Fountain-Ft. Carson school chief chosen state commissioner
DENVER – A school superintendent whose district has won praise for narrowing the achievement gap between white and minority students was named the state’s new education commissioner Friday.An often-divided state education board unanimously selected Dwight Jones, head of Fountain-Fort Carson School District 8, who said he would focus on improving achievement for all students.Jones, the state’s first black education commissioner, said that includes everyone from low-income students and minority students to average students.”Hope is not a strategy, so we have to get a real strategy that makes a difference,” said he said.Jones was the only finalist named for the job by the state board earlier this month. He will be paid $205,000 annually and will start June 1.He replaces William Moloney, who has served as commissioner for 10 years.Jones, 44, was selected from a national search that attracted 16 applicants. His wife, Jenifer Jones, an administrator at Colorado Springs’ Academy School District 20, said she and others had to urge him to apply.Before the vote, the board praised Moloney, a supporter of standardized testing, for working to close the achievement gap. Moloney said the phrase used to describe the inequities in education has become “too antiseptic,” sometimes preventing people from becoming upset about it, but he said that won’t happen to Jones.”He will never turn away from that shame and humiliation,” Moloney said. “… That cause is central to who he is.”Under Jones’ leadership, the Fountain-Fort Carson district aggressively analyzed the results of the state’s standardized tests to keep tabs on students. But supporters say he also takes time to walk through special education classrooms and invited students who improved their test scores to a picnic at his house.Board member Evie Hudak, a Democrat from Westminster, said Jones’ passion for children came through in his interview with the board in a way that moved her to tears. She said the discussion seemed to unite the board members because he “renewed our commitment to education.”The state education board oversees public kindergarten- through 12-grade schools and hires the commissioner to oversee the education department.While Democrats now control the Legislature and the governor’s office, Republicans still have a 4-3 edge on the education board, whose members are elected. Jones is a Democrat, but former Gov. Bill Owens, a Republican, is the first reference listed on his resume.Jones also served on the team advising Democratic Gov. Bill Ritter on education issues after Ritter was elected last fall. Ritter has set goals of cutting the statewide achievement gap and high school dropout rate by half in 10 years.
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