr. Groom will build upon the strong foundation of Fenwick while successfully guiding our future vision."
Groom is a former social studies department chair at Fenwick. That's as far as he thought he'd go as an administrator. His colleagues at Fenwick encouraged him to pursue administration — he was department chair for four years. He originally pursued a degree in history, a particular interest of his, at Loyola University but later switched to Dominican University, where he earned a master's degree in teaching.
A married father of three — he has a 3-year-old girl and two sons, 7 and 10 — Groom himself comes from a big family. He's the seventh of 13 children. His father worked for 30 years at Caterpillar as a production accountant, and his mother was a nurse. As a teacher, he says he's pretty traditional as a lecturer who encourages classroom discussions.
With respect to becoming sole principal, Groom said he wants to continue building on the school's strong academics, in addition to its athletics program.
"My main job is to look out for the academic interest of the students and school," he said.