Superintendent Ed Croom’s final day on the job is this week. He will ride off into the sunset with a tidy nest egg, made all the wealthier by his bosses either because they didn’t know what they were doing or because Croom pulled one over on them.
After seven years at the helm of Johnston County’s school system, it seems a good time to review what our students have learned under Ed Croom’s tutelage.
• First, they learned it’s a good idea to shut people out. There’s apparently nothing to gain by being transparent. The Johnston County school system, more than any other we’ve seen across North Carolina, is a closed system unwelcoming of people who don’t sit in the classroom seats or who don’t work for the school system.
Under Croom, the school system has turned away the opportunity to educate its students about Native American culture. It has turned its back on special needs students whose parents dared advocate for their children. And it has, frankly, never been very welcoming of those who would like to let the public know what its students are learning.
• Second, they have learned that society is all about getting as much for oneself as possible, regardless of who it impacts. Croom could cost the county over half a million dollars over the remainder of his lifetime. That’s part of the $137,000 or so he will earn each year for being retired. And, at age 50, Croom has plenty of time to hang his shingle as a consultant out for other school systems to take advantage of his services, for a fee of course.
While we don’t begrudge anyone the opportunity to make as much money as they can, we do believe there is an important trust between public employees and the people they are hired to serve that requires the employee to give honest service in return for payment received. In this case, Croom wrangled extra money from the public he serves by taking advantage of the rules and getting friends in the General Assembly to bend the rules just for him. That’s not the kind of lesson we should be teaching our children.
• Third, they learned that half-truths are OK. Croom’s claim, commented on in this space last week, that he was proud of the school system’s transparency, flies in the face of the facts. The school system has ignored most requests for an explanation. And when they have released information, it has taken unreasonable effort on the part of those asking for the information to get it. It’s interesting to note that the State Treasurer’s office and the duped legislators who were suckered into this deal have been more forthcoming than Johnston County’s chief educator.
Perhaps it’s a good thing he won’t be teaching our children anything else.