Why would I start a blog now? After 22 years as an educational leader in this community, why haven’t I been writing regularly to my Jones family? I don’t know. But I should have been. If not a blog, I should have attempted something. In 2014 when I first took the superintendent’s chair, I started a monthly community meeting. I think we called it the Superintendent’s Advisory Group, and my wife, Stephanie, would attend because I wanted the vibe to be casual like a group of friends meeting for an evening. I asked a couple of parents, thanks again Amanda and Ashley, to invite 12 – 15 other parents. There was no agenda because I wanted the conversation to be free and open. The only rule was no discussing personal or specific grievances. The goal was to have a birds-eye view of what is happening in the community and district. If we found answers to any problems, great, but it was the conversation that mattered. The first several meetings were incredibly beneficial, and those early conversations guided several policy changes and new procedures; however, after several months, the interest waned, and we soon stopped meeting altogether. I took it as a positive sign that most of the community was satisfied with the new leadership, yet it also influenced how I would later communicate with the Longhorn community.
There have been more than a few issues over the last eight years that would have benefitted from the dialogue of those groups. During the pandemic, I posted several letters and updates, and Mrs. Guthery and I attempted a Facebook live “Townhall”. Most of what goes on with school matters seems small and not worth anyone’s attention or time. Still, I haven’t done enough to keep our community informed on issues. My hope is that a platform like this will provide an opportunity for me to lend my voice to various topics big and small, worth your time or not, and obvious or complicated. Also, I know our district is growing. We have new families enrolling every month, and they are looking for a way to connect.
I’ve titled the blog “This is Probably My Last Post” because there’s a good chance I’ll again doubt the value and set it aside as another “I tried that once” idea. Although if this is the only post, does it qualify as a blog? I worry that I will have a difficult time identifying enough interesting information or issues to make you care and check back regularly. While I intend to dive into the great things our students and teachers are doing, this isn’t a place for scores or game recaps. That leaves a lot of day-to-day operations, and I’m just not sure you’ll care. However, I owe it to you to try.
In an effort to get something on the page, I should make the first post easy. I’ve decided to introduce myself. While I’ve served this community for more than two decades, many in the Longhorn family are new, so I have convinced myself someone will care about this.
I was born and grew up in Lawton. After graduating high school, I enlisted in the US Army where I served as a forward observer for five years. I started my military career with a short tour at Ft. Riley in Kansas, and following that I was assigned to the Berlin Brigade in Berlin, Germany. In fact, I was there in 1989 when the checkpoints were opened for free passage to the West. Colloquially, you know it as the night the wall fell. It was quite a time in history to be at ground zero.
Although I never thought it would take, I returned home to go to school. I fully expected to re-enlist after the first semester. My uncle was the most influential role model in my life, so I wanted to follow him into education. He was the superintendent at Oakdale, where he served until his retirement after 40 years. Working for him as a custodian and bus driver was my first job in education.
My undergrad degree is in English, and I put it to work in McLoud and Edmond. I also coached a little along the way. Eventually, in the summer of 2000, Mike Steele, the most recent past superintendent for Jones, offered me the Job of high school principal at Jones High School. It was the best job I have ever had, and I did it proudly for 14 years. That brings us to today, but let me be clear about the best job I have ever had. Serving this community in any educational capacity is the best job I could have. The comfort of knowing that Mr. Steele was watching and providing guidance made the high school gig a little more conducive to a good night’s sleep. Now, I hope I can provide the same.
My plan is to post to this blog once a week, but I’m not putting myself in a corner. There will be weeks that deserve a couple of posts and weeks that I’m on a beach. There will surely be lots of boring stuff, but I hope I can occasionally stumble upon a nugget or two. I assume that during the legislative session, I will provide updates and my personal opinions. However, as I said earlier, this will not be a platform to post scores or game reviews. I’ll talk about what matters to our community through an education lens.
What should come next? It’s that time of year that we should be watching the action at 23rd and Lincoln, so I’ll share my thoughts on some legislation that may impact our district. At some point, I’d like to tackle some difficult issues. Let’s challenge our ability to engage in constructive, civil social discourse by understanding what Critical Race Theory is and how politics, not legislation, interferes with our ability to be successful. Let’s also talk about the noble profession of teaching and how we can encourage our students to pursue a career in education. How is a school budget made, where does the money go, and how much money would be enough? What should be the goal of public education? Is our first priority to prepare our students for university? A career? Should we be encouraging our students to enter military service? It seems we have some ideas, so it’s too bad this will probably be my last post.
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