Diversity. Equity. Race. Social Justice. These are words that sometimes scare people or make them nervous because there’s a lot of apprehension surrounding how to approach these sensitive, but important topics.
But if you’re Dr. Jay Marks, Oakland Schools’ diversity and equity consultant, these topics are what you live and breathe. A typical day for Marks is, well, never typical, but it usually involves some sort of class or workshop for teachers in Oakland Schools looking to become more well-versed on subjects that affect Oakland County students the most. And in an ISD where over 40 percent of the students served are from a minority culture, there is plenty of work to go around.
Marks said he runs between four and eight workshops a week at a variety of locations. He is also in charge of putting together an annual diversity forum, which has become a huge success.
“I work with educators around Oakland Schools on issues of race, culture, diversity, equity and social justice,” explained Marks, who has been with Oakland Schools since 2011. “I also engage with students and communities and run workshops too.”
Marks said he first got into this line of work as a special education teacher in Detroit Public Schools. He noticed, while teaching at Northern High School in 1991, the education the students, who were predominately black, were receiving, was very Eurocentric.
“I wanted them to learn from texts that reflected their own cultural identities and experiences,” he explained.
Marks continued this mission as he landed a job in Southfield Public Schools where his expertise on the subject became more known throughout the area. Soon, Marks was asked to consult on issues related to diversity on both local and national levels.
Marks’ academic credentials include a Bachelor of Science from Western Michigan University (1990), a Master of Arts from University of Detroit Mercy (1995), an Education Specialist Certificate (1997) and a Ph.D. (2005) in Curriculum and Instruction, both from Wayne State University. As a graduate student, Marks studied abroad at Oxford University in Oxford, England as a student in the British Studies Program.
So when the opportunity to serve as a consultant for Oakland Schools became available, it seemed like a natural fit for Marks.
“It’s been amazing,” Marks said of his time at Oakland Schools. “I love what I do. I’m so honored and blessed. “
In his spare time, Marks enjoys spending time with his two daughters, Amari, 14 and Jalia, 11. He also enjoys playing golf and watching football.
Sarah (Cormier) Davis is a communications specialist with Oakland County Schools Communication Services department.
Make A Difference Day is coming up at the end of this month (Oct. 28). Do you know a teacher or student who has really made a difference in Oakland Schools? Please email Sarah Davis at firstname.lastname@example.org with the details and we will consider highlighting that person in an upcoming newsletter!