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Dynamic Chicago Principal Blazed Trail On Integration

Chicago’s education community lost one its leaders this week.

Robert Croston was a charismatic young Chicago Public Schools principal who championed a bold integration plan to merge his school in Chicago’s Cabrini-Green neighborhood with one on the Gold Coast. He died on Monday due to complications related to a genetic disorder. He was 34 years old.

Croston was the kind of school leader at Jenner Academy of the Arts whose passion filled up the hallways and bounced off the lockers. He fist bumped second-graders, smiled at sixth-graders, and high-fived his staff at every opportunity. He spoke often of his love for his wife, Sheena, the Green Bay Packers, and the students at Jenner, a Chicago public school that served a mostly low-income, black student population in the shadow of the former Cabrini-Green public housing development. Faced with a dwindling student population, Croston was determined to keep his school open.

The Milwaukee native was at the forefront of a controversial plan to merge Jenner with Ogden International, an overcrowded school serving an affluent student population in the Gold Coast neighborhood. After more than two years of discussion, the Chicago Board of Education approved the merger last week.

Click "play" above to listen to WBEZ’s remembrance of Croston’s life.

Becky Vevea covers City Hall for WBEZ. Follow her on Twitter at @beckyvevea.

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