Dr. Brent Jones wants to create the conditions for students to thrive in the Seattle Public School District. It’s his self-assigned mission.
Jones, who is six weeks into his job as interim superintendent for the Seattle Public School District, shared his goals at the June 7 discussion session for Roosevelt Alumni for Racial Equity. Jones has a 14-month contract as superintendent while the district searches for its next leader.
But while he’s the leader, he wants to move the district forward. Racial equity is high on his list of priorities and that’s no coincidence. He was formerly the chief of equity, partnerships and engagement for the district. Seattle has already adopted an equity policy, which Jones described as “dormant.” The next phase in its implementation is to do it.
Racial equity is everyone’s issue, Jones said, not just people of color. For too long, institutions have relied on people of color to solve equity issues. Schools were leaving equity to students of color to navigate and to provide guidance. Jones urges honest dialogue and assured the group that the district’s student equity teams are outstanding. He also committed to a new anti-racism policy, which is currently under board review.
Jones has his eye on improving student outcomes, especially for Black males. He’s trying to find what barriers are holding students back. Also, among his top goals are improving school responsiveness to students and their families, and school faculty and staff; and to focus on student wellness.
Schools will reopen with full-time in-person classes in September. When asked about his major obstacles, Jones said that one is how to create a welcoming environment at each of the schools for every student, but questions how to measure success or failure.
“Failure is not an option,” he said. But it will be important to figure out what hasn’t worked.
One thing that hasn’t worked is the traditional disciplinary process, which can be protracted, he said. He favors restorative justice, a process which brings students together to resolve conflicts with adult guidance. The system is already in place in several Seattle schools. He would like to see it expanded to more schools.
He would also like for ethnic studies courses be offered district wide.
The session opened to questions and comments from meeting participants, including a request for support for teachers of color who often leave the district after a few years of employment. He was also asked to provide assurance that when racial incidents happen, school response should be apparent. Students of color often complain that they feel ignored when they lodge complaints against White students.
Jones is a graduate of Seattle’s Franklin High School and the University of Washington. He received master’s and doctorate degrees from the University of Texas at Austin. He has served in executive positions with King County, Seattle Colleges, Kent Public Schools and Green River College. This is his second stint with the Seattle Public Schools. His visit was one of RARE’s monthly discussion meetings that are open to the public.
Please also read Jones Supports New RARE Project.