Park Junior High Principal Jerome Green comes to LaGrange-Brookfield District 102 after serving for the past two years as assistant principal at a middle school in Oak Park. (Alex Rogals/Staff Photographer)

Equity has been a focus in LaGrange-Brookfield School District 102 in recent years. The district has worked to do better on issues of diversity and is trying to serve non-white students better.

This year Park Junior High School has a new principal, Jerome Green, who is a Black man. Park’s assistant principal is Lynette Campbell, is a Black woman who had been the assistant principal at Congress Park School, before moving over to Park last March.

Green, 54, comes to Park with varied experience and an interesting career path. For the past two years, he served as assistant principal at Percy Julian Middle School in Oak Park. Before that Green served for one year as an assistant principal at Longfellow Elementary School in Oak Park. Earlier in his career Green was an assistant principal at Thomas Middle School in Arlington Heights for seven years.

“Mr. Green rose to the top of the candidate list by members of the committee for his experience and his calm approach to working with students, staff and parents,” said District 102 Superintendent Kyle Schumacher in an email. “His passion for helping middle school students grow academically and emotionally was evident.”   

Schumacher said the hiring committee especially liked how Green interacted with students. Green is an engaged, active principal who loves talking to students. Green and Campbell have been having lunch with seven to 10 students each lunch period in Green’s office so that they can get to know the students and the students can get to know them.

“I try to ask questions and relate to them in a way that disarms both of us in our roles,” said Green. 

Green, who grew up and still lives on the South Side of Chicago, began his career as a lawyer. He got his bachelor’s degree from Loyola and earned his law degree from Illinois Institute of Technology’s Kent College of Law. But after doing plaintiffs’ tort law for a Chicago law firm for a few years, he decided a little more than 20 years ago that he decided he wanted to do something else. Green got his teaching certificate through an alternative certification program run by the Golden Apple Foundation.

“I wanted to give back, it’s that simple,” Green said. “I had been in the law. I got burned out on it really, really quickly.”

Green began his career in education as a fifth- and sixth-grade teacher in the Chicago Public Schools. He has also worked at charter schools in Chicago. He left his assistant principal position at Thomas Middle School to teach fifth grade at a Chicago Public School on the South Side of Chicago for three years before getting hired as an assistant principal at Longfellow School.

“I had some things going on in my house that I had to deal with, and I couldn’t be an administrator at that point,” Green said of his decision to leave his assistant principal role in Arlington Heights to return to classroom.

Green salary is $112,000 a year.

At Park Junior High, 69.1 percent of the students are white, 21.1 percent of the students are Hispanic and 3.7 percent of the students are Black. Green said that he believes that there is only one Black teacher at Park. Green has a lot of experience working at predominately white schools, especially from his time at Thomas in Arlington Heights.

“I don’t know if it changes my delivery with how I deal with the students, truth be told,” Green said. “Students might describe me as being a Black male, but I think the first description that you’ll get from my students is that I’m fair.”

Green said he takes his role with students very seriously and tries to treat them as a parent would.

“I see them as my students and my kids,” Green said. “I take the phrase in loco parentis very, very, very seriously.”

He says that he can be role model for Black students but also believes that it is helpful for white students to see a Black man in a leadership role.

“I think a Black principal is impactful on Black students,” Green said. “I think having a Black principal is impactful on all students.”