Marcus Croom said that he was drawn into the race for a seat on the District 97 board by parents and community members who were concerned about the district’s inequities.

“Who’s not concerned about Common Core state standards?” he said. “Who’s not concerned about PARCC assessments? Who’s not concerned about the fact that we have a clear record in District 97 where the race of a student and maybe even the zip code of a student bear some correlation with how they do in school? That absolutely makes no sense at all.”

Croom, one of ten candidates running for four open seats on the board in the April 7 election, said that when the group of local taxpayers approached him to test the waters, he was initially hesitant. That was before he began to ponder what they were really asking him, he said.

“They’re paying taxes, they’re expecting good things to happen when their children go to school each day and when they return home,” he said. “When you’re living that reality and it seems that it’s not panning out that way, any person with any sense would say, ‘Hey, what do we do about this?’ And if you know that you don’t have the expertise as an educator to do something about it, the next natural thing to do is to say, ‘Well who does?'”

Croom, a career educator who has taught at various levels from kindergarten to high school, moved to Oak Park from North Carolina in 2011. He’s studying for his Ph.D. in literacy, language and culture at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC).

Croom said that, if elected, he’d encourage a spirit of collaboration both within the board and between the board and the community. Offering the school’s controversial Fast ForWord reading program — the online reading intervention — as an example, Croom also noted that his background in literacy research and analysis could translate into dollars and cents.

Croom said that when the idea for the program was being presented several years ago, he sent research to Irving Elementary, where his daughter attends school, hoping that it would be considered by the district’s administrators.

“As a literacy researcher, we had already done … an analysis in our coursework of the exact thing that I’d heard percolating in Oak Park,” he said.

“I don’t know if it ever got taken up at that level, but I do know [the program] was purchased anyway, he said. “Now parents are saying, ‘Why did we spend all that money?’ Everything we know about reading says that we don’t develop good readers that way. Good readers develop by reading. So, if I can provide a perspective that helps us not to repeat that kind of mistake again, that’s at least worth $500,000 to the district.”

Bio Box

Marcus Croom is married with two children, one of whom goes to Irving Elementary. Since 2001, he’s taught K-12 as a music educator and is also licensed to work as an administrator in both North Carolina and Illinois. 

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