Every week, NPRI President Andy Matthews writes a column for NPRI's week-in-review email. If you are not getting our emails, which contain our latest commentaries and news stories, you can sign up here to receive them.
So Dwight Jones is out as Clark County School District superintendent, the news breaking this week that he is resigning effective March 22 so that he can care for his ailing mother in Dallas.
I’ve already been asked more times than I can count for my reaction to the news, with most questions focusing on 1) Jones’ performance in his two years on the job, and 2) what his departure will mean for education in Clark County.
It’s difficult to assess where Jones’ performance would rate on the traditional A through F scale. Given the brevity of his tenure, he probably warrants an “Incomplete.”
But I think that to the extent he leaves a legacy, it is this: He came to the job with great intentions, accomplished some modestly positive things, but in the end proved incapable of fully overcoming the structural impediments to meaningful change.
At his best, he was a superintendent who was not afraid to take on the powerful teacher union, who took some positive steps toward greater school and teacher accountability and who made school district practices a bit more transparent; at his worst, one who allowed himself to become part of the chorus clamoring for higher taxes as a means of improving student achievement.
But even with that blemish on his record, it can be said that Jones, much like Gov. Brian Sandoval and state Superintendent of Public Instruction James Guthrie, recognized that spending more money on a structurally flawed system is not the path to improvement. Deep, systemic reforms are in order, and Jones deserves credit for at least nudging the district in that direction. The problem is that monoliths are hard to move.
Which brings us to the future. The monolith must be moved, for the sake of Clark County’s children. Whoever replaces Jones should embrace the reforms of the past two years, and then build upon them. Most important, though, is this: Whether at the state or local level, education policy in Nevada must be guided by an understanding that the way to truly improve student achievement is to empower parents with more control over how and where their children are educated.
It’s far too rare that someone like Dwight Jones, willing to speak hard truths and shake things up, is even given a chance to run a school district. So credit the school-board trustees for making the bold choice to bring him in to begin with. Now let’s hope they’ll have the courage to stay the course.
Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you next time.
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