A familiar new face

Superintendent Rick Jones raps on his first week, issues and goals.

POULSBO — His personal effects are still in cardboard boxes stacked neatly in the corner of his office but Rick Jones already feels at home.

After moving to Poulsbo June 28-29, he settled into his superintendent role and officially started July 1.

“I am honored to have been selected for this job and I consider it a privilege to work here,” Jones said. “I am committed fully to all of our children being successful in the North Kitsap schools and I look forward to meeting and getting to know our community.”

While Jones hasn’t yet had a chance to hear from the community, he steps into his superintendent shoes with three goals in mind.

He’d like to maintain the districts fiscal responsibility, help more students graduate and increase community involvement in the schools.

“My goal is to continue to nurture and increase the public involvement in our schools,” he said.

But before Jones can begin his quest to better public education he first must memorize all the names and faces of those he’ll work alongside.

It’s a daunting task he delved into during his first week on the job.

Jones spent his first week discussing issues and plans with the district’s executive team, reading the strategic plan and guiding principles and learning how to check his phone and e-mail messages, operate the copy machine and filing.

“It’s just amazing the day-to-day things you forget that you have to learn again,” said Jones, who has yet to decorate his office. His pictures are in a box in the corner. “I’m just on a huge learning curve around the key issues in the school district.”

The issues: the budget, staffing and hiring for the 2008-09 school year and getting ready for school to start.

“The budget, of course, is the huge immediate issue,” he said. “The budget challenges this district faces are similar to challenges all across the state.”

Jones leaves the Burlington-Edison school district, which faces an approximate $800,000 budget cut.

Another issue is the fate of the North Kitsap Community Pool.

Jones attended a Save Our Pool meeting last week. He recognizes the pool is a valuable community resource, but the reality of dwindling public education funding can’t be ignored.

“I think looking at ways the pool can be kept open is a positive thing to do,” Jones said. “Whether funds can be found is a key question.”

Should the district fund the pool? That’s the board’s decision he said, but keeping class sizes small is Jones’ funding trump card, even if it means “The goal is to keep class size small,” he said.

Teacher compensation in light of rising student expectations and work loads is also on Jones’ agenda. He said statewide teachers don’t receive enough compensation.

“The highest priority we have as a society is the education of our children,” said Jones with an admitted bias. “The people that work in that critical career field should be compensated for that highest priority.”

As a solution, Jones calls on residents across the state to get more involved and research the state’s public education financing.

With knowledge comes power.

“If that happens then the public will demand of our legislature that there be a revamping for the funding of public education and additional resources will come to the district,” he said.

Jones comes to NKSD with years of education experience.

The Tacoma native grew up in Livingston, Mont., and finished his senior year of high school in Seattle. He earned his bachelor’s of arts in education and master’s of education administration from Western Washington University.

In the same year he earned his master’s Jones accepted his first administrative position as an assistant high school principal for the Kiona-Benton School District in 1980. He’s also served as an elementary school principal, an assistant superintendent for the Omak School District and 10 years as superintendent for the Burlington-Edison School District.

It’s always been Jones’ career goal to become a superintendent, although he misses all the direct contact he had with students as a principal. But the transition was worth it.

“Promoting public education is a primary role of a superintendent and I enjoy that role,” said the self-described people person.

Jones also enjoys wearing numerous hats in his free time.

He’s the father of seven adult children. He runs about 15 miles a week and bikes 60. He fiddles in his yard and likes to ride his motorcycle. He doesn’t watch television, except sports. Seattle’s teams are his favorite.

Being very new to Kitsap County he looks forward to exploring the area and the Olympic Peninsula. But above all Jones anticipates the start of the year.

“That’s what all the work is about, preparing for school in the fall,” he said. “I look forward to visiting the classrooms once school’s in session.”

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