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Vegas board approves Jones’ contract

Colorado Education Commissioner Dwight Jones
Colorado Education Commissioner Dwight Jones

School board members in Clark County, Nev., voted 6-1 Thursday to approve terms of a superintendent’s contract for Colorado Education Commissioner Dwight Jones.

The board governing Las Vegas schools, the nation’s fifth largest district, voted 6-1 last month to offer Jones the superintendent’s job. Since then, they’ve been in contract negotiations.

The approved contract provides a $270,000 annual salary, a four-year contract term, a $700 monthly car allowance and up to $15,000 in moving expenses.

Total annual compensation is about $350,000, the Clark County board’s attorney estimated, including salary, benefits and additions such as $4,000 per year for professional development activities.

In addition, the board voted 6-1 to approve an agreement allowing community donations to provide transitional housing for Jones while he moves his family from Denver to Las Vegas.

Board member Larry Mason cast the dissenting vote both times Thursday, indicating the perks involved were too high. He singled out a $1,000 per-day fee to be paid to Jones when he visits Vegas to get to know the community before his official start date.

Other board members said the amount was roughly equivalent to the daily pay that Jones will receive under his annual contract. Jones’ current salary is $223,860.

Board member Linda Young, who voted last month against the selection of Jones, said Thursday that she wanted to move forward. She has said that her previous vote was intended as criticism of what she felt was a rushed selection process.

Jones is in Utah for a national conference and did not attend the Clark County board meeting. He issued a statement late Thursday thanking that board and the Colorado State Board of Education “who all supported my desire to return to the direct, up-close-and-personal work with schools and teachers.”

Jones is a former schools superintendent in Fountain-Fort Carson District 8, where he was lauded for improving student achievement and closing learning gaps.

The contract approved by the board in Vegas contains terms negotiated by Jones and board members since they voted Sept. 29 to select him over Dallas Independent School District Superintendent Michael Hinojosa. The contract is an offer that Jones is expected to accept. It becomes final when he signs it.

“The challenges ahead of us require commitment, teamwork and sense of urgency, and it’s apparent to me that the board and the community are ready with all three ingredients,” Jones said of Clark County. “In addition, there is clear focus on what we all desire, better results for students.

“This moment is a bit bittersweet because of the excellent work and dedicated leaders who are making headway in Colorado,” he added, “but I am pleased that we have reached this step and I am eager to dive in and get going.”

Jones is scheduled to return to Colorado in time to attend today’s Assessment Stakeholders Committee meeting in Golden.

How quickly Jones might depart the commissioner’s chair is uncertain. The contract calls for a Dec. 1 start date but Clark County board members said that is open to discussion as Jones transitions from Colorado and current Superintendent Walt Rulffes makes his departure.

Bob Schaffer, Colorado’s state board chair, has said an interim appointment will be considered, along with a national search. Two State Board of Education members will leave after next month’s election and both – Randy DeHoff and Peggy Littleton – have said they have no interest in choosing a successor, a task they would rather leave to new board members.

Meanwhile, Jones told a Las Vegas reporter who traveled to Colorado for a lengthy profile that he would like to take over no later than the second week of December. His wife, Jenifer Jones, heads school turnaround efforts for Denver Public Schools and the couple has a 7-year-old son.

Several possible candidates to replace Jones have withdrawn from consideration, including Lt. Gov. Barbara O’Brien, Denver Superintendent Tom Boasberg, Aurora Superintendent John Barry and Harrison Superintendent Mike Miles. Stan Scheer, who ran the high-performing Littleton School District before heading to California, has said he might apply.

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