Vernon Jones touts his background as a DPS parent with longtime roots in the city, educator, and administrator, and the need for more diversity on the board as his reasons for running. The Denver native explained that his grandparents moved to Denver in the early 1960s when they couldn’t buy a home in many neighborhoods as a Black family.
Until recently, Jones served as the executive director of the Northeast Denver Innovation Zone, an organization that oversees six innovation schools in NE Denver with a total student population of around 5,000. A Christian pastor, Jones previously worked with several faith and education organizations and in leadership at the Omar D. Blair Charter School. He also taught music.
Jones said his experience has let him see “Where good policy has run into bad practice” and vice versa.
For Jones, some of the divisions in education politics are as deep as ever. “The lines are still very much adults vs kids,” Jones said in his interview. “Parents and kids aren’t getting a say…I think the lines are very drawn in the sand.”
All candidates were asked about the consent decree regarding English Language Learners, a ruling that said DPS needs to provide additional education time to tens of thousands of struggling students. DPS has repeatedly failed to meet the requirements. Jones believes the District needs to ensure that policies fit the different needs of students from various backgrounds. A first step for Jones is to “develop strong relationships with the family”, noting that parents and their children who attend DPS may have different proficiency levels and he believes community groups, churches, nonprofit organizations, could all collaborate on helping students and families become more proficient. “We have to set real goals around proficiency…we can’t continue to be out of compliance.”
All candidates were also asked whether they would have voted to censure Director Anderson. Jones said that he would have been a “hard yes” and “wouldn’t have apologized for it,” adding “Apologizing for bad behaviour doesn’t exempt you of consequences.”
Jones said he knows how hard of a decision it was for some board members and saw them get attacked publicly afterward, but that he believes it was the right move and applauds the board for their action. He also noted Anderson had a history of what was seen as retaliatory behavior, including during his time at Manual High School. Finally, he applauded the students who walked out of school to protest Director Anderson. “We want them to think critically and challenge courageously,” saying adults shouldn’t criticize them for their actions after they are encouraged to think for themselves.
Just as DPS employees are barred from the board, the board recently decided those in positions such as overseeing an innovation zone could also not serve due to a perceived conflict of interest. Jones had previously said if elected he would step down, but then left the position in early October. He said his resignation was unrelated to his campaign.
Jones’ campaign has received endorsements from high profile education reform organizations like Stand for Children, NE Denver Senator James Coleman, and former board members. His major contributions include $5,000 contributions from a number of community members. As of October 5th, the most recent filing, he has raised $26,393. His largest donation of $5,000 came from Steven and Susan Halstedt of Englewood.
There’s also an independent expenditure committee sending mail and otherwise campaigning in support of his campaign.
You can read more about him at www.jonesfordps.net