Former principal Jerome Marco passes away

By Marit Björnlund

Jerome Marco passed away May 9, leaving behind a legacy as a calm, levelheaded administrator who worked for 29 years as the school’s second-ever principal. He always put students first, supported staff and made an effort to show his appreciation for others’ work, former colleagues said.

Principal Jerome M. Marco's letter to the community in the 1985 yearbook exhibits pride in the school and its students. Marco recently passed away, leaving behind a legacy as a dedicated and innovative principal. Photo courtesy SAGA.

A memorial service will be hosted at school, as requested by his family, current principal Alan Goodwin wrote in a Whitnet email May 11.

Marco, originally from Pennsylvania, started in MCPS as a math teacher, then served as a counselor and an assistant principal. He became the Bethesda-Chevy Chase principal at age 34 before taking the position at Whitman. Marco led the school from 1975 until his sudden retirement in 2004 due to health problems.

Assistant principal Kathy McHale attended B-CC while Marco was principal in the ’70s, and she worked with Marco later when she began teaching at Whitman in 1981. Marco was kind and accessible to everyone at school, attending events and spending time with staff and students, McHale said.

“He was like a second father to me because I’ve known him for such a long time,” she said. “He was always available to talk to anybody, about anything, at almost any time. I know he sacrificed a lot of family time to be here at school, more so than most people know.”

Marco’s success as a principal was due to his love for his job, Goodwin said in an interview. Goodwin, who was an assistant principal under Marco, said he admired the atmosphere Marco created at the school and used that as a guide when succeeding him in 2004.

“He came up with the motto of pride, determination and success,” Goodwin said. “His legacy that I help try to continue is to foster a school that has rigorous course offerings but has a wide variety [of courses] for kids, a supportive environment and a whole bunch of extracurricular activities for students to get involved in.”

Administrators today also try to continue Marco’s “open door” policy and his willingness to talk to anyone who dropped by his office.

“He taught me how to listen,” McHale said. “The reason my door is open 99 percent of the time is because as an administrator, he wanted an open door policy. No matter what we’re doing, no matter how busy we are, if somebody comes to you, you drop what you do and talk to them, even if you have to stay until seven or eight at night. That’s the way it’s supposed to be.”

Marco also emphasized the importance of music, arts and extracurriculars, pioneering Festival of the Arts, Best Buddies, Child Development and many other activities that are now part of the school’s culture. He also implemented the innovative and lasting — though sometimes controversial — Zero Tolerance policy.

The Connections program, which Marco founded 24 years ago, helps students with emotional, behavioral and social issues. Special education teacher Joseph Mornini led the highly successful program, which has left a lasting imprint on the school’s reputation, Mornini said.

“He felt like this was a school that could really help them, and it has,” he said. “For 24 years, this has been a state-of-the-art school for helping kids get back into the game again.”

Marco’s vision and determination helped shape Whitman, Mornini said.

“It’s no small thing that the stadium’s named the ‘Jerome M. Marco Stadium,’” Mornini said. “He loved this community and loved this school, and he literally put his whole life into it and left his life here.”

A service in memory of Marco will take place June 3 from 3 to 4:30 in the auditorium. The service will include speeches from family and friends, music and more.