In an effort to find someone to lead the state’s largest school district through an uncertain year, the Seattle Public Schools will be calling for help from one of their own.
On Wednesday, the Seattle School Board selected Brent Jones, a former county administrator and graduate of Franklin High School, as superintendent for a year as the school board conducts a broader search for a permanent replacement.
“Let’s get to work,” he told board members shortly after the 5-1 vote, promising to continue to focus on equitable outcomes for the students.
Jones, the only candidate nominated for the job by the school board, will replace Denise Juneau in late June for a base salary of $ 315,000. He will be one of the few black superintendents in the district’s 150-year history.
He will take on what is considered to be one of the toughest public service jobs in Seattle and propose a vision at a time that has increased suspicion for many about district governance and school safety.
“This is a tough task at a tough time,” said CEO Chandra Hampson.
School principals and educational community leaders hope Jones’ hometown roots and familiarity with the district make for a smooth transition.
“There is no candidate more qualified to turn the many walls within Seattle Public Schools into bridges,” said Sebrena Burr, former PTSA president and Seattle Council educational attorney.
Jones, whose family has lived in Seattle for generations, holds a PhD. in Educational Leadership from the University of Texas at Austin and a Masters in Education from the University of Washington.
He began his apprenticeship career in 1993, teaching adult education in Austin. He then moved to various management and personnel positions at community colleges in Texas and Washington, including as Chief Talent Officer for the Kent School District and as Head of Human Resources at Seattle Colleges.
Since 2008, he has held three senior positions in the district, most recently as the district’s chief officer for justice, partnerships and engagement before joining King County Metro in 2019. He has also served as the district’s human resources officer.
Jones is committed to continuing to work on the district’s strategic plan to serve African American male students, a vision he helped develop.
“The past year has been difficult for students and families. The district continues to face difficult decisions and challenges. I look forward to working closely with school officials and staff to deliver a clear, student-centered vision for the next school year, ”Jones said in a press release sent by the school district. “We have the opportunity to redefine education so that we can return stronger and more student-centered than before the pandemic. Our students deserve a future of excellence. “
Under his contract, Jones will not have served as superintendent for more than a year and will not be a final candidate for the position. Hampson, the board member who nominates Jones, said this is to ensure that a permanent replacement is thoroughly scrutinized by the public. However, in the weeks leading up to the vote on his contract, some board members said they wanted more community feedback on Jones’s appointment before the decision.
Leslie Harris was the only board member who voted “no” to the contract, saying it was “not personal” but an objection to “no community involvement”. Chris Jackins, a longtime observer for the district, also commented on the short turnaround time.
Hampson said the board had to act “on purpose” to find an intermediate time and that other names may have been suggested by board members in the weeks leading up to the vote. She said Jones’s name kept coming up in conversations with former district officials, board members, and community members.
The board will begin its formal search for a permanent replacement this fall and plans to complete in spring 2022.