Jamil Maroun, Ed.D. '18, began his career managing music festivals and booking promising young comics such as Mike Birbiglia, Charlie Murphy and J.B. Smoove – to name a few of his now notable clients. Maroun leaned heavily on problem solving, critical thinking and responsiveness to keep the shows running smoothly.
And when he decided to switch things up and leave the entertainment industry to work in education, those tools came with him.
Maroun grew up in the shadow of Rutgers University, where his family owned an iconic food truck -- R U Hungry – and later a Lebanese restaurant in New Brunswick. He remembers running joyfully around the College Avenue campus, darting in and out of buildings and scrambling around students. The campus became a playground for Maroun and his three siblings. Being in a school community always felt right and probably helped determine his career path.
In 2005, Maroun earned his teaching certificate via the alternate route and landed a job as a social studies teacher at Sayreville High School. Connecting with students and building relationships was what he loved most about his work. It was a long way from wrangling crowds of concert goers. And yet, nurturing a positive classroom environment reminded Maroun of what he had always known, people need to be heard and understood.
While gaining experience as a teacher, Maroun sometimes found himself frustrated by problems that he felt weren't always handled well at the leadership level. Maroun says that it’s not uncommon for people who are new to education, "to be quick to criticize decisions that seem to be made rashly, without understanding the context."
Compelled to do less complaining and more leading, Maroun decided to pursue a master's in education administration from St. Peter's University. He went on to become a curriculum supervisor in North Plainfield before moving over to the Manville School District, where he served as principal at Roosevelt School starting in 2016. Looking back at his decision to step out of the classroom, Maroun felt that by supporting teachers he would also be supporting students – which was what he valued most as an educator.
Next, Maroun set a personal goal of earning his doctoral degree. But with a new baby at home and a demanding full-time job, he wasn't sure how he'd manage going back to graduate school. The Executive Doctoral Program in Education at Seton Hall stood out among others he'd considered. Maroun shared that, "Professors at the College of Education understand that you are a full-time education leader with a life outside school." He found the program to be flexible, yet rigorous, with opportunities to collaborate with a network of education leaders from around the country who remain connected after graduating.
Maroun also appreciated Seton Hall's emphasis on servant leadership. "I went to Catholic schools for the bulk of my academic career," he explains. "Seton Hall fit well with my own experience with schools that are grounded in a mission of faith. Serving others is a value that resonates with me."
Maroun was appointed superintendent of the Manville School district last August. A few weeks later, just as students returned for a new school year following the pandemic, Hurricane Ida hit. One of the deadliest storms in the state's history, flash flooding devastated the Somerset County community that's wedged between the Raritan and Millstone rivers. Maroun shifted his focus to getting schools in his district re-opened quickly, while also addressing the needs of 250 families whose homes were lost or severely damaged by the storm.
As he had done many times over the course of his career, Maroun tapped into to his ability to work hard and focus his energy on the needs of others. The district led a three-day community drive that saw the floor of the high school gymnasium covered with bags of donated clothing and household supplies. The school welcomed families to take what they needed. One building was set up as a temporary shelter for pets. The district rallied around an inspiring theme: "Manville Strong." What motivated teachers and administrators from the district, Maroun recalled. was a desire to do something that would symbolize what they cared about most: students and families in their community.
Stepping back to view the arc of his career, there is an obvious theme to Maroun's professional journey from comedy clubs to classrooms and district leadership. Maroun is always ready to go big, or stay small, if that's what's needed. He listens to students and parents, cares about teachers, and will step up to lead or just stand should to shoulder with someone who needs his support. After sixteen years in education, Maroun remains a dedicated leader who loves what he does. He's all in. And that makes Jamil Maroun someone to applaud.