Jennifer Jones: School Board District 2 candidate

‘I am motivated to run for this position because I have spent my life dedicated to public education.’

Incumbent Jennifer Jones, who is vying for the Federal Way Public Schools Board District 2 position against challenger Elizabeth Carlson, recently sat down with the Mirror to answer the following questions (Carlson did not respond to the Mirror’s requests for an interview):

What motivates you to run for this position?

“I am motivated to run for this position because I have spent my life dedicated to public education,” Jones said. “I think it’s one of the most powerful, transformative ways of changing the world for the better, I think that good quality education is the best way to raise aspirations, to provide opportunities, to reduce social inequalities that we see in our society, and to provide a quality opportunity for all of our students and all of our young people.”

What particular skills or experiences would you bring to this school board position?

Jones is currently a professor at Highline College and has been teaching there for the past 22 years.

“I strongly believe in quality education for all young people,” she said. “I don’t believe in leaving anyone out, and I am dedicated to the principles of inclusion and equity in education.”

Jones is originally from Chicago and worked as a social worker in the Chicago housing projects for many years. She has also worked overseas as a Peace Corps volunteer, so she also brings multi-cultural experience.

In what ways have you been involved in service to the community?

“In terms of education, I raised a daughter in the Federal Way School District and was an active parent in community events ranging from being a member of the PTA and actively involved in fundraising.”

She was also a judge for speech and debate, has been involved at her daughters’ high school at Thomas Jefferson High School, and participated in many other events that all benefited the schools and students.

Describe your top three objectives if you are elected and how you will address those issues.

“One really important issue facing the Federal Way district is the fact that it is one of the most diverse districts in the state, if not the country, in terms of language and ethnic background, so I’m very concerned with ELL education.”

Jones wants to ensure that students who are learning English get the best quality education they can and the tools they need. Because of this, she wants to learn more about programs like this and how they are serving students.

“I’m also interested in early learning,” she said. “I think that in order for students to achieve at the highest levels it has to start in the early years.”

Jones is also interested in helping students prepare for either entering a two or four year college after graduation or immediately entering the trade field.

What are two strengths of which our district can be proud of and why?

“… This is a large district, 20,000 students, 117 different languages being spoken, and I think that it’s a wonderful place for seeing how diversity and inclusion actually works.”

As a professor at Highline, she sees that Federal Way students are very accepting to diversity and welcoming of all students.

“I think that the schools are part of that encouragement and support and welcoming of all kinds of students, all kinds of young people, teaching them how to live together and work together, I think that we should be proud of that.”

Jones is proud of the dedication of the educators in this district and everything they do for students.

As a board member, how would you ensure that the district provides a quality education for the most diverse student population in Washington state?

“There are a variety of programs that are being rolled out or being used to try to include all students to make sure that the students are achieving. There’s training of teachers, there are a variety of efforts that are going on.”

Jones is learning more about all of these efforts, but she knows there is new curriculum being explored to help meet both student and teacher needs.

What kind of sex education do you favor for students in this district? Please explain.

“I believe that sex educaiton should be treated pretty much like any other subject,” she said. “It should be fact-based, and based in science.”

Jones said if education is not provided to students based in fact, students will get an education that’s based on misinformation from unreliable sources like the internet.

“I think you have to have … sex education provided by teachers that are trusted in the community and are giving fact-based information to our scholars and our young people so they don’t have to rely on misinformation from strangers or who knows who on the internet.”

What other steps beyond the existing policies should the school district take to protect students from gun violence?

“I believe that the schools should be a place where students feel safe, and I think that the school atmosphere can go a long way towards making the students feel that the educators and staff are there to make sure that they are feeling welcome and safe,” Jones said. “And I think that’s one of the most important things that a school can do.”

How should the school board go about finding out and knowing what the parents and community in the district are thinking?

Jones said currently when anyone emails into the school district with questions, their emails are required to be answered within 24 hours so they are not waiting too long to get an answer to their question.

“Also, there are going to be scholar advisory boards at each school where the young people are going to be able to have access to information and be able to provide information to the school board through the district. There are going to be interactions with parents so that parents can also be involved,” she said.

Jones believes there is a parent academy that parents can go through to learn more about the school board and the district.

“More efforts like that would be encouraging.”

What are your financial priorities for the school district?

Jones is actively learning about the budget, as it is not one of her areas of expertise.

“I’ve already arranged to have a session where I’m going to be learning more about how the budget works,” she said. “I do know that I’m committed to making sure we have an efficient and effective budgetary process to make sure we’re providing the best quality education that we can for our young people given the funding that’s available.”

If you could ask your challenger for this position one question, what would that be and why?

“I would be interested in knowing how my challenger views public education in terms of the general purpose. What is the purpose of education? And how do they see the Federal Way District fitting in to that vision?”