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Pueblo City Schools names Florida educator new superintendent

A Florida school official has been named Pueblo City’s School new superintendent, pending contract negotiations.

The southern Colorado school board voted this afternoon, 4-1, to extend an offer to lead the district to Constance Jones.

Constance Jones

Constance Jones

Kayleigh Skinner

Jones is currently the executive director of school development for the Lee County School District in Fort Myers, Florida. She holds a bachelors of science in elementary education from Ball State University, a masters in curriculum and instruction from the University of South Florida, an educational specialist degree in educational leadership from University of South Florida and a doctorate in educational leadership from University of South Florida.

Jones will replace Maggie Lopez, who has led the school district for four years. Lopez is retiring after a 37-year career in education.

“For me, it was [Jones’] depth of experience” that was appealing, said Kathy DeNiro, the school board’s president.

That experience, DeNiro said, includes running several programs Pueblo City School that currently employs, including the International Baccalaureate curriculum and Advancement Via Individual Determination, a college readiness program. She also brings new ideas, DeNiro said, including expanding career tracks commonly found in high schools into middle schools and introducing new truancy programs.

Jones also has experience and a track record for improving schools, DeNiro said. During a forum with superintendent candidates last week, Jones told a Pueblo audience she helped improve a number of schools and her district has been awarded the highest accreditation rating by Florida for the last three years.

The same cannot be said for Pueblo. Pueblo City Schools is the largest school district on the state’s accountability clock entering either the final two years before state intervention is required.

Since 2010, the state has linked its accreditation of districts to an annual review of student performance on state standardized tests and post-secondary preparedness. Districts that receive either a “turnaround” or “priority improvement” rating on the district performance framework have five years to improve or lose accreditation.

Pueblo is accredited as a “priority improvement” district.

If Pueblo students do not show enough progress on this spring’s round of standardized tests, Jones will have only a precious few months to accelerate student achievement to beat the state’s accountability clock.

Rose Holloway, the lone board member who voted against hiring Jones, said she hopes the new leader takes advantage of a turnaround training this summer run by the University of Virginia. The training kicks off a 20-month program for struggling school districts. Several of Colorado’s lowest performing school districts have participated with much fanfare.

“If she does that [training] and is true to the program, there’s a chance we can see a turnaround in our schools,” Holloway said.

Jones beat out Brush School District Superintendent Michelle L. Johnstone and Pueblo Central High School principal Lynn Seifert. Seifert was previously a superintendent of a Tennessee school district. 

Jone is expected to start July 1.