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By Brandon Mattingly
Landmark News Service
Roger Marcum’s 38-year career in education has led him across the state of Kentucky.
From Corbin to Laurel County to Marion County to St. Catharine College, Marcum has held roles throughout various levels of education. Now, he’s been charged with leading the Kentucky Board of Education for at least the next year.
With David Karem reaching his third consecutive one-year term as board chair (the maximum allowed), the board voted on Aug. 8 to name Marcum in his place.
“It’s a big honor for me that the other members of the state board have enough confidence in me that they want me to provide some leadership along with Brigitte Ramsey, the vice-chair. That’s obviously a huge compliment,” Marcum said.
After getting his start in 1975 and working for 16 years (the last six as a middle school principal) in the Corbin Independent School District, Marcum moved on to South Laurel high School for seven years. There he was the principal of what was the largest high school in the state at the time. He spent one year as the assistant superintendent in Laurel County, before taking over as Marion County superintendent in 1999. Marcum served Marion County for 10 years before retiring. Having been a trustee at SCC since 2003, he was offered the executive-vice president position at the college in 2009, a position he still holds. He said having experience at both the college level and in public school systems allows him to see things from a broader perspective.
He has seen the concerns that post-secondary educators have about the preparation students receive prior to college, and he’s able to share the perspective of the school systems to help both sides get on the same page. He added that he’s now been able to compare public education with that of a private entity, and that it has helped him understand the struggles private schools go through, particularly financially.
Addressing financial concerns across the state is actually the primary initiative for Marcum, who has been on the Kentucky Board of Education since 2009.
“We have a funding problem in the state of Kentucky,” Marcum said. “Going through the recession and seeing the cuts that have been made in education have been painful. I’m hoping as our economy recovers that the general assembly will reinvest the dollars that we have, so our initiatives can be successful.”
Outside of funding, the new board chair said Kentucky has been doing the right things to improve education. He pointed out that Kentucky was the first state to implement common course standards, as well as the first state to assess those standards. The “Quality Counts” evaluation performed by Education Week supported Marcum’s view on Kentucky education.
“They gave us a B- overall as a state. The thing that pulled us down significantly was that they gave us an F in providing the funding necessary,” Marcum said. “If you look at the funding Kentucky has per pupil versus the other 49 states, we’re toward the bottom of the list.”
One recent change that Marcum was excited to see was the compulsory attendance age being raised to 18 years old. He did acknowledge, however, that it is now the responsibility of the board to find ways to keep students involved who would have otherwise dropped out of school early.
Marcum said it’s his understanding that he’s the first former superintendent to occupy the position of chair, and he’s hopeful that that will be a major advantage for him going forward. He also said that he didn’t make it a personal goal to take on a position of leadership, but that he’s proud to have an even larger role in what he said will be student-centered decision making for schools throughout the state.
“I’ve had a lot of great things happen to me in my career over almost 40 years now,” Marcum said. “That’s certainly one of the highlights, being asked to lead in that position. I’m getting older, and this gives me one more opportunity to hopefully make a difference for the children of Kentucky.”