×

Virginia educator chosen as next ARHS principal

  • Amherst-Pelham Regional High School STAFF FILE PHOTO

  • Submitted photo Submitted photo



Staff Writer
Friday, May 10, 2019

AMHERST — Gene T. Jones, an education consultant from Virginia, was named principal of Amherst-Pelham Regional High School last Thursday morning.

Jones was selected for the position from among three finalists and will start on July 1. He succeeds Mark Jackson, who retired abruptly in the fall.

Jones, 59, lives in Chesterfield, Virginia, and grew up in Norfolk, Virginia. He works as an education consultant in Virginia, according to his resume provided by Amherst school officials. Jones signed a three-year contract Thursday and will be paid an annual salary of $138,000, according to the school district.

Weymouth High School Principal Alan Strauss and ARHS interim dean Shannon Magee were the two other finalists.

Jones previously worked as the director of teaching and learning for the Petersburg City Public Schools in Virginia. Prior to that, he served as principal at public high schools in Philadelphia and Syracuse, New York.

“I just can’t wait to get started,” Jones said in a phone interview Thursday. “I’m humbled by this opportunity.”

“I really liked the students,” he added of his recent visits to ARHS. “Everyone was so friendly and you can tell that the culture is really positive.”

As a principal in a public high school in Roanoke, Virginia, Jones increased the graduation rate from 69 percent to 80 percent. And while he was principal of Warwick High School in Newport News, Virginia, the school was named in the top 100 high schools in the country by Newsweek, the regional school district stated in its announcement.

At ARHS, Jones said he is aiming to expand restorative justice practices in the school and create more opportunities for all students. He said he is passionate about student success, and that in his past positions, he has worked to help students access higher education.

“I think really it’s building relationships,” Jones said. “That’s one of the things that always feels important.”

During a visit to the school, Superintendent Michael Morris said he observed Jones sit down with a student who was sitting alone at lunch. “The fact that he reached out to the student to make sure he was connected is consistent with what we want in any educator in our district,” Morris said.

Morris added that in his interview with Jones, he was impressed with his responses.

In 2015, Jones was reassigned from his job as principal of George Washington High School — a public school in Philadelphia — after a year of safety issues, according to the Philadelphia CBS station. When asked about it, Jones decline to comment.

Morris commented on it saying, “Our HR department vets all candidates and does intensive work to understand any candidate’s background and history.” He added, “We feel comfortable and very excited about where we are.”

That position was not included in Jones’ biography in the school’s recent announcement. Morris said that the HR department wrote the information.

The position has been open since the fall, when Jackson announced his retirement after 14 years in the job and left the school mid-year, saying that it made sense to step aside for new leadership as the school would be undertaking new initiatives.

Of working in public education, he said at the time: “I’ve done it for 40 years. I’ve been a school principal for 26. The cumulative effect of that … You know when it’s time.”

Many spoke highly of Jackson when he retired, saying he was highly committed to his job.

Miki Gromacki, who was previously assistant principal at ARHS for 10 years, has been serving as interim principal since Jackson’s departure.

Alan Strauss, Shannon Magee and Gene Jones were all interviewed for the job last month.

Jones said he was eager to start at ARHS and said he was feeling “honored, humbled and ready to serve.”

Greta Jochem can be reached at gjochem@gazettenet.com