Ten Minutes With Fairfield School Superintendent
Dr. Toni Jones shares how some school decisions are made––plus some fun facts
Dr. Toni Jones was born and raised in Oklahoma, and graduated with a dual major of special education and elementary education from the University of Nevada. Before Fairfield, she spent five and a half years as superintendent in the Falls Church City, Virginia, school district. She received a master’s in reading from Charles Sturt University, and later earned her doctorate in educational leadership from Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She has over 4,300 followers on Twitter (@DrJonesFPS).
There is a lot of worry now as the school board is making a plan to redistrict again. Can you comment on that?
The school board will be having discussions on how to resolve some of the facilities challenges facing the district. In the past few years, our early childhood is running as high as 150 percent capacity. Sherman Elementary has been as high as 101.7 percent capacity, and due to FEMA regulations that building cannot be expanded. As a board of education, we must be thoughtful, transparent, and proactive to make sure that the 75-plus trailers we once had in Fairfield due to space limitations do not return.
How has your experience in Fairfield differed from the other school districts?
Fairfield is terrific! Probably the biggest difference for me is being in tune when to wear Falcon blue and when to wear Mustang red. As a superintendent, I must balance my allegiance. I love the enthusiasm in Fairfield. It is extremely valuable that Fairfield stayed the course and kept HS programs like automotive, woodshop, and early childhood education. Our music and art are also outstanding.
How does Twitter enhance your position?
It keeps me connected with people, and it gives me a chance to see all of the innovative teaching happening every day around our district. It is also a platform for students to reach out directly to me, and I love hearing from them. Twitter is also a great resource for me. I wake up and peruse articles and statements by various leadership gurus, curriculum experts, and those I admire for strong character.
How do you go about deciding if we’ll have a snow day—and has it changed since you have been here?
We check with the town to get a status on the road conditions. I also check on surrounding districts, and the latest weather updates. My executive director of operations, executive director of personnel, and legal services, and myself start our group chat around 4:30 am. If it’s tough, like the snow is supposed to start right when we have everybody in school, the call comes down to me. I must admit, snow calls are not my favorite thing to do, and sometimes I do get them wrong.
Last book you loved?
I found the biography of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley fascinating. She was a woman before her time. It took many years before people would acknowledge that she wrote Frankenstein, and not her husband.
Tell us something about you that would surprise us.
I was a state champion hurdler in high school, and I also backpacked through Fiji, New Zealand, and Australia by myself.