Las Vegas Sun

July 23, 2017

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Colorado’s Dwight Jones offered job as Clark County schools superintendent

Dwight Jones

Dwight Jones

Sun Coverage

The Clark County School Board voted 6-1 tonight to offer the job of schools superintendent to Dwight Jones, the commissioner of education in Colorado.

The dissenting vote was Linda Young, who said her constituents were divided and that she thinks the selection process was too speedy.

But, she said, “If he comes here, he will have my full support.”

The next step will be negotiating a contract with Jones, who would replace Walt Rulffes, who in March announced his retirement and has been retained by the board until January.

In picking Jones, 48, the school board chose an educator with experience working with other state education commissioners and the federal government. But he has not run a school district since 2007, and Clark County is more 40 times larger than that district, Fountain-Fort-Carson, in Colorado.

In his formal interview last week, Jones said, “Failure will not be an option. It’s not about making friends. It’s about a sense of urgency.”

A school board member asked Jones about his style of leadership.

“My hand is always in the small of the back,” he said. “But you also have to reward. I call it the push-pat principle.”

Jones also acknowledged mistakes. A U.S. Department of Education audit in February disallowed $24 million in personnel costs charged to federal grants. Jones said he quickly improved compliance.

But what stung, he said, is when the local media implied that he had abused his cell phone privileges by charging $700 in personal calls over three years to his school phone. He said he paid it back.

The original problem, he said, was that he hated carrying two cell phones, one for personal use and the other for official use.

The district that Jones ran is small.

It is near the Fort Carson military base in Colorado and has about 7,500 students and an $84 million annual budget.

As commissioner, however, Jones works with 178 school districts, educating 830,000 students. He supervises an annual budget of $5 billion, but much of that is controlled and spent locally.

Clark County has about 310,000 students and a budget of $2.2 billion. The superintendent’s job pays $270,000 a year.

In Colorado, Jones makes $224,000 a year. The Denver Post reported that the commission’s board, responding to Clark County’s overtures, was considering offering Jones a 10 percent pay increase. It would include a 6 percent pay increase that Jones refused last year because his staff’s salary was frozen.

Jones began his career in education as a teacher in Junction City, Kan., before becoming a principal in elementary, middle and high schools, and then assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction in the Wichita district.

He has also worked at the Edison Schools charter network, a management organization for public schools.

He was appointed Colorado’s commissioner of education in June 2007 by a unanimous vote of the Colorado State Board of Education.

According to his biography, he holds degrees from Fort Hayes State University and Kansas State University.

He and his wife, Jenifer, have three children and live in Denver.

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